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Wellington Street business owners raise alarm bells on planned underpass

February 27, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Dr. Philip Kritzinger says he has been down this road before.

He opened the doors to his York Laser & Med Spa in Aurora just over two years ago, having moved the clinic from Newmarket’s Davis Drive to a brand-new build on Wellington Street East.

At the time, Davis Drive was undergoing significant reconstruction to accommodate new bus lanes for the VIVA Rapidway, putting stress on area businesses whose customers and clients couldn’t readily get to their destination.

Now, Dr. Kritzinger is braced for being back at square one.

He was one of more than 125 residents who came out to the Aurora Community Centre on Monday night to seek answers as Metrolinx held an open house to discuss expanded GO Train service.

As part of the ongoing rail expansion project, Metrolinx is slated to build a vehicular underpass beneath the current rail line that crosses Wellington Street. While the underpass is expected to ease traffic flow in the long run as the Province moves towards all-day two-way 15-minute GO Train service along the Barrie corridor, area business owners are speaking out on the short- and long-term impacts this construction will have on the community.

“The construction is going to hurt me a lot,” said Dr. Kritzinger. “I moved from Davis Drive a few years ago after having put up with construction for almost four years and now I am going to do it all over again. Traffic will stop driving by, people will be unwilling to come into my office because of the construction mess and I lose two things: I lose business because people won’t want to come into construction, and I lose business because there’s less drive-by traffic seeing my property for two years or three years. They say two years, but I don’t believe it.”

Business owner Farid Ameryoun will also be directly impacted by the underpass construction.

Ameryoun is a realtor at York National Realty, located just west of the former Baldwin’s building adjacent to the current rail crossing.

The business operates out of the former Hartman’s Corners schoolhouse, one of the Town’s oldest standing buildings.

Metrolinx’s underpass plans have left Ameryoun questioning whether the building will even be left standing once the project is completed.

“We’re going to be sitting 15 feet up from the road,” he said. “There will be no exposure from the road and we will lose access from Wellington Street. I came here tonight hoping to find some information on what they plan to do with these properties, and Baldwin’s next door. I will have access from Centre Street so that could help [offset not having passing traffic] but there is talk of expropriation and that’s what really interests me. We have one of the oldest buildings in York Region from 1838 and that is a concern. We spent quite a lot of money trying to preserve it, and get it designated as a heritage building and it would be a shame to see that building gone.

“With the detour on Centre Street, you can imagine the nightmare that is going to create for all those residential neighbourhoods behind; it is constant traffic at that time. What’s promised and what actually happens are very different. We’re probably looking at long-term construction. I can’t see it happening in two years and the neighbours behind are going to be impacted.”

Monday’s public meeting also attracted those slightly removed from Wellington Street, but whose neighbourhoods could also be impacted by traffic flows looking to get around the construction snarl.

“Speaking as an individual, I think that change is really good for the Town,” said Anna Kroeplin of the Town Park Area Ratepayers Association. “I think keeping our character is incredibly important and significant and that is what makes Aurora so attractive to everybody, but we need to change with the times, we do need to make it accessible for everybody. The underpass is going to be awful growing pains, of course, but I think, in the long run, it will be worth it.”

Representatives from Metrolinx on site for Monday’s meeting declined to take questions from the media at that time, asking for a submission via email. A response had not been received at press time, but this story will be updated as information is made available.

While the full impact of the underpass is not yet clear, the issue was addressed by Mayor Tom Mrakas last week as the Aurora Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Mayor’s Luncheon on Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor Mrakas was asked by Sandra Ferri, Executive Director of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, to elaborate on the Town’s plans to keep Wellington Street East businesses “thriving” during the construction.

“My job as Mayor, Town Staff, Council, is going to be to work as hard as we can to make sure we mitigate the amount of impacts that will be put onto our business community, our residents in the area,” he replied. “It is something, unfortunately, that is coming from the Province, it is something that has to be done.

“if you can imagine 15 minute all day every day GO trains coming in and out on Wellington and those arms dropping down, you can imagine the traffic nightmare. It is that old saying: short term pain for long-term gain. I can guarantee you… we’re going to be working as hard as we can, working with Metrolinx, working with the Province to make sure that those impacts that are felt by our business community are as minimal as possible.”

By Brock Weir



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