Winnipeg Business Protests Ongoing Exchange District Construction

Winnipeg Business Protests Ongoing Exchange District Construction

Friday Knights
Exchange District shop Friday Knights is taking a stand against ongoing construction in front of its McDermot Avenue business. (ERIC OLEK / HANDOUT)

A Winnipeg business is taking a unique approach to protest ongoing construction in front of its Exchange District sneaker boutique.

Erik Olek, owner of Friday Knights, has dressed up mannequins in his McDermont Avenue shop’s front window in high-visibility safety gear, while adding street signs and pylons.

“I just wanted to give a friendly nod to the construction workers across the street, and let any passers-by know how we feel about the situation,” Olek said.

Olek says the construction, which began in the summer, has resulted in lane closures and parking disruption for his customers. He also says area businesses weren’t properly notified of the ongoing work.

McDermot Avenue Construction
Construction work along McDermot Avenue in the Exchange District. (ERIC OLEK / HANDOUT)

Olek says Friday Knights saw a 25 percent decrease in sales during the summer months, and sales this past holiday season were also down.

“It just seemed poorly timed. They could have waited until the new year to start this project so that shoppers didn’t have to deal with the madness. I feel people just kept moving, or went elsewhere.”

Nicholas Friesen, spokesperson for the Exchange District Biz, says the organization has advocated the city for better construction practices on behalf of its members and continues to do so.

A City of Winnipeg spokesperson says a private contractor is working on a repair at 222 McDermot Avenue. The city reduced pressure in the water main to the building on December 21, 2018 to facilitate the repair, and will be working with the property owner to increase pressure to the main once repairs are completed.

Spokesperson Adam Campbell says providing notice of both lane closures and any disruption of services is the responsibility of the contractor.

“In general, the city will issue construction notices for its own work, and conduct public engagement for larger projects that impact residents or businesses for prolonged durations,” he said. “In emergency situations, advance notice may not be possible.”

Other city projects around this immediate location last summer included an emergency sewer renewal from May 23-25, and a planned water main renewal project that stretced from May 2 until June 28.

For the latter project, the city says it worked with local businesses in advance of the start date to coordinate the roadway closure, with a focus on reducing the impact to those working and living in the area.

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