Merchants fume as Montreal’s Rachel Street sees major construction 5 of the past 6 years

Click to play video: 'Rachel Street business owners struggle amid ongoing construction' Rachel Street business owners struggle amid ongoing construction
Major construction over the past five years has hindered businesses on Rachel Street. As Global's Dan Spector reports, it's been a tough time for the Plateau-Mont-Royal merchants – Mar 14, 2019

Some merchants on Rachel Street in the Plateau-Mont-Royal are furious with the city after seeing their street torn up by construction in five out of the past six years.

“There’s no way we can survive,” said Maria Carreira, who has been running Nettoyeur Super Gala for the past 20 years. She fears this year may be the last for her cleaning and tailor business.

Carreira says consistent construction is killing her business.  Currently, Bell is doing work at the corner of Rachel and de Bullion. Detours and lane closures make it hard for anyone to come drop their clothes off.

“My customers, I think they’re going somewhere. After 10-15 minutes of looking for parking, I think it’s normal,” she told Global News.

Getting to Café Névé at de Bullion and Rachel is a veritable obstacle course for customers with Bell’s work in full swing.

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“The worst case scenario is what we have right now,” said Café Névé owner Luke Spicer. “We’ve never had to go into our credit margin, but now we have to.”

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Construction hurting business in Montreal is nothing new, but what’s happening on Rachel is another level of disruption.

Global News learned about the extent of construction on Rachel between St. Laurent Blvd and Avenue-du-Parc-Lafontaine in recent years. In 2014, the city says it fixed water pipes. In 2015 and 2016 it was work on sidewalks, street paving and lighting, and traffic lights.  In 2018 it was sewers, water infrastructure, and more roads and lighting. In 2019, finally, Bell is currently doing work.

“Why couldn’t they coordinate this and do it all at the same time?” Spicer wonders.

“There’s absolutely no respect,” Carreira told Global News. “There’s no respect for the merchants here at all — at all, at all.”

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The city claims work is better coordinated since Valerie Plante got elected in 2017, but says that when agencies other than the city have to do work, there’s not much city officials can do.

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“When Bell has to do their work, they can’t wait until we’re doing all our streets,” said Plateau-Mont-Royal city councillor Maeve Vilain.

Factoring work done by agencies like Hydro, Energir, Bell, and others, five out of six years may be a conservative estimate according to the leader of a new Rachel Street merchants’ association.

“If you connect all of them together, it’s probably seven years in a row,” said Jean Beaudoin, an architect trying to unite merchants. He pointed to businesses like Ma Poule Mouillé and Pit Caribou that have thrived in spite of all the work.

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The city has started compensating businesses for construction headaches — but that’s only if work went on for over six months. The work also had to have been done by the city and not an outside agency like Bell.

“I don’t believe any merchant is going to get anything,” said Carreira.

“I would love for someone to come talk to me,” said Spicer. “Just to have someone reach out in a humanitarian way. It feels like the city doesn’t care.”

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Vilain said the work will all be worth it in the end, pointing out that construction on St. André at the intersection of Rachel has spawned one of the city’s first “velo-rues,” and that additional bike traffic will help merchants.

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Carreira, for one, worries her business will be gone before she can reap the benefits.

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