Uptown businesses address continued construction

Photo by Madeline McInnis

On Monday Sept. 12, business owners, city councillors, mayor Dave Jaworsky and many others gathered at the intersection of King Street and Bridgeport Road for an event called “Let Uptown Breathe.”

Melissa Durrell, uptown city councillor and member of the Uptown Business Improvement Association Board, hosted the event and started it off by reading out a statement on behalf of business owners regarding frustration in terms of construction delays.

“We are here because we believe that the construction behind us and the new timelines that have been proposed show an absolute lack of respect for the business men and women and the people of Waterloo – and we have had enough,” read Durrell’s statement.

It was recently announced that some of the construction projects being completed in uptown Waterloo were to be delayed by almost double the time.

“What we’re looking at is an uptown that was ready and okay with construction, but we feel like we’re being taken advantage of now. These kinds of delays, a week or two we get, but doubling; that’s not fair to us,” Durrell said.

“We’d like to see an entire moratorium to all construction in 2018 to let our business breathe, to let uptown breathe.”

Construction projects throughout uptown Waterloo have left King Street, the main road which provides access to many local businesses, closed to any traffic for the past three summers.

It was made clear at “Let Uptown Breathe” that local business owners have been suffering and are frustrated as a result.
Following the statement read by Durrell, business owners present took turns iterating their struggles or challenges presented to their business as a direct result of construction.

For example, Jennifer Freitas, owner of Truth Beauty Company, stated that she has suffered many losses as a result of the construction.

“I was basically making enough to cover my expenses without a salary for myself, but all of a sudden, I feel like we’ve jumped off this cliff. I might sell a deodorant in a day, that’s 14 dollars in my register. How do I pay for my staff, how do I pay my landlord … how do I feed my children?” she said.

Freitas explained that not only have her sales declined, she has also faced physical damage to her store and product as a result of the construction outside her doors.

“Why our councillors and why our region thinks it’s okay to do this to us is beyond me and the effects are not just for me as a business owner, the effects are for my staff who are getting their hours cut, my suppliers who I’m not able to pay or order from because I’m not selling anything,” Freitas said.

In the statement, Durrell read three requests for a plan she called “Uptown Always Open.”

The first request included “a commitment from the region to provide new resources and funding so that all uptown customers can get to each and every business.”

The second was a request for a commitment to speed up the projects being worked on and to lengthen the working day and week when construction is being done.

“I think what we’re asking for that this project gets put on the front burner for the region and they start to get moving, and work at night and they work on weekends,” Durrell said.

“We’d like to see an entire moratorium to all construction in 2018 to let our business breathe, to let uptown breathe.”

And lastly, the third request per the plan demanded that all construction projects in uptown be reevaluated by the region.

“The Region of Waterloo needs to hear us and take a step back on construction. We need them to take steps to speed up unnecessary delays. We want to see the Region fighting for us to get this project managed properly, back on track and complete,” read the last part of Durrell’s statement.

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