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Third and final construction phase begins on Sydney’s Charlotte Street

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A block of Charlotte Street in Sydney, N.S., will be closed for construction until August, at the earliest.

Those behind the project believe the Charlotte Street reconstruction will be short-term pain for long-term gain, however some business owners have concerns about the impact right now.

For the past two years, Elena Zhai has owned a sushi restaurant on the section of the main drag that is now closed.

Zhai says her business depends on foot traffic, including visitors from cruise ships. With the road closed to drivers as well, she’s worried people might not know her business is open.

"Yeah, (it might) affect our business,” said Zhai.

"When they finish it's going to be better, but during the construction it's going to be worse. We're going to lose a little bit of customers."

Sydney resident Rob Zwarun faces mobility challenges. He says the reduced sidewalk space that comes with the construction is problematic for him.

"I'll probably have to avoid the area, for the short term anyway,” says Zwarun.

"I ride around in a scooter and, trying to get around the sidewalks, it's probably going to be a lot more constrained."

Zwarun, who teaches a chair yoga class at the YMCA downtown, has had to move to the YMCA’s facility on nearby Membertou First Nation for the time being.

Monday marked the beginning of the third and final phase of the Charlotte Street reconstruction.

While there were some small businesses that didn't make it through the first two phases, those that did are now enjoying wider sidewalks with potential patio space - along with a fresher look.

"We feel for you. We know construction can be very, very hard on businesses,” said Jenna MacQueen with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, regarding those who will be negatively impacted during the construction.

"We know from Phase 1 and 2, now that it's done, those businesses in the area are really seeing the benefit and we can't wait for Phase 3 to be completed so those businesses can also see the benefits."

The third and final phase of construction is scheduled to be complete in August, in time for the opening of the new Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus the following month.

"It's going to be pretty, it's going to be nice. It's going to be nice for the cruise ship people and the new college opening,” says Louann MacDonald, a small business owner in the downtown.

In addition to hoping for more foot traffic in the fall, business owners are optimistic the construction could fix another longstanding issue.

"As most people know, it's hard to park anywhere around the downtown - it's been a longtime problem," Zwarun said.

For now, vehicle traffic is being detoured away from the affected block of the main drag while work on the $9 million project is completed.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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