Argyle Street streetscape will be worth the wait: mayor, councillor

The Argyle Street streetscape project will be worth the wait according to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage and Halifax Downtown Coun. Waye Mason.

A number of businesses criticized the move when it was announced a week ago because patio permits wouldn't be issued on the downtown street due to 17 weeks worth of construction.

Halifax is upgrading two blocks of Argyle Street — between Blowers and Prince streets, and part of Grafton Street — between Prince and Carmichael streets.

New businesses opening downtown

"Things are pretty good in the downtown. We have new businesses popping up along Barrington Street, restaurants and that shows what can happen," Savage told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.

"I think everybody will benefit when the work is done," added Mason. "Everybody around the Nova Centre is hurting, right? And it's not just the ones where the streetscaping is going ... we've never had a $500-million construction site happen in downtown, so it's a big issue."

Savage and Mason said what will make this summer's construction more bearable is new measures aimed at reducing harm to businesses. A construction mitigation plan will be put in place so space will be freed up to provide wheelchair-accessible alternatives to blocked sidewalks, the number of lost parking spaces will be reduced and fines will be added to help city staff enforce the new rules.

New potential in Argyle

"The businesses on Argyle Street have every opportunity to take advantage of the dividend of having the convention centre but also having this beautiful new streetscape which I think people are going to be blown away by when it's done," Savage said.

"We're talking about making it as easy as possible and limit the long-term pain and maximize the long-term gain."

Mason said other businesses are seeing the potential of the street when it's finished. He said the Economy Shoe Shop being sold last week is an example.

'Reasonable worst-case scenarios'

"The fact that those businesses have been able to sell and there are willing buyers who are excited to try and reinvent those spaces shows there's still something special about Argyle," Mason said.

Both Savage and Mason said construction taking longer than 17 weeks to complete would be an unlikely scenario. 

"There's always that risk, right? ... That's what we think are the reasonable worst case scenarios but I don't think it's going to go past that," Mason said.

"There may be some unexpected surprises but we're going to work like the dickens to get this done as quickly as we can," Savage said.