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TTC still using St. Clair as a work yard, say merchants

After years of construction on the streetcar right-of-way,
businesses say they’re still struggling

Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

When the dust cleared in front of their little shops and restaurants, the business owners on St. Clair Ave. west of Caledonia Rd. heaved a sigh of relief.

Merchants figured their businesses would finally enjoy a revival this year, after more than five years of watching customers bypass their construction-locked neighbourhood as the TTC built its controversial St. Clair streetcar right-of-way.

But that’s not happening, and the St. Clair Gardens Business Improvement Area (BIA) now is accusing the TTC of killing what’s left of their enterprises by treating the neighbourhood as a work yard.

The right-of-way, still not in use as a streetcar path, is cluttered with trailers, heavy equipment, trucks and lines of private vehicles owned by construction workers who are installing a turnaround loop to the west at Gunns Rd.

“People cannot see us. It looks like we’re still under construction, and we’re paying taxes,” said Rose Signorile, who runs Quality Paint & Wallpaper Supplies with her son, Rocky Signorile.

Business is down about 70 per cent from what it used to be and, after 38 years on St. Clair, the only reason her store survives is because the family owns the property, she said.

BIA chair Don Panos, owner of Don’s Wholesale Meats, figures he’s lost 10 to 15 per cent of his business. After years of having a hard time traversing St. Clair, customers “don’t feel motivated to come here,” he said.

City Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) says he’s suggested the TTC use an old work yard nearby on Old Weston Rd. to store its equipment and machinery.

The debate about whether the right-of-way is a good idea is over, he said Friday.

“We’re trying to let people know we are open for business again,” said Palacio. “What we see is a total disregard for the TTC in terms of management. It seems no one knows what’s happening there.”

Palacio said the St. Clair experience bodes poorly for other neighbourhoods in Toronto where new Transit City streetcar rights-of-way are planned.

The TTC says the work yard Palacio suggested its contractors use is already being rented to someone else.

But the trailers parked near Signorile’s shop will be gone by the end of the week and the streetcars will finally be running west of Lansdowne Ave., where buses currently take over transit service, on that section of St. Clair by July 5, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

“We, of course, do appreciate the frustration that merchants have endured during this construction process,” he said. “But in a few short weeks the entire line will be open and the St. Clair West streetcar will pay dividends to everyone.”