June 13, 2019 5:02 pm
Updated: June 13, 2019 5:08 pm

Quinpool Road shop owners riled over lack of notice on CN construction project

WATCH: Some Quinpool Road business owners say they had less than a month's notice on the start date of a major road closure about a kilometre away. And as Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, that left them little time to prepare staff and customers for the disruption.

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Halfway through a major construction project down the street, a handful of Quinpool Road business owners are frustrated by the lack of notice they say they received on when it would begin.

The CN Bridges Rehabilitation Project closed off a portion of Quinpool beginning on April 1, but they told Global News they had less than a month to tell customers their shops would stay open.

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“If they would have let me know last fall, I might have even looked at relocating the store, honestly,” said Jason Weickert, owner of Torpedo Rays Scuba. “But with two weeks warning, what can you do? The season is already started.”

“That’s the kind of time that you take out print advertising that you wouldn’t normally take out, that you do all kinds of marketing pushes that you wouldn’t normally feel you need to do, and we just had no idea it was happening,” added Barb Kaill, owner of the Lucky Penny Coffee shop.

They found via email on March 8 – the day the Halifax Regional Municipality released its public service announcement – that the four-and-a-half-month project would begin on April 1.

Others, including Jimmy Zelios of the Blue Olive Greek Taverna and Michael Chambers of Nautilus Hobbies, said they found out through word of mouth.

“Rather than being proactive and letting our customers know that this was happening, it was more reactive, so it was more putting out fires than letting them know we’re still open,” said Zelios.

Torpedo Rays Scuba owner Jason Weickert says business has been slow at his shop on Quinpool Road since the CN Bridges Rehabilitation Project began on April 1, 2019.

Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

READ MORE: Halifax commuters frustrated by Quinpool Road construction project, snarled traffic

It’s unclear exactly how much communication on precise construction start dates reached each individual business owner, or where the start dates got lost in translation.

Emails shared with Global News reveal that Karla Nicholson, head of the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association (QRMDA), was supposed to be notified ahead of the HRN’s March 8 announcement, but wasn’t due to staff member being ill that day.

She notified her members of the construction dates as soon as she learned of the PSA, but as early as February, she pushed the HRM for a “communications plan” that would include key messaging on the project, along with start and end dates for her members.

That communications plan never arrived.

“Our Board directly informed the entire membership, via email and social media, of the upcoming closure immediately after we received the official notice from HRM on March 8th she wrote in an emailed statement.

“Moving forward, we have many exciting events and promotions in the works for the coming year, all designed to get the word out that Quinpool Road is indeed open for business.”

READ MORE: Large portion of Quinpool Road to be close next month, expect traffic delays

In emailed comments, HRM Coun. Shawn Cleary said CN, the HRM and QRMDA met “more than a year ago, several times,” and “there has been a ton of communications and consultation, which the QRMDA then also did with their board and members.”

A spokesperson for the municipality confirmed that a letter was sent to Quinpool Road property owners about the project in October, although that letter did not contain specific start dates for the work. A stakeholder meeting, including the QRMDA, Halifax Fire and others was also held on Feb. 14.

“Communication with the Quinpool District Business Association continued following the stakeholder meeting,” wrote HRM spokesperson Brynn Langille in an email.

“This included information sharing on the status of the project as well as a commitment by the municipality to incorporate messaging, as part of our ongoing efforts related the CN Bridges Rehabilitation Project, that highlights the fact Quinpool Road is open for business for the duration of the project.”

Still, at least six businesses reached by Global News said they didn’t know when the work would start until just a few weeks before shovels hit the ground. They couldn’t recall any official notices with the April 1 start date prior to March 8.

“It’s important to remember that the bridge repair project is not a Halifax-led project. It is CN’s bridge on CN land and the contractor is CN’s,” Cleary concluded.

Canadian National confirmed via email that it did not reach out to businesses directly. Asked why, it responded:

“To ensure proper planning and coordination of the project, it was decided to work closely with the Halifax Regional Municipality to inform residents, businesses and stakeholders about the project and the detours.”

The company has confirmed that the project remains on schedule to wrap up before heavy traffic begins in the fall.

 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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