Half a year after construction began on the two blocks of St. Denis St. south of Marie-Anne St., merchants say the work is driving away customers.

Work is taking place on the stretch between Marie-Anne St. and Duluth Ave., and the effect is noticeable: about half the storefronts in that two-block stretch have 'for rent' signs in their windows.

Other stores have notes posted that explain they have closed because business dropped precipitously since construction on the 16-month, $14-million project started on Sept. 8, 2015.

Sara Doulkali said her coffee shop, Aux Deux Marie, has only managed to stay open because her regular customers love her wares.

"It's scary for us too because of course we don't want to close, but if we don't have a lot of people coming in because of the construction, there's no parking, we're scared too," said Doulkali.

"There's no help from the city or anything. There's nothing that helps us."

At audio and video store Audioville, sales are down about 30 per cent, and they're the lucky ones.

“There's no parking, people don’t want to come down, there are fewer people walking on the streets. It hurts, it hurts,” says owner Steve Nicola.

Just about every second storefront between Marie-Anne and Duluth bears an “À louer” sign, some with a note to customers blaming the construction. In January borough officials said they were working to get tax credits for merchants in the area, but nothing ever materialized.

Years after its own construction fiasco, merchants on St. Laurent are still fighting to bounce back.

Tascha Morizio of the Business Association of St. Laurent Boulevard says businesses are choosing to open in areas like Villeray and Griffintown because rent is cheaper there.

“It’s easier for small businesses to open up on those arteries than here. We need to keep our main streets alive, because [they are] what make our cities,” she said.

The city is replacing water pipes on the street, and other utility work is taking place as well.

The construction on one side of St. Denis is scheduled to end in July, with the other side of the street being fixed by November.