Local developers welcome full return of Quebec construction industry

Developers in Gatineau, Que., say it’s good news that work can resume Monday on commercial construction projects, even if COVID-19 has delayed the opening of one major mixed-development project in the city’s Plateau district.

The $250-million Agora project, a small urban village planned to include apartments and businesses, had been scheduled to open its first section within a few weeks.

The construction site was closed March 24, however, and its opening pushed back another two-and-a-half months.

“We have several tenants waiting for a confirmation date of when we will be able to deliver their premises to them,” said Charles Beaudoin, president of Divalco, one of the companies involved in the project.

Issues on the horizon

On May 11, the entire construction industry in Quebec will restart, although with rules in place to protect workers from COVID-19.

Beaudoin told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview that while he welcomes the industry’s resumption, he sees issues with completing housing units on time, even though certain residential projects were able to resume April 20.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of problems, not just for us but in the residential sector throughout the region,” he said. “Housing that was to be ready for July 1 — a majority of it will not be.”

Geneviève Garnier, owner of the Urbanimal pet store, which plans to move into the new Agora development, remains optimistic.

“We adapted to the situation. This allowed us to have a moment to launch our online business for local deliveries early, which people appreciate,'” Garnier said. 

Representatives from the developers of the Agora community stand in front of a model of the project. (Radio-Canada)

Difficult to catch up

Some developers, however, say they can’t be as flexible.

“It will be up to us to adapt, but it will be very difficult to catch up with the six weeks of delay,” said Shawn Côté, president of the Association de la construction du Québec’s Outaouais region.

“Delivery dates are going to be a crucial issue, as well as personal protective equipment.”

Côté is also concerned about a shortage of labour, as there are workers still in self-isolation or who may simply not return because they fear getting sick.

Guillaume Houle, another spokesperson for Quebec’s construction association, said a majority of the province’s contractors would be ready for Monday.

Houle said not all construction sites would initially operate at 100 per cent capacity, however, as safety guidelines from Quebec’s workplace health and safety board need to be outlined for the workers and obeyed. 

“Everybody has responsibilities. The workers have to protect themselves and their coworkers and the entrepreneurs have to provide the materials to the workers,” he wrote in an email to CBC News.

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