Some businesses in Vanier that have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic say another challenge is taking a bite out of their bottom line — disruptive construction on Montreal Road.
The nearly $70-million revitalization project started about five years ago, but the heavy construction began in the summer of 2020, part of a citywide plan to upgrade aging sewer and water infrastructure under Ottawa's main streets.
A lot of businesses, they depend on street parking, and there just is none right now. - Drew Dobson, Finnigan's Pub
"It's been affecting us a lot, especially ever since they started doing our side of the road. The traffic is very low," said Michelle Dahdah, co-owner of Quelque Chose Pâtisserie at the corner of Lajoie Street.
"The Uber Eats drivers, they always complain because they have to go around and it takes a lot of time for them to get to the store," Dahdah said. "And the customers, they complain about how hard and how difficult it [is] to get to [the] store."
Dahdah said she's had to subsidize her Vanier location with revenue from her other two stores.
Months of construction to go
The construction project involves 2.1 kilometres of Montreal Road between North River Road and St. Laurent Boulevard.
Eastbound lanes between St. Laurent and Marier Avenue have been closed since April and will remain shut until the end of the year, according to the city's website. The revitalization project is expected to be completed by next Canada Day.
"It's been disruptive during the whole period. It's too bad it couldn't have been done a year quicker," said Drew Dobson, owner of Finnigan's Pub at the corner of Granville Street.
"It's hurt the businesses on Montreal Road. It's really limited the walk-in traffic and it's limited parking. A lot of businesses, they depend on street parking, and there just is none right now," Dobson said.
Dobson said it's difficult to say how much revenue his business has lost due to the construction versus the pandemic, but he suspects it's been a bit of both.
"We have a big patio, but with the construction there's a lot of dust and noise out of Montreal Road, so it's not always the ideal dining situation," he said
Worth the wait, says councillor
Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury is urging businesses to continue being patient, saying the revitalization project will be worth the wait.
"We're burying the hydro wires and we're doing a full streetscaping where we're bringing a standard sidewalk look and feel, where we're bringing in new lighting, benches, trees [and] a cycling track in both directions east of the Vanier Parkway to St. Laurent," he said.
"There's public art, so there's a number of elements."
Fleury advises concerned merchants to contact the Vanier BIA, with whom he said his office has been working closely to help local business owners get through the construction.