Just north of Budweiser Gardens sits the Dundas Place construction zone. Coinciding with nearby closures on Talbot and York streets, the roadwork cluster has caused a traffic nightmare for any driver heading to downtown London.
By the time the nightmare wraps up in 2020, the City of London hopes to see a dream fulfilled when the Forest City receives its first-ever flex street.
Flex street may seem like civil engineering jargon, the city’s manager of downtown projects and business relations, Jim Yanchula, says it refers to how the street is constructed.
“Traditional streetscape projects will have everything fixed and bolted down,” said Yanchula.
“This will have as little as possible bolted down.”
Yanchula adds that this construction method also allows just as much flexibility for how the street is used.
“Do we use it all? Do we only use the sidewalk lanes… there’s a lot in the word, ‘flex street’.”
At helm of Dundas Place will be Savanah Sewell, who was named manager by city hall in late September.
Sewell says the freedom of a flex street is one of the most exciting features about the project.
“It’s sort of like a blank canvas every time,” said Sewell.
“It feels like there’s endless opportunities.”
For the time being, the downtown traffic nightmare remains. While the roadwork has an effect on drivers, area businesses are also feeling the impact.
“Like with any dislocation, you’ve got some who are pretty resilient, some who have no response and some who are very upset,” said Yanchula, whose job also involves dealing with downtown business relations for the city.
For Filthy Rebena, a vintage-themed store on Dundas Street, things haven’t been so bad.
“We have loyal customers… luckily, we’ve been around now for three years, so we are pretty established and people know about us,” said Natalie Bradshaw, co-owner of Filthy Rebena.
Bradshaw adds that she remains optimistic for what Dundas Place will bring to the city.
“It’s a slow process because it is a two-year process, but we have high hopes that it’s going to be successful.”
While the entire project won’t be complete until 2020, city staff say phase one of Dundas Place will be opened between Ridout and Richmond Streets by 2019.
That year coincides with when the city will host the Juno Awards and when Londoners set foot on their first-ever flex street.