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Unexpected construction in Toronto’s Little Portugal hits businesses

Click to play video: 'Dundas West BIA in Toronto say emergency construction impacting businesses'
Dundas West BIA in Toronto say emergency construction impacting businesses
WATCH ABOVE: Businesses owners in Little Portugal say recent emergency construction being done on Dundas Street West is impacting foot traffic and hurting business during a crucial time of the year. Erica Vella reports – Dec 2, 2022

December is usually busy season for store owner Robin Levett, but unexpected construction just outside her shop appears to have deterred the usual pedestrian foot traffic in the area.

Levett owns Three Fates, a retail store that sells both second-hand and new clothing items, as well as jewelry and other items. The store is located on Dundas Street West in Little Portugal and a recently discovered void below street level has seen quick intervention by the city.

“I’ve been getting used to getting curve balls thrown at me,” said Levett.

“There’s no foot traffic…. When you see flashing lights you’re not going to walk down where that area is…. It’s just been slow.”

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The city said the large void under the street — which could have led to a large sinkhole — was likely caused by a deteriorated sewer main that was washing away dirt and gravel.

“Because of the thick base for the TTC (streetcar), it didn’t collapse, it just created a big void that we didn’t know was there,” said Bill Shea, director of distribution and collection, infrastructure and development services for the City of Toronto.

“The first stage is to get that sewer repaired…. Once that’s done, we fill the hole with lean concrete … and the TTC will come in and pour a new base for the track and weld the tracks back into the position”

The first stage of construction is expected to be complete by the end of December and the TTC will begin replacing streetcar tracks.

“The problem here is that it’s not planned work. It’s emergency work,” Shea said, adding the city is working 24 hours a day to complete the job.

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“The best we can do is work around the clock to get it done.”

The timing of this construction is not ideal for Levett, who says the holiday season is a crucial time for income.

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“December is what gets us through the leaner months of January and February,” she said.

“The holiday season, as fun as it is, it’s when I make my money to get me through the winter.”

In a statement, the City of Toronto said its “currently exploring additional ways to support businesses in Little Portugal while repairs are being made.”

“Small retail businesses are essential to the vitality and success of Toronto’s main streets and neighbourhoods, and key drivers of economic prosperity for residents, families, communities and the city as a whole,” the statement said.

“Small business owners and operators can get training, connect with a business consultant, and learn about available grants, services and programs to support small businesses and main street vitality at: toronto.ca/BusinessSupport.”

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