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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

BIA told mid-November earliest for sidewalk events down Talbot due to streetscape

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

The Essex Centre BIA will have to wait until at least mid-November or even towards the end of that month, to hold sidewalk-type events in the downtown area to assist businesses.

When the Essex Centre BIA’s request to host its annual Tiny Tots parade in Essex Centre on October 27 – which invites chaperoned youths under the age of five to trick-or-treat at local businesses – came before Essex Council for approval at its meeting October 16, Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais, asked Town staff when the local Business Improvement Association could start holding sidewalk events again to start bringing more people to the downtown area.

McGuire-Blais is currently Council liaison to the BIA Board of Directors and former Chairperson.

Kevin Girard, Essex’s Director of Infrastructure Services, noted the streetscape is scheduled to be completed by December of 2023.

“We have obviously worked out a schedule and we’re doing our best to maintain that schedule; however, there are a lot of variables that we can’t necessarily plan for, such as all this rain we are getting,” Girard noted.

When the project commenced in May, Councillor Joe Garon relayed that main street construction for the Streetscape was expected to wrap-up on Labour Day, which is when the Town expected the road to be fully open to traffic, but there may be some work to do in adding benches and other pieces that are planned to add to the physical enhancement of the area. The entirety of the Essex Centre Streetscape project, including improvements on Victoria Avenue, from Talbot Street to South Talbot, was expected to wrap-up in December 2023.

That mid-to-late November date the BIA could expect to possibly host sidewalk events will depend on the streetscape scheduling and if the Town can protect itself from a safety and liability standpoint.

“All we can do is try to complete the project on schedule,” Girard said, reiterating it is looking like the reopening of the main street – Talbot Street- will take place sometime in November.

“Our businesses are really, really struggling. I can’t tell you how many times a day – in a week – I get calls from businesses saying ‘we are ready to close our doors. We need something,’” McGuire-Blais said. “I don’t know what else to do for them, other than to say let’s try to host something to try to bring people from outside in.”

Mid to end-of-November will not provide ideal weather for sidewalk-type events, she added.

“We are running out of days and times. I really, truly feel like when spring comes and our streets are again open, we won’t have a heck of a lot of business left,” McGuire-Blais said.

The Essex Centre Streetscape project was officially adopted in 2013. Stempski Kelly Associates Inc. were hired to consult with the public through workshops to gauge needs and desires, then draft a concept. This plan also included what was then known as the silo district and is now the Heritage Gardens Park. In 2021, Stantec Consulting Ltd. was appointed to provide engineering services to design, assist in procurement, and administer the Essex Streetscape Project.

Earlier this year, Essex Council moved to rescope the Essex Centre Streetscape project, reducing the project area on Talbot Street, from Arthur Avenue to Cameron Avenue, due to costs. The project includes a variety of aesthetic and accessibility enhancements, including AODA-compliant sidewalks and crosswalks, curbing, bicycle racks, and landscape treatments and plantings.


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