Construction season bringing new headaches to downtown London
LONDON, ONT. -- You’ve been warned. Brace for another frustrating construction season downtown.
The epicenter of disruption this summer will be a $6 million sewer replacement project beneath Richmond Street between York and Dundas streets.
City hall’s Manager of Downtown Projects Jim Yanchula has been working with nearby businesses, “This year we have one major project on the north-south street and we are doing some finish up work on last year's projects.”
To minimize impacts, excavation of Richmond Street will be divided into three segments: York to King, the King and Richmond intersection and King to Dundas.
Yanchula says the most disruptive phase will be the closure of the King-Richmond intersection from mid-June until mid-September.
To maintain access to businesses and the Covent Garden Market’s garage, city staff recommend temporarily converting King into a pair of cul-de-sacs on either side of the closure at Richmond.
For three months those segments would permit two-way traffic.
Yanchula adds the eastbound bike lane will remain open, but riders will have to walk around the intersection. No final decisions have been made about detouring London Transit Commission (LTC) routes along the busy King Street corridor.
“We're in conversations with LTC to make sure we have the minimum disruption to LTC ridership, just as we are trying to have the minimum disruption to drivers and cyclists,” Yanchula says.
But at The Richmond Tavern, owner Mark Dencev doubts that enough space will remain during construction for a loading zone for bands, beer, and other deliveries.
“We are landlocked. King Street is our only other option, unfortunately there are some other things on King Street like the bike lane and the transit lane that we are all fighting for real estate.”
This construction season will be the third year that Ichabod’s Escape has been impacted by detours. Traffic was blocked by construction of York street in 2018 and 2019.
Owner David Korhonen says construction amplifies existing problems in the core, “Double the security, double the garbage cleanup, you have to do everything you can to make sure it goes easily. That didn't happen to the people on Dundas Street I spoke to last year.”
Yanchula predicts 2020’s downtown construction season will be less severe than last year, because side streets like Clarence and Talbot will usually be open. He commits to ongoing communication with affected business owners.
“I personally go around and speak with every single business making sure that I understand how things are going to affect them so that early information offers me more time to have early solutions.”
Dencev credits Yanchula’s efforts so far, but would have preferred earlier opportunities to provide input so that solutions are proactive rather than reactive.
“It’s up to us to have to make noise after the fact. I would have liked to have heard from the Downtown Business Association acting as our advocate, or the City of London step up and say we know this is going to be painful, but here is what we are going to do for you.”
Korhonen says he’s already seen several neighbours close up shop before construction begins, unwilling to endure what they witnessed on Dundas Street, “We're doing very well, but the other companies and businesses on the street, that's who I really feel for.”
City hall’s Civic Works Committee will receive details about the Richmond Street reconstruction project at a meeting on Tuesday.