Monday, June 4, 2012

Taking care of Bronson business

Construction continues on the Bronson Avenue reconstruction project, and it has been complicated by the large amount of underground services crammed into a relatively narrow road allowance (the street itself is wide, but unlike most streets Bronson takes up nearly the entire right-of-way). Utilities are stacked on top of each other, and the different crews have to wait until the work on the utility above theirs is done before they can move in.

The road closure is also being felt by the local businesses. Although the construction crews are making a point of frequenting the local restaurants on their lunches, it doesn't make up for the potential customers that have avoided Brsonson for the closure. At 422 Bronson Avenue is Centretown Resto Bar, on the west side of Bronson, at Florence. Their specialty is Halifax donair. I went in there for the first time a couple weeks ago, and discovered they have excellent egg rolls, too!

The auto-oriented businesses are particularly hard hit. Going from 20,000 vehicles a day passing in front of their store to a few dozen takes away a lot of potential customers. Speedy Auto Body at 540 Bronson, shown here, and Midas up the street at 450, both fall into this category.

While some places on Bronson are destination businesses that attract customers specifically to their store, like Auntie Loo's, most offer goods and services that you can get pretty much anywhere. Number 527 Bronson at Arlington, guarded in the photo below by two Colautti Construction excavators, hosts the third location of Papa Joe's Pizzeria, adding to the two locations out in Ottawa's far South end. Hopefully the signalized crossing going in at Bronson and Arlington will bring enough customers to Papa Joe's to keep the store from closing, like so many businesses at that location even before construction.

Unlike many other main streets that have undergone construction in Somerset Ward—most recently Bank, Preston and Somerset—Bronson doesn't have a Business Improvement Association. When those streets went under construction, people called them "war zones". In contrast, Bronson is being described as a "ghost town".

The underlying reason for this is likely that pedestrians have been trained to avoid Bronson whenever possible because of the heavy traffic. Even with the traffic removed, this lesson remains.

We can hope that a similar principle applies to some of the commuting motorists who have been forced temporarily to avoid Bronson or stop driving altogether (in favour of transit, walking and cycling), but we should also hope that the landscaping, wider sidewalks and pedestrian-level decorative ligthing will help to make Bronson a more attractive walking route, and make both the Avenue and the businesses along it healthier.

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