Construction on the Stores to Shores revitalization project disrupted traffic on the 600-block of Baker Street last weekend

Baker Street shutdown flusters businesses

Mountain Baby, Bia Boro, Culinary Conspiracy and others are concerned about nearby construction's effect on sales.

Business owners on the 600-block of Baker Street were frustrated to learn traffic would be shut down last weekend during Maglio Installation’s work on the Stores to Shores project.

Though businesses along Hall Street anticipated the construction, Baker Street businesses weren’t all notified.

“There was a communication gap between the city and the contractor on who was notifying which businesses and unfortunately some of the Baker Street businesses were missed,” said city manager Kevin Cormack.

“This has now been rectified.”

And though the businesses are supportive of the project, they’re feeling the financial strain and are frustrated by the communication snafu.

“The basic issue for me is we didn’t know it was happening,” said Mountain Baby’s owner Judy Banfield, who had a Mother’s Day event scheduled during the closure.

“If I had known, I would’ve changed the date of my event. It was fine, but the attendance wasn’t anywhere near what I had expected and hoped for,” she said, noting that she’d hired children’s entertainer Mr. Mojo for the afternoon.

Chris Dawson of Culinary Conspiracy said since he can’t have an impromptu sidewalk sale without notifying the city, they should be obliged to tell him about street closures in advance.

“I don’t control the street, obviously, but how can they do that without telling anyone? I’m not trying to create angst or lay into the city—I’m sure Judith and other businesses are of like mind on this—but the city needs to communicate what they’re going to do ahead of time so we’re not scrambling to react to unforeseen circumstances.”

Historical discoveries

“Under considerable pressure to excavate completely across the Hall and Baker Street intersection as quickly and concisely, making way for the installation of new water and storm sewer lines, Maglio Installations managed to complete the job in less than four days,” reads a city press release.

Maglio Industries’ Terry Maglio said the labour required a triple team.

“We came across a lot of very, very old infrastructure,” said Maglio. Excavators found manholes made out of olden-day brick, a 100-year-old water line and piping for an old gas works, all which made for delicate digging.

“When you discover this kind of forgotten underground service with a machine, infrastructure that has been underground for literally a century, you need to back right off and expose a lot of it by hand,” said Maglio.

“We’ve got to make sure it can be safely removed. And that can slow the process down.”

Mayoral support

Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak acknowledged the effect construction and traffic disruptions are having on the nearby businesses.

“For the Stores To Shores project to be a true success, it’s really important that Nelson residents and visitors continue to shop local, and support the retail and hospitality venues that are inside the construction zone, on Hall, Baker and Vernon Streets.”

“Those businesses are all open,” she said.

“We’ve got a slate of directional signage out all over the Hall Street neighbourhood, and we’re providing weekly bulletins on closures to all media, as well as on our Facebook and web page.”

Kozak recommended that everyone in town follow the Stores To Shores Facebook page.

“We’re going to do everything we can to support and advocate for our business community during this project,” she said. “After all, it’s the downtown business sector we’re aiming to assist with the Stores To Shores project itself.”

Hitting the bottom line

Orang Momtazian, owner of Bia Boro, said his sales are down 50 per cent since construction began, and the recent road closure took his troubles to “the next level”.

“My numbers are consistent year to year, having been in this one location for nearly 11 years. This drop is 100 per cent attributed to this construction.”

Momtazian said his Mother’s Day sales were hugely disappointing.

“It was a big weekend, the Mother’s Day weekend, but for us it wasn’t. You can’t blame people for not wanting to come. I don’t blame them. But as far as the city is concerned, I don’t know if there’s going to be any compensation that will come but one thing that comes to mind is maybe a break on property taxes.”

Nick Diamond, owner of the Main Street Diner, said one day they came in and their water was shut off. Though it was a minor inconvenience, and quickly fixed, he feels communication has been a problem.

“The city posted a big sign on Baker with a big list of all the businesses affected, saying they’re still open, and we’re not on it. Neither are any of the businesses on Baker,” he noted.

“I’m really happy this project is a go, and we’re much less affected than some other businesses, but communication has been an issue.”

Dawson said the future will be a struggle.

“When they’re flagging at Baker and Josephine, it creates a visual impediment. It’s noisy and with everything else, do you think people are going to say ‘I need to go damage my ears?’ I don’t think so.”

The project is slated for completion later this year.

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