The construction of the contentious CBD light rail could threaten businesses on Sydney’s George Street.
The light rail, which will run from Circular Quay to Kingsford, begins construction in September despite previous plans to begin next week.
During construction, parts of George Street will be closed and foot traffic is set to drastically decrease, prompting fears that surrounding businesses will suffer.
Independent City of Sydney councillor and owner of George Street’s Vivo Cafe Angela Vithoulkas said the construction period would have a “massive economic effect” on businesses.
“It’s always been the elephant in the room. There’s no doubt that there’s going to be an effect on businesses and the people that live and work in the city, and it doesn’t look good for businesses during the consruction period,” she said.
“It’s going to have a massive economic effect on them, and it will probably be something that will influence the rest of their business life.”
As part of their ‘Sydney 2030’ plan, Sydney City strongly support the light rail, and their website said they are “committed to working in partnership with the NSW government” to deliver the project. The website lists benefitting CBD businesses as one of the outcomes of the light rail, but Ms Vithoulkas said the government needed to have a serious discussion with businesses to minimise any long term effects.
“They have said that they would not consider compensation in any way. That’s been put forward,” she said.
“I do think that some kind of conversation directly with businesses needs to happen about what can be done but [we need] some honest conversation, not just spin.”
Ms Vithoulkas, along with other business owners and managers from the CBD, will be attending a business forum this Friday. She said she would put forward ideas about the plan.
While the construction stage will be the tough stretch for businesses, the prospect of a partly pedestrianised George Street has some companies excited.
Kate Moses is the manager of Sunglasses Hut on George Street. She said that it was a case of short term pain for long term gain for the business.
“So far we haven’t been affected. I know in the future we probably will be and it probably will effect sales and traffic through our door, but at the overall completion of the project it would increase traffic through our doors as it will all be paved,” she said.
“For us in our company we’ve actually signed one of the longest leases on record just for this store mainly based on the projects that were happening around George Street.”
Ms Vithoulkas said the site specific nature of retail would mean that small businesses like her cafe would would fall on tough times throughout the construction.
“We’re not like a services industry or an office where we can just go somewhere else,” she said.
“I’m dependent on the market that’s around me as a cafe owner. So every dollar that I lose, it will be a lot of money I will never be able to get back.”
As well as affecting foot traffic and businesses on George Street, the construction of the light rail will have a major impact on road traffic.
Council has put aside $220 million for the project, with part of the money going towards traffic management.
In early January ,Sydney was thrown into traffic gridlock when roads were closed for preparatory work on the project. The government has still not released details as to where the hundreds of buses that currently use George Street will be redirected.