Dundas West construction

Is Dundas West construction the next Roncesvalles?

Roncesvalles has seen its share of construction sadness, but it seems it is not alone. Indeed, Roncesvalles now has an empathetic friend to share in its perpetually dug-up despair: Dundas West.

Dundas West between Howard Park Avenue to Bathurst is facing another round of construction this summer. This time, it's sidewalk beautification. But last year, it was water main repair. And before that, it was streetcar track replacement.

Needless to say, business owners are less than pleased about the noise, dust, and wooden planks serving as bridges to their front entrances. And I was less than pleased about my abbreviated streetcar ride, which only took me as far as Spadina Avenue, and subsequent shuttle bus crawl that inched painfully toward my desired destination.

This latest round of construction, which will see new sidewalks, trees, and benches, is expected to be completed by October 2011. Of course, for some business owners on Dundas West, the damage is already done.

I stopped into She Takes the Cake at Dundas and Lansdowne to see what owner Adrienne Weinberg, who closed the storefront retail section of her bakery a couple years ago, had to say about the construction.

"The business on this street are being strangled," she tells me. "I almost lost my livelihood when Adam Giambrone took away parking on this street."

That was in 2008. Then-councillor Giambrone saw the removal of 70 metered parking spaces on Dundas West, which resulted in a sharp decline in business revenue according to storefront owners in the area.

"How was I supposed to do deliveries?" Adrienne continues. "If someone's picking up a four-tier cake, are they really going to carry it around the corner and down the street to their car?"

Dundas West got its parking back in January, but now due to construction, there's no stopping anywhere along the strip.

"I've been really put off by everything that has happened," Adrienne says. "I'd be really reticent to go back to a storefront."

Then there are others on the street who worry that customers won't come back, even after the construction is over. The manager of Brighten Up Your Corner Flowers & Gifts tells me she's been on the street for 10 years, and seen construction for the better half of the last four. I spoke with her after entering through the shop's back door, since there was no way to get to the front entrance.

"People have just been going somewhere else," she says. "For a week now, you haven't been able to get to the entrance. Anyway, people become loyal to their flower shops. Once they find someplace new, they stick with it."

While existing businesses are noticing a decline in foot traffic and customers on the street, new ones may experience some delays in getting off the ground. I go to visit the recently opened Woodlawn at Dundas and Dufferin, but find owner Ainaz Maleko outside the shop and we can't hear each other until we move inside.

"I'd love to keep the door open," she says, hoping to give the store a friendlier vibe, "but it's just so loud, and I don't want all the dust to come in." Of course, to me it seems there are fewer people strolling along the blue-gated sidewalks anyway, so who knows what sort of difference an open door would make.

Indeed, it looks like Dundas West still has a few rough months ahead, which comes after a few difficult, construction-filled, parking-less years. Looks like Roncy isn't alone after all.

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