Views vary on planned Kensington upgrade

The operator of a below street-level business says plans for a water-main upgrade in Kensington Market are long overdue.

The City of Toronto has plans to improve infrastructure on Dundas Street West between University Avenue and Bathurst Street in 2012. Upgrades include reconstructed sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly improvements.

Greg Warren runs the basement workshop, Wifi Kensington, in Kensington Market. He said water-main replacement must be a high priority.

“Those pipes are so old. After a bad rain, I have to vacuum the back up water with my wet vac,” he said. “We are a decade behind on fixing these stuffs. We have to do it.”

On the other hand, Warren said that Kensington Market is a destination for tourists, so construction should not impede business.

“As long as there is good access to the parking lots here,” he said. “I am not too concerned about that.”

Katrina Taliana owns the vintage boutique Dancing Days in Kensington. She said any reconstruction will cost her customers. Meantime, she has expectations for the planned upgrade.

“I want more flowers along the sidewalk,” she said. “And people come in all the time saying we need a recycling garbage receptacle. There should be more.”

Besides Kensington Market, downtown Chinatown is another tourist destination located in this section of the city. Opinions on the planned street work vary with the merchants.

Ricky Chen is the manager of the Noble Seafood Restaurant. He believes that the renovation will make a good impression on potential customers, but, he said, the government should arrange the procedure reasonably.

“They’d better not start in the high tourist season, like July and August,” he said. “And they should quicken the pace to minimize the loss to merchants.”

For Sunny Liu, manager of the Kyu Shon Hong Chinese Herbs, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of street improvements.

“The drainage system is working and the sidewalk is OK, too,” he said, “Because of the recession, business was quite slack this year … Beautifying the street won’t help too much … I’d rather they delay it till the economy recovers.”

According to the City of Toronto, the primary objective of the reconstruction project includes upgrading the quality of the street, tying together the diverse neighbourhood and clearly identifying the distinct character areas.

Elyse Parker, director of the City Planning Division, said before the scheme is implemented, the city will consult different community groups, including Alexander Park, Kensington Market, Chinatown Business Improvement Area, 52 Police Division, AGO, etc.

“We are going to consult them individually and collectively,” she said. “So far we haven’t decided how to go yet.”