November 11, 2014 6:18 pm
Updated: November 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Business owners may seek compensation for LRT construction impact

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TORONTO – Businesses along Eglinton Avenue West say they’re now feeling the impact from construction on the Crosstown LRT and may soon be looking for payback.

Not only are there fewer customers showing up but some stores are starting to close up shop.

“I’ve seen approximately twenty businesses come and go,” Eglinton Way BIA Executive Director Monique Drepaul said. “We haven’t had that many replaced (in the past) and that has a huge impact.”

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She acknowledges that retailers are likely leaving because they know rent will be increased by property owners anticipating more business when construction is complete.

Others, however, are still losing money in the meantime.

“Every time I go out and talk to them they say, ‘Is there going to be financial compensation?'” she said. “If the city provides that to the property owner it won’t necessarily be passed on to the business owner.”

Work on the $5.3 billion Metrolinx project early last year and 19-kilometre line is expected to be complete in 2020.

The Director of Community Relations, Jamie Robinson, calls it “short term pain for long term gain” and was reaching out to residents and businesses before construction began.

“We recognize that this construction is messy and it will impact businesses,” he said. “We provide signage for businesses where, due to some of our work, people can’t see that there’s a business behind a fence.”

Metrolinx doesn’t provide tax breaks or operating subsidies to businesses if they remain open during construction.

Compensation is provided when land is required, either on a temporary basis, or permanently for station entrances or exits.

Mayor-elect John Tory has suggested that some sort of compensation to businesses should be considered but made no promises when asked about it last week.

“It’s something that I’m quite willing to entertain,” he said. “The notion of providing some degree of temporary relief for people during times when there’s intensive construction going on that really does disrupt their business.”

The concerns are similar to those brought up along St. Clair Avenue West when construction on the streetcar right-of-way was taking place.

A $100 million class-action lawsuit was launched and eventually dismissed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“You need money to try and go through with a lawsuit and you’re not going to get anything,” business owner Anna Maria Buttinelli said. “We didn’t get a penny. We lost money.”

At this point, there is no indication there will be any legal action along Eglinton Ave. West but businesses are more than willing to entertain any offers.

“We’ll take whoever says yes at this point,” Drepaul said. “Any compensation at this point is better than none.”

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