As we shuffle our feet forward in the province’s Roadmap to Reopening, Step Three arrived just in time to see a downtown improvement initiative trip up King Street businesses.
It’s sad that the project, 18 months in the making, was not rescheduled.
Crews are at work replacing aging streetlamps along King Street, having started last week at William Street and continuing eastward.
Yes, the streetlamps are old. As municipal officials said, they can’t even get replacement parts for them anymore.
But the timing is extremely unfortunate. Just as businesses were able to allow more people into their stores after weeks of extremely limited traffic, following months of curbside only activity, King Street is a one-way route between William and Sixth streets for the rest of this week at least. And that one-way restriction will shift eastwards as the replacement effort moves in that direction.
Businesses in the area said they were enjoying a renewal of client visits, only to see parking down one side of the street vanish, and with it much of their in-store customers.
There needs to be more communication between the municipality and local businesses. C-K officials have repeatedly said they have the interests of small business at heart, but then don’t walk that walk, especially down King Street.
For years, that part of King was a mess due to construction at Boardwalk on the Thames. Businesses closed as people avoided that section of the downtown.
And now, just as businesses look forward to welcoming back customers, parking and ease of access gets chewed up.
We understand the lamps are old and outdated, but could the project not have been pushed back to mid-September? Let retailers and downtown consumers reconnect and let cash flow return to many struggling businesses.
Unfortunately, municipal staff too often exist in a civil service bubble and don’t truly comprehend what small businesses are suffering through these days. Any support at this time would be greatly appreciated, while any roadblocks will be met with extreme disdain.
Such things can be worked out, as long as both sides communicate. That just does not happen often enough.