Gerrish Street construction concerns Windsor business owners

Colin Chisholm
Published on December 22, 2016

This is an example of what a revamped Gerrish Street would look like. 

(Submitted artistic rendering)

WINDSOR, N.S. — Windsor’s main business thoroughfare, Gerrish Street, is getting a major facelift in 2017, and the consequence of all of the necessary construction is starting to make local merchants nervous.

The upgrades won’t just improve the surface of the street. The infrastructure underground is getting an overhaul as well, which means excavation crews, trenches and traffic closures.

Rob McKinnon, with Strum Consulting, presented the final plans for the upgraded street and laid out aspects of the construction process during a committee of the whole meeting in Windsor on Dec. 13.

The construction phase has yet to be tendered.

The finalized design of the upgraded street removes a few parking spaces, adds more landscaping – including bump-outs with trees and benches and a bicycle lane in both directions.

Not to mention a new water main and water/wastewater connections underground.

The portion of Gerrish Street that is being rebuilt runs between Water Street to Grey Street.


Business concerns

Business owners in the public gallery said they were happy to see only a few parking spaces were being removed — three out of 32 — but said they had concerns with the construction phase and potential interruptions to business.

Joseph Cuffari, who owns a law office and residential buildings on the street, said he’s concerned about access interruptions.

“You said there might not be access to buildings for one to two days. I can plan for that as a business owner, but my tenants on the second floor who live there and only have access from the front of the building, I can’t see how I can prevent them from accessing their apartments for two days,” Cuffari said. “Access has to be 24/7 for tenants at least.”

McKinnon said the interruption to building access, due to construction on the pipes that connect to the main water line, would lead to “very short term” interruptions of direct access to buildings.

“I would say it’s a matter of hours,” McKinnon said. “There will be times when that has to happen more than once, but generally each building will have that happen once. While concrete is being poured, access will be restricted. After that’s complete, they can provide an access with a board or something like that.”

McKinnon reiterated that direct access to buildings won’t be cut off for one to two days. Cuffari said he was happy to hear that as long as it’s clear during the tendering process.

Bruce Taylor, owner of the Fry Daddy’s restaurant on Gerrish Street, said he’s concerned about disruptions to his business during peak tourism season.

“We estimate a 10-to 12-week construction timeline on this project. We’ll know more when this goes to tender,” McKinnon said, adding that the likely start time would be April. “The water and wastewater improvements will require a temporary water system while the construction takes place.”

McKinnon said he’s aware of the pain disruptions could cause, but emphasized the need to complete infrastructure improvements underground and aesthetic ones above.

“We should be close to completion by the Avon River Days, which is in July,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said there will be an ongoing communication plan with businesses and residents on the street, to let them know when interruptions will occur.

“Noise on the street will increase during working hours. Contractors often want to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on projects like this,” he said. “Dust and dirt generation will increase as well, which can be managed depending on weather.”

With federal funding approved, Gerrish Street will see major improvements, above and below ground.

©Colin Chisholm — TC Media

A fresh new street

The street’s three main crosswalks will have a new look, with stamped asphalt to make them stand out better to drivers, McKinnon said.

“The power poles on the street, noted to be in poor shape, will be replaced by Nova Scotia Power, and will only be located on the south side of the street,” McKinnon said.

New decorative streetlights could also be installed on both sides of the street.

Coun. Shelley Bibby asked about burying the power lines, but McKinnon said that would add significant costs to the project.

Costs for the entire street rebuild project is estimated at $1,080,000, which the town is paying 25 per cent of. The federal government will cover 50 per cent of the costs, with the province take care of the remaining 25 per cent.

The project has to be complete by March 2018, McKinnon said.

Deputy Mayor Laurie Murley encouraged business owners to keep in contact with council throughout the process and to “keep us on our toes.”