This article was written for a master of journalism course at Ryerson University.
Eglinton Avenue business owners say free parking has made no effect on profits
Construction along the avenue has reduced customer traffic for many business owners in the area
Ashley Fraser · Oct 2 2018
Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit construction along Eglinton Avenue.
Despite special measures taken by the city, business owners on Eglinton Avenue are losing profits due to Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit construction.
In April, Mayor John Tory and City Councillor Josh Colle announced two-hour free parking and more street maintenance to help the business corridor, but shop owners like Nina Jung, say they are making "Just enough [money] to pay the bills.”
Eglinton Avenue business owner John Ferrari has sold dresses for 41 years in his family-run store, Latina Ladies Wear, on Eglinton Avenue West between Marlee Road and Times Road. He says his business has faced challenges before, but nothing like this. He says he has one customer per day.
“Josh Colle tried to help us with the motion and Metrolinx has given $10 000 to our BIA to help us with signage, but nothing has been done with it,” he says, pointing to a letter size paper advertising a sale inside his store. He adds the paper was given to him by his BIA, four months after he requested large signage to help advertise the stores in the area.
A few doors down, Michael Ryan, owner at Rasta Flex, says that he has lost between 65 and 75 per cent in sales since the construction began.
“The free parking hasn’t made an effect” to draw more customers to his Rasta clothing store, he adds.
Squashed one lane traffic alternates along Eglinton Avenue. While commuters drive through the major road artery tall machinery, trucks, and cranes make up half of the road's surface, blocking entrances to businesses.
For Ferrari, parking accessibility is an issue as are the needs of older customers. Not everyone uses technology to park in the city, he says, “You have to have an app, you have to have a cell phone, and you have to park two or three kilometres away to come to me.”
York-Eglinton BIA Chair and owner of Andrew’s Formals, Nick Alampi, agrees that the parking app doesn’t serve the large senior demographic in the area. He says the BIA is going to continue to support the businesses with marketing and partnerships, but it is Metrolinx that has the power to help local businesses in the area due to their mandate as a governing body.
“People don’t realize that because, as this Metrolinx was formed on legislation that governs itself,” he says. Alampi says the only thing the city can do is to accommodate.
Josh Colle, the current city councilor for Eglinton-Lawrence says he has worked with the transit body Metrolinx for the past four years to address issues including, “changing their construction staging, signage, and better notices.”
He says he has pushed for a 24-point motion to city council to help the businesses along Eglinton Avenue.
The motion recommends, to provide funding from the City of Toronto, Metrolinx, and Crosslinx to “establish a “business continuity fund” that would allow businesses that are situated behind construction hoarding or adjacent to station construction sites and that can exhibit a loss in revenue to apply for modest financial relief through a forgivable
loan.” However, much of this motion has yet to be realized.
In an email, a spokesperson for Metrolinx says, “We collaborated with local BIAs and the Economic Development and Culture Division of the City of Toronto to develop a program called “Experience Eglinton” to support the businesses along Eglinton Avenue during construction … The campaign includes both traditional advertising, such as billboards, TTC platform posters, radio and commuter paper advertisements, as well as sponsored content with several Toronto outlets.”
But shop owners continue to say these efforts offer no respite.
“Mainly traffic and parking are the two major factors,” says Jah Chozen, a worker at Treajah Isle, a store with a historic reputation within the Little Jamaica community on Eglinton Avenue.
“We work closely with city council and the BIA and express our concerns,” and with the election coming up, “we would definitely like to see a little bit of leverage, street parking, more options for people that are supporting the businesses,” he says.
Rasta Flex’s Ryan would like other forms of relief such as rent adjustments, “They should give the business people here a little compensation.”
As the municipal election on Oct. 22 approaches, some shop owners feel disengaged from the race. “We’ve had meetings, with the councillor, BIA, MP, everybody, but nothing has been done,” says Ryan “I don’t know if a new city councillor is going to have an impact on this because Metrolinx have to do what they have to do.”
“This is the final nail in the coffin, and I don’t know how it’s going to go, it’s month to month,” says Ferrari, “I don’t care about the election, I’m not going to get anywhere.”
The sign on the door inside Latina Ladies Wear given to John Ferrari by the Eglinton BIA .