Free parking, tax deferral among the proposals
Altering bus routes and offering free parking are some moves Ottawa will consider to help lure customers back into a downtown district that’s suffering through a lengthy road closure.
City-imposed safety measures that have closed the Bank-Somerset streets intersection near a partially collapsed heritage building at 352 Somerset St. W have left merchants in need of help to keep their businesses afloat, they say.
“Everybody is always talking about the street being closed,” said Bank Street Business Improvement Area executive director Gerry LePage.
BIA officials joined area business owners yesterday to ask Mayor Larry O’Brien and Somerset ward councillor Diane Holmes to examine ways the city can help them.
“We wanted to have the mayor hear first-hand how it is affecting their lives,” LePage said.
Holmes said the city will attempt to re-route buses closer to the intersection and provide free parking around the area as an incentive to shoppers, while also trying to arrange for affected businesses to pay their taxes in installments.
O’Brien said officials would try to expedite a solution, but noted that OC Transpo and bylaw must still be consulted, and that any relief measures must still be approved by council.
“We’re going to do whatever we can in terms of assisting them,” he said.
The city closed the intersection on Oct. 19 after the building, called Somerset House, partially collapsed. The building’s owner has since obtained a court order permitting time to try to fix the heritage building, rather than tear it down.
There’s little to be done to speed a court ruling on the building’s fate, but LePage wants the city poised to act once the decision comes down.
“If they get an order to demolish, then demolish immediately … Make sure the mechanisms are in place to demolish in a very quick order of time.”