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Business owners ‘frustrated’ by silence on Dorian crane collapse, as repairs begin on damaged building

Click to play video 'Business owners ‘frustrated’ by silence on Dorian crane collapse, as repairs begin on damaged building' Business owners ‘frustrated’ by silence on Dorian crane collapse, as repairs begin on damaged building
Some business owners on South Park Street say they’re frustrated by the lack of notice they received about repairs on a building damaged by the Hurricane Dorian crane collapse. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, they took a financial hit during the initial disaster in September 2019, and say the new construction this year is causing additional setbacks. – Jul 7, 2020

Ten months after hurricane Dorian brought down a crane in downtown Halifax, some business owners impacted by the disaster say they’re frustrated by a lack of communication about what happened.

Since Sept. 7, 2019 — the day the crane came toppling down, causing millions in damage — the provincial government has provided few details on its investigation into the incident, which jeopardized public safety and left a hefty cleanup tab for taxpayers.

“The crane collapse was a serious threat to our business,” said Ian Gray, a partner at the South Park Street law firm Walker, Dunlop.

“And the fact that we’ve been waiting…for 10 months and don’t know what happened is immensely frustrating.”

Read more: Halifax site where crane collapsed had history of safety violations, but no fines or penalties

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According to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, “information is still being gathered” to complete its report on the collapse, which cost roughly $2 million in taxpayer money to clean up.

By email, the province said the COVID-19 pandemic has created some “challenges” in the report’s completion, but it expects to release a summary of findings in the coming months.

Click to play video 'Halifax waiting for answers about toppled tower crane' Halifax waiting for answers about toppled tower crane
Halifax waiting for answers about toppled tower crane – Mar 7, 2020

“The crane incident is complex and requires a thorough investigation. We cannot speculate on the outcomes or the exact length of time it will take complete,” wrote spokesperson Shannon Kerr.

She added, “The province intends to take appropriate measures to recoup the costs of the fallen crane.”

Read more: Halifax tower crane ‘malfunctioned’ four months before collapse: redacted engineer’s report

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That’s not good enough for Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz at the corner of South Park and Morris streets.

She estimates her restaurant lost $175,000 in sales when it closed to accommodate crane cleanup in September 2019.

“It doesn’t sit well with me at all. I think there should have been followup, I think somebody should have touched base with all of the businesses that were closed and affected,” she told Global News.

Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz on South Park Street in Halifax, said she’s frustrated a road closure near her restaurant that began on July 5, 2020.
Liz Ingram-Chambers, owner of Le Bistro by Liz on South Park Street in Halifax, said she’s frustrated a road closure near her restaurant that began on July 5, 2020. Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

Like many on the strip of South Park Street between Morris and Spring Garden Road, Ingram-Chambers is part of a class action lawsuit seeking compensation from developers and contractors associated with the toppled crane.

However, the ability to recoup their losses is hindered by the incomplete provincial report, which would shed some light on who is responsible for the multi-million dollar disaster.

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Read more: Last piece of collapsed crane removed from Halifax building

New construction on South Park Street is adding to the frustration — and financial losses — of some South Park Street business owners as well.

For the second time since the disaster, their block has been closed to accommodate the work required to repair the damage left in its wake.

Repairs to the Trillium, a condominium building damaged in the disaster, began on Sunday, requiring the closure of South Park Street between Clyde Street and Spring Garden Road from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Click to play video 'Downed Halifax crane malfunctioned months before storm: documents' Downed Halifax crane malfunctioned months before storm: documents
Downed Halifax crane malfunctioned months before storm: documents – Jan 3, 2020

At least one shop — Thornbloom — has had to shut down temporarily as its entrance is blocked. The law firm Pink Larkin has reconfigured its office in order to be closer to a second entrance that is still accessible.

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“It’s challenging for our staff and for our lawyers and especially for our clients, because it’s not the same,” said managing partner Ronald Pink.

“It’s just more inconvenience and more delay, clients can’t get in, and it’s just a problem for us. It’s expensive.”

Ingram-Chambers said she’s worried the construction will deter prospective customers.

Read more: Removing crane downed in Halifax during Dorian cost $2 million: minister

Gray, at Walker, Dunlop, said none of his partners even knew the construction would take place.

“We’re not happy with it,” he said. “I was checking with my partners before this interview and none of us received any word the street was going to be closed for a week.”

Richard Fewell, co-owner of the Stillwell Beer Garden on Spring Garden Road, said he “was given a week or so” of notice about the construction. In an email, he said it won’t have a big impact on his business, since his entrance on South Park Street remains open.

Click to play video 'Work underway to dismantle toppled crane in Halifax that fell during Hurricane Dorian' Work underway to dismantle toppled crane in Halifax that fell during Hurricane Dorian
Work underway to dismantle toppled crane in Halifax that fell during Hurricane Dorian – Oct 13, 2019

The Halifax Regional Municipality said the construction company — PCL — began engaging businesses on the most recent South Park Street closure on June 18. While not required to do so, it added, its own staff personally visited every impacted business 10 days before the construction began.

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“At this moment, there are no additional planned closures related to repairs caused by the crane collapse,” wrote spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray by email. “If one were to happen, it would be at the applicant’s expense.”

The South Park Street closure will remain in effect until July 13.

Read more: Businesses, residents affected by Halifax crane collapse suing to recoup losses

Repairs to the Trillium include the removal and replacement of four concrete panels on the northeast corner of the building around the 14th floor.

The Triullium’s condo board referred all questions on the repairs to PCL, and PCL could not be reached in time for publication of this story.

A memo sent by PCL to the condo board, obtained by Global News, details the scope of work to be done and the sidewalk closures involved. The memo is dated June 23.