Dundas Street West shops struggling as emergency sewer work shuts down traffic ahead of holidays

The city has closed a block of Dundas Street West to traffic from Brock and Sheridan avenues to fix a sewer main. The street is still accessible to pedestrians. Originally, the city said the road would be closed for a week but now it says it likely won't reopen until sometime in January. (CBC - image credit)
The city has closed a block of Dundas Street West to traffic from Brock and Sheridan avenues to fix a sewer main. The street is still accessible to pedestrians. Originally, the city said the road would be closed for a week but now it says it likely won't reopen until sometime in January. (CBC - image credit)

Some business owners on Dundas Street West say a road closure due to emergency sewer work could affect their bottom line during the busiest time of the year, but the city says the repairs are urgent and the work "simply has to be done."

The city has closed a block to vehicle traffic from Brock and Sheridan avenues to fix a sewer main. Originally, the city said the road would be closed for a week but now it says it most likely won't reopen until sometime in January.

"The timing is absolutely horrible,"  said Cherie Lunau Jokisch, owner of Beadle, a store that sells handmade gifts.

The street is still open to pedestrians but Lunau Jokisch told CBC Toronto on Friday that businesses are concerned about the impact on sales in the weeks leading up to the holidays. She said about 30 to 40 per cent of business occurs in a month-and-a-half.

"I just want to get it out to everybody that we are still open. The College streetcar is very close to here. Dundas and College are really, really close. It's a short walk," she said.

"It's a great walk from Ossington. There are lots of businesses that they can pop into on the way to come this way ...We are really just hoping that people will rally around us again like they did during the pandemic."

CBC
CBC

Lunau Jokisch said she has put together a window display for Christmas, but people walking by are distracted by the big hole in the street and all the construction. However, she said she is trying to remain positive. The business owners may put up hoarding and decorate it.

According to Anah Shabbar, spokesperson for the Little Portugal Toronto Business Improvement Area, about 40 businesses are affected.

"They have just experienced reduced income throughout the pandemic and are now in one of the most crucial business income times of their lives," Shabbar said in an email.

Crews found 'large void,' city says

Bill Shea, director of distribution and collection for Toronto Water, said the road was closed after crews were working on repairing a sewer pipe to a property on Dundas Street West on Nov. 24 and found a large hole.

"As we were tunneling, we came across a very large void underneath the TTC tracks and realized the issue there was obviously a little bit bigger than we thought," he said.

The hole was six metres by six metres and more than a metre deep, he added.

CBC
CBC

Crews investigated further and found that there was the hole in the pipe and in the sewer. It had collected dirt from above and was washing it away. The hole and sewer needed to be fixed immediately, Shea said.

He said crews have had to dig, cut through the streetcar tracks, remove the concrete base and dig farther down to the sewer. Now, they have to replace a stretch of sewer with a plastic pipe and redo the road surface. The TTC will have to restore the tracks, which means pouring the concrete base and welding the new tracks back into place.

"It's not planned work and that's the problem, Obviously, we can't leave the sewer with a large hole in it. It services that entire area," he said.

"We obviously hate to inconvenience that whole area, residents and businesses alike. We are working 24/7 in order to get this done as quickly as possible. It simply has to be done."

Business owners, however, just want to "catch a break," according to Benito Tavares, owner of Tavares Oriental, a "rug gallery" that is a division of Decor Terminal and Marina's Interior Design, a family-owned store that has been operating in the neighbourhood since the 1970s.

"We were really, really banking on a good holiday season to rebound from the last two years. And here we are."