London’s Division Manager of Transportation, Doug MacRae, describes the Dundas Street construction as a “spaghetti of infrastructure.”
The Dundas Place ‘flex street’ is a plan to turn the downtown core into a curbless, sidewalk-free zone to create a hub for entertainment, arts and culture between Wellington and Rideout streets. “The streetscape is being designed to integrate seamless opportunities. We want restaurants and cafes to be able to spill out into the street with patios. We want entertainment venues to use the street space for entertainment,” says MacRae.
The two-year construction plan overlaps with the 2019 Juno Awards coming to London, however, since London had a bid in to host the Junos this was worked into the construction plan ahead of time.
“The Junos are exciting, I think everyone in the city is looking forward to that. We’re going to work with our contractor to get as much of the project done and built before March 2019 for the Junos so we can show it off. Besides, the music venues have shows all year, so the project has been set up so that their access is maintained to continue to operate and were just doing everything we can to minimize impacts.”
The construction is going to tackle one block at a time starting with Talbot to Richmond.
“I think we’ll have enough of the project done by the Junos that will display the vision. We’re starting in the Talbot to Richmond block because that’s where Fanshawe College is building the second building to their downtown campus. We’re going to try and get as much done for Fanshawe’s opening day.”
Phase two will take on the Richmond and Dundas intersection, there is a lot to be done there. Phase three takes on the streets adjacent to Budweiser Gardens, then phase four comes back to just East of Richmond at Wellington.
“We all know Dundas Street is the cultural and economic heart of the downtown in all of London. We want the businesses on Dundas to thrive, that’s a major goal of the project,” says MacRae.
Business Owner of Che Resto Bar, Marvin Rivas, is concerned about the construction, but knows the results will be all the worth.
“We’re going to have constraints with customers accessing the business along with dust and dirt constantly lingering. I have questions like what are the spaces and sections that will be left available during the construction. I’m concerned but I’m not that concerned. I’m more excited about what’s going to happen after once the street is done because it will change Dundas Street.” Rivas plans to take advantage of the flex street by installing a patio onto Dundas after the construction is complete.
Meanwhile, Shannon Balsillie works downtown and is wondering how the flex street construction is going to alter her everyday routine. “If the customer traffic is less because of the construction then it means I’m not going to be working and if I’m not working things don’t go so well.”
Balsillie thinks the flex street will benefit her, “I might want to shop more on Dundas. I’m excited to see what it will bring to downtown. It’ll be nice to have more of a community and what kind of people it will attract. Downtown has its own personality. Every city has its own personality, but downtown has its own inside of the city.”
The construction is going to begin this spring. A report recommending the award will be presented to council for approval on Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
“We’re going to do everything we can to share information with the business owners and promote the area to all of London to let Londoners know the businesses are open. We might even try to do some fun things to bring them down to the construction site, show them the vision of what we’re creating. We want the businesses to come out the other side of the construction able to benefit what we’re creating for them,” says Doug MacRae, London’s Division Manager of Transportation.