Construction booming; business isn’t

Bonnie Belec
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Roadwork in the Goulds leaves residents, companies in a rut

Some business owners on Main Road in the Goulds between Durdle Drive and Cleary Drive are raising concerns that the current $3.2-million construction work for street upgrading is affecting their bottom lines. Traffic has to detour around the construction work to Back Line to reach their destinations in the Goulds. Above, work crews install underground pipes in a trench. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

If something isn’t done to clear the way for customers on Main Road in the Goulds, one business owner fears construction will bury his restaurant.

“It’s a real pain and definitely killing business,” said Rod Forward, owner of the Big R Restaurant.

“I’ve got four tables here now and this is a good day,” he said, shaking his head during the peak lunch period.

The Big R is on the stretch of Main Road between Durdle Drive and Cleary Drive that is the site of a $3.2-million construction project by the City of St. John’s. Cost-shared with the provincial and federal governments, the upgrade involves curb, gutter and sidewalks as well as the installation of a new storm sewer system between Dirty Brook and Durdle Drive.

Announced in March by Coun. Wally Collins, the work began in April and is expected to wind up in September — throughout the busiest season for local businesses.

“It’s definitely our best time,” said Roxanne Cross, owner of Peter’s Pizza, as heavy equipment roared outside the front door.

“No doubt summer is one of the busiest times — more traffic, tourists coming through the area, but they aren’t going to go through this mess,” she said.

During an interview at the Big R Wednesday, Forward said this is the time of year when he starts to see his sales increase, but the business actually did better in the dead of winter than now.

“I don’t know what can be done. I can’t shut down. I know the road has to be done, but to what expense? Putting people out of business?” he said.

“That’s what’s going to happen to me if it continues. I pay taxes and if I’m not making any money I can’t pay taxes.”

Forward called the city to express his concerns and said he was going to write a letter to see if the city could help.

Collins, whose ward includes the Goulds, said he has spoken with some of the business owners, but, unfortunately for some, such as the Big R, there’s not a lot that can be done.

“Any time there’s road construction there’s going to be obstructions. You’ve got to tear it up, and if you’re catering to everyone, you won’t get anything done,” he said.

“The way it was in certain places, they have to take up the whole road. They had to bar it off and put in detours. We had a public meeting and told people about that. Is it better to get through it in two months or four? Some of the roads, if they open them up, the work can’t be done as fast,” Collins said.


He said he even asked the construction company to put on another crew, which it did, in an effort to speed up the job.

“They’re skipping right through it, but it’s a big project — lot of rock there. We’re fortunate we got so many streets to detour on,” Collins said.

One of the business owners the councillor has been dealing with is longtime resident Ron Pomeroy, owner of Pomeroy’s Convenience on the corner of Cleary Drive.

The store owner said one of his biggest concerns, besides having most of his customers cut off, are the ruts in the road a few feet from his parking lot.

“I’m happy with the fact it is going to be an improvement, but right now it’s disrupting business. I know it’s got to be done, but the ruts in the road — those who can get through don’t want to be driving over them,” said Pomeroy.

“All my customers are understanding and they have been faithful — they’d almost barge through the barricades to get here,” he said, bending down to pick up a hubcap from a car that hit one of the ruts too hard.   

He said he asked Collins if the ruts will be filled in and was told it would be done last Friday.

Pomeroy, who has owned the store for 21 years, said he asked again Wednesday and was told it would be done the same day.

Collins said he was told by the company it would be done Wednesday.

Tuesday night, Bill Kelly, who lives in the house next to Pomeroy’s store, said he was on the deck having a smoke when a car hit the rut so hard that sparks flew out from underneath it.

It might have been the same one neighbour Sharon Raymond heard when she was doing a puzzle.

“It was scary,” she said of the loud bang. “If people don’t obey the signs, someone is going to have a bad accident. It’s a little inconvenient, but we can put up with it for all the good coming out of it.”

The fact that some people ignore road signs is exactly why Kelly took it upon himself Tuesday night to get a red post and place it near the first rut.

“I’m afraid someone is going to get killed,” he said. “Some idiot driving down there too fast. You don’t know what can happen.”

Forward said he understands the importance of the work, but when he spoke to inspectors who went around talking to business owners before the work started, he was told there would always be a lane open for traffic to get to the businesses.

“But you see how bad it is. I had a catering job to do and couldn’t drive on it because I was afraid my dishes would break, they were clanging so much,” he said.

Cross said she was told the same thing.

“One of the engineers came and spoke to me and said it wouldn’t interfere with businesses, but it’s not as easy as he made it sound,” she said, adding one positive thing is the construction crews shut down when students at St. Kevin’s School get out for lunch and at the end of the school day.

At this point, Forward doesn’t see anything promising for his restaurant’s immediate future.

“For the summer, I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” he said.

Geographic location: Goulds, Main Road, Kevin

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Recent comments

  • Colleen
    June 06, 2013 - 11:17

    It seems this reporter didn't get all his facts straight. The other people that are cost sharing this are the residents of the main road in the Goulds. The City of St. John's is not paying their fare share alone. All these people got a bill for not just sidewalks but water and sewer as well. I'm sure other residents in the City don't have to pay to have their sidewalks replaced and their water and sewer upgraded. Councillor Collins did a very poor job of presenting this to his area. Notice of a half hour that there was a meeting to discuss this just didn't cut it. He should have been in his area passing out flyers door to door. Seems something more is afoot.! Are the residents of the Main Road paying for an upgrade so more new subdivisions can be put in place thereby lowering the city's fare share? The city is also doing an upgrade on Craigmillar Avenue in St. John's - do these residents have to fork over approx. $5000 a piece? It's not the inconvenience that bothers these people on the main road as much as it is it whats being done behind their backs! I live in the city downtown and can't imagine if people woke up to back hoes digging up their lawns!

  • A townie
    June 06, 2013 - 10:26

    @Nflder you are right I am a resident of Ward 5 and no I don't complain about construction on our road,you see we are an off road and we can't get what we want,and you are right again the City of St John's are very greedy they want it all believe me like the City of Mt Pearl and Paradise we the residents of St John's didn't want the Gould either you came with nothing but a big hefty cost.I also tell that to my family who live in there.Mr Collins certainly didn't get any votes from this area and nor do I say he will get them in the next election.But let me tell you something the Goulds have never been so better of since they became a part of St John's you certainly benifited from it.

  • Christopher
    June 06, 2013 - 10:08

    So Rod Forward expects a massive upgrade(which should have been done years ago) to be completely in little to no time at all? Good Grief guy give me a break. There are other way's to his restaurant.

  • Nfldler
    June 06, 2013 - 09:38

    To Townie The comment you made that you cant please the crowd from the Goulds disturbs me a bit.The comments that People are making are from a Business side of it .Yes everyone gets frustrated when the pressure is on .Loss of income to paid for things etc.I quess you have never complained about anything that the citys done in your area or are you in the ward that the Goulds councillor represents because according to your comment regarding the councillor it sure seems like it. We did not want to become part of the City but the government almamgated us and that was only because the city wanted the Bay Bulls Big Pond water treatment plant and also to stop MT Pearl from Growing.I quess you have nothing else to do but blame it on the people of the Goulds for the Mess and high taxes the city emposes on you .Get a life and do something constructive.At least Carogers was giving the owners some solutions to their problem

  • A townie.
    June 06, 2013 - 08:57

    Ya just can,t please the crowd from the Goulds they want sidewalks and road up grades they got it,now how do you think the work would be done without all the construction and dirt and noise.But I'm sure your councilor will come up with a solution for the Goulds gang he done nothing for the city of St John's.Maybe he will put in a request to raise our taxes to cover their loss.

  • carogers
    June 06, 2013 - 08:41

    The Big R owner needs to approach this problem with what he can control and not what he cannot. The road is torn up customers cannot easily get there. OK so beef up the delivery side of the business. Email or fax out daily specials to the surrounding offices and other business. Do a deal with the construction company and have the workers set up with a meal and drink limited menu like a kids meal at McD's. Its time for thinking out side the box not complaining about what cannot be changed.

    • Seamus
      June 06, 2013 - 09:46

      Carogers, that is good thinking. Too often everyone is content to complain and not think of how they can solve their own problems. That is a brilliant idea and I hope the Big R people are reading here