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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.