Beechwood Village merchants worried about proposed changes
Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa
Published Friday, April 1, 2016 5:43PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 1, 2016 6:35PM EDT
Some merchants along Ottawa's Beechwood Avenue say city plans to revitalize that road could come at the cost of their businesses. The city says this corridor along Beechwood is a critical component of the east-west bike route. But the proposed changes are pitting bikes against businesses. This area is one of the last traditional main streets to be developed in the city. And everyone wants to get it right.
Businesses along that strip say they aren't against the addition of bike lanes but they are against the loss of parking spots.
Ten years in business is a milestone for the owner of Jacobson’s Gourmet Concepts in Beechwood Village, selling smelly cheeses and decadent desserts. But like many of the shop owners along Beechwood, Susan Jacobson worries what the next 10 years will hold.
“We want this street to become a destination,” Jacobson says, “that's our concern about the potential changes that are coming.”
Those potential changes involve a reconfiguration of Beechwood Avenue with bike lanes along both sides of the street. That would mean the loss of all the parking on the south side of the street, about 35 spots or 64% of the total parking along Beechwood, according to the Vanier BIA. Those parking spots would move to side streets like Charlevoix, Marier and Barrette.
"The objective is to make Beechwood Avenue a safe main street,” says one of the councilors for the area, Mathieu Fleury, “where businesses can thrive, where people feel that it is friendly to walk and where it is safe for cars.”
Cyclist Fiona Lester likes the idea and says cycling on Beechwood now is a little hairy.
“We were just biking and we were weaving and we tried to make a left turn and I thought “I don't think we can do this.”
Naomi Bose adds, “There’s not a ton of room. No bike lanes that I can see and lots of cars parked at the side of the road.”
Tracey Clark is an avid cyclist too but also a business owner, with 18 Bridgehead coffee shops under her belt. She welcomes more development along Beechwood, home to one of her coffee shops, but worries at what cost.
“My concern is that we aren't balancing interests in this case,” says Clar, “the interests of cyclists cycling through in commercial zone versus the viability of creating a good commercial zone for all residents concerned.”
The retailers point to Hintonburg and Westboro as examples of how to find the balance between the safety of cyclists and the needs of businesses. They're hoping for a similar compromise.
"Beechwood has taken its hits,” says Mark Kaluski, the Chair of the Vanier BIA, “with a fire and we've had a number of businesses leave to go to retail plazas and we are concerned if they take away parking, we may lose more customers to the malls.”
Residents and businesses have until next Wednesday to comment on the study. But final decisions on what Beechwood Village will ultimately look like are still a ways off.