Despite the short-term issues, enterprises in the area look forward to the finished project; ‘I’m glad that it’s happening,’ says the local business manager
Road reconstruction near the waterfront is not particularly appetizing to a restaurateur in the area.
Studabakers Beachside owner Joe Winacott estimates business is down 18-20 percent compared to the same period last year, as phase two of the city’s Centennial Drive Reconstruction Project rolls out.
Mississaga Street East between Centennial Drive and Front Street North has been limited to local traffic only since Sept. 12.
Winacott is grateful the work did not begin as originally anticipated in August, which would have landed in the middle of patio season.
“We are lucky in that aspect. I think the bigger picture is we look at the term goal, and the next six months are gonna be pretty rough,” he told OrilliaMatters. “When all is said and done the road’s going to be nice: some greenery, some new lights.”
City staff said the current work taking place should be completed by late fall or early winter.
The work being carried out in phase two includes construction of local sanitary sewers, water mains, storm water quality control structures, burying power lines, and road reconstruction, which is expected to be completed by June 2023.
With the asphalt torn up and construction taking place, Winacott said some residents are unaware they are still allowed to travel along the road.
“We do get a lot of complaints from customers saying, ‘Hey, where can we go? How can we get to you?’” he said. “You’ve got to park a little far away to walk to us, but in the summertime it’s OK… in the rain or the snow, it’s a little different.”
Two adjacent municipal parking lots were closed in July following the city’s sale of 70 Front St. N. to developers FRAM+Slokker in April.
“Our biggest goal is to let our customers know that we are open for them and we do have parking in our back parking lot, so even though the road does say (it’s) closed, you’re welcome to come down and come visit us .”
Rick Purcell, president of Orillia’s Royal Canadian Legion branch, said he was concerned about customers losing access to the Legion parking lot, but mentioned the city has made efforts to keep access open.
“They came and talked to us. They told us what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it, and they said we would always have access to our parking lot,” Purcell said.
“We do have a lot of seniors, and we probably have seniors that, maybe driving’s a little bit more difficult for them and going around barriers, and going through construction might scare them, so we might lose a few people.
“They’ve been good to us. They’re trying to keep it open, both for us and I think LCBO, so … we haven’t been impacted as much as Studabakers.”
Centennial Drive Reconstruction Phase 2 Project Update: Arnott Construction has begun dewatering. The dewatering subcontractor (Aquatech) will be onsite working Saturday, Sept. 24. Businesses remain open. See the full update and project details: https://t.co/4KeXwyle2B. #Orillia pic.twitter.com/8iAh3XSdoD
— City of Orillia (@cityoforillia) September 23, 2022
Shan Wickremasing from Sunray Group of Hotels manages both Fionn MacCool’s and the Champlain Waterfront Hotel near the construction site.
So far, he has not noticed a negative impact on business, but like Winacott he views the broader development taking place as a positive.
“We haven’t had any negative impact on our business at the Champlain or the restaurant,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s happening. It’s due for a good maintenance program, and it’ll help with the condominium developments coming down by the water. (It’s a) short term pain for a long term gain.”
Purcell, Winacott, and Wickremasing said they have been receiving regular updates from Arnott Construction Ltd., the contractor carrying out the work.
“Every Friday we get updates, so the construction guys are doing a very good job communicating,” Wickmerasing said.
The city’s manager of construction and transit, Jeff Hunter, said the city and contractor have been working with area businesses to ensure they can remain open.
“We appreciate the patience of the businesses, residents and visitors in the area as we complete this critical infrastructure work,” Hunter said.
“As part of the contract, the city required that access to all businesses be maintained throughout the project and the contractor provides a dedicated public relations officer to liaise with businesses in the area and maintain regular communications to keep them updated and address any concerns throughout the construction process,” Hunter said.
“With heavy construction now underway, informational signage is being installed to ensure the public is aware that businesses are open and can safely access them.”
Hunter said the city has implemented temporary measures for residents as the construction takes place, and that it continues to look for long term parking options.
“To assist with parking and access during construction in the area, a temporary through road has been created at Coldwater Street to access Centennial Drive,” he said.
“Temporary parking has been created at 70 Front St. N. as a result of decommissioning of Lots 8 and 12, and temporary boat trailer parking has been created on Centennial Drive as well as in the Centennial Boat Launch Parking lot. The city continues to investigate options for parking within the waterfront area for the long term.”