By Don Descoteau
A catastrophe waiting to happen.
That’s how Bart Reed describes the potential ripping up of Cook Street to install sewage pipes to go to and from Clover Point to a treatment plant site at Rock Bay.
Reed owns the Beagle Pub and McLennan’s Island Meat and Seafood in Cook Street Village, as well as the building those two operations are in, plus the Moka House café a couple blocks up. He foresees a 40 per cent drop in business in the village as a result of the construction, due to loss of parking and changing customer buying patterns.
“There’s more disturbance with Rock Bay than with any of the other proposals,” he said.
A co-founder of the Cook Street Village Business Association, Reed will outline the potential losses during a four-minute presentation to the Capital Regional District’s core area liquid waste management committee this morning as they deliberate on sites and other options around treatment.
The committee is expected to emerge with a final recommendation on the topic for the full CRD board meeting Wednesday afternoon. Other sites under consideration as treatment areas include McLoughlin Point and Clover Point, as well as Colwood.
Contrary to what some might see as a “walk-up” nature of the popular Cook Street Village area, Reed estimated that only about 20 to 25 per cent of his operations’ business comes from the neighbourhood. The rest is from people driving, cycling or busing to the area.
Speaking from an easy chair in his café, he said ripping up Cook Street could cost between 50 and 100 local jobs and that at least five merchants will go under because of it. Another five, he said, would likely “walk away” from their business rather than risk going further into debt during the construction period.
And that’s just one section of the village. Business districts at Fort Street and in the North Park neighbourhood between Pandora Avenue and Caledonia Street could also be devastated, Reed predicted.
Human nature and the entrepreneurial spirit being what they are, he added, many owners attempt to stick out the lean times in hopes things will rebound.
But that can lead to financial ruin, he warned. He pegged leasing costs of commercial space in the village at between $60,000 and $200,000 per year, depending on the size of the space.
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, who co-chairs the westside select committee on sewage treatment, knows well the effect of a construction phase on customers’ buying habits and traffic patterns. She was the proprietor of a party rentals company on David Street in the Rock Bay neighbourhood when Victoria replaced water mains in 2011.
“I should have just closed my freakin’ doors for six months, because that’s what it did to my business,” she said.
“(Cook Street Village is) a newly revitalized and growing component of the city and you’re basically cutting them off at the knees. We really do have to look at what is more reasonable and take some of those other kinds of costs of doing business into consideration when we’re applying decision making.”
Wednesday’s committee meeting gets underway at 9 a.m., with the CRD board meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m.