Halifax businesses raise alarm over timing of Argyle and Grafton streetscape project

Halifax businesses raise alarm over timing of Argyle and Grafton streetscape project

Big changes are coming this summer to both Argyle and Grafton Street. Some business owners, however, say they’re worried about whether they’ll make it through the summer months to see the end result. Story continues below

Work on the Argyle and Grafton Shared Streetscape Project is set to begin on June 1 with a construction schedule of about 17 weeks. The modern design will create a safe space for pedestrians and vehicles alike, turning the area into an “urban plaza.” However, construction also means that patio licenses will not be granted for the 2017 season.“In order for us to allow for the construction of this project, and to get it done in one season, we’re not going to be able to permit those sidewalk patios during the summer months,” said Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality.“We realize this is an inconvenience, but really when we spoke to the business owners, they said that some of their busiest time is actually in the fall.”READ MORE: Downtown Halifax businesses take legal action over Nova Centre construction impactThe new streetscape will allow for year-round patio licenses, meaning that restaurants and bars will simply have to install barriers around their existing space. Chase said while they plan on commencing work on June 1, it is a complex project that will utilize supplies and materials that are not easily sourced.Mike Campbell, owner of The Carleton Music Bar & Grill said it’s these unknown factors that concern him, noting he was burned before by the Nova Centre delays.“Looking ahead to realize that you’re not going to have patios for the entire season, right through to the fall and September, October probably… that’s a real kick in the head,” Campbell said.Campbell said The Carleton, along with other businesses lining the perimeter of the Nova Centre, have suffered due to ongoing construction in the area since 2015. He said while he is looking forward to the streetscape improvements, he feels the timing is completely wrong.“It’s just one more thing piled on the last few years,” he said. “It’s making it seriously hard for the businesses down here.”READ MORE: Opening for Halifax’s Nova Centre delayed againThe idea of giving the entertainment district a makeover has been in the works for more than a decade. Shannon Bruhm, vice-president of operations for RCR Hospitality Group, said while he recognizes construction could have a negative impact on RCR’s restaurants, East of Grafton Tavern and Bistro Le Coq, it will mean big business in the future.“We’ve known it’s coming for a while,” Bruhm said. “There’s going to be some short-term pain for sure, but I think the long-term benefits far outweigh that.”However, others believe the timing is simply off, given upcoming Canada 150 celebrations and the 2017 Tall Ships Regatta both happening in Halifax this summer.“I do understand where [the Municipality] is coming from and they’re trying to get this project going. I get all that,” said Christine Bower, co-owner of The Wooden Monkey on Grafton Street.“It’s probably going to be beautiful in the end, but the timing and the length of time… I just think that could definitely be improved upon.”READ MORE: Halifax business owner ‘infuriated’ by proposed parking ticket fine hikeBower said she and her business partner Lil MacPherson felt they were kept in the dark during the decision-making process. Like many of their fellow area business owners, they’re also concerned about what the construction will mean for businesses along Grafton Street.“The summer months are our meat,” MacPherson noted. “[The Municipality is] taking June, July, August, September — this is when we make our money to get us through the winter.”The tender for the project was issued on Thursday and will remain open until April 12.

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