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Red tape keeping Cherry Street closed despite major construction being finished

For months residents and store owners near the Distillery District have stared at what looks to be a finished street caged behind construction fencing.

Cherry Street is a key artery into their community. It provides access to homes and foot traffic and parking for businesses, but for months it has remained closed – much to the confusion of those in the area.

“It’s completely frustrating,” said Robyn Berman, owner of Bergo Designs. “I drive by everyday and I see the construction workers drive in with their cars. I see the roads perfectly paved and see no reason why it shouldn’t be opened.”

She says her business has lost customers because of the closure and so have many others in the Distillery District. Parking for visitors and staff has also become a challenge.

“I remember last year at night I’d have to park nine blocks away, and in the freezing cold that’s not very fun to do at 11 o’clock at night,” said Shauna Podruzny, owner of Blossom Lounge.

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The work along Cherry Street is part of the West Don Lands revitalization and construction of the Pan Am and Parapan American Games Athletes’ Village. Cherry Street remains closed – despite appearing finished for several months – because of ownership issues between the province and the city related to adjacent plots of land.

Ownership transfers are a complex legal process according to municipal affairs lawyer Stephen D’Agostino: “There are liability issues, there are jurisdictional issues with respect to who has authority to make decisions to regulate things like how the left-hand turn lanes are going to work. All of that is very complex. I’m not surprised it took so long.”

The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure said it has been cooperating with the city on the reopening of the street.

“It is our expectation that it will be reopened within the week,” the ministry said in a statement. “Infrastructure Ontario has been negotiating the terms of ownership with the city, the details of which took some time to work through.”

Relief couldn’t come soon enough for residents in the area. Hundreds have signed a petition urging Brad Duguid, the minister in charge, to cut through the red tape and expedite the process.