A few days ago while speaking with a CBC journalist about the impact of empty storefronts on well-established neighbourhoods across the city, I was reminded of an important principle: a successful retail strip is essential to a happy and healthy community.
Contributing to the well-being of our neighbours is the number one benchmark against which we measure everything that we do at the Danforth Mosaic BIA. We cover a three kilometre strip along the Danforth, from Jones to Westlake. Our role is to offer the right commercial streetscape to serve as a community anchor, providing landmarks, meeting places and even a sense of identity. We want to be that space where locals can live, work, learn and play.
Lucky for us, our neighbours have responded in kind: the Danforth Mosaic BIA wouldn’t be where it is now without the DECA Pop-Up Shop Initiative, which has enabled our local business community to buck the trend of increased vacancies we’ve seen elsewhere in the city. To the contrary, our commercial vacancy rate has dropped from 17 per cent to 6 per cent since DECA and its partners started the Pop-Up Shop Initiative 5 years ago, and the BIA is both humbled and excited to work on a plan to continue initiatives to keep vacancies down.
Looking toward the future, the BIA along with neighbouring residents has a rare opportunity to shape the City’s Official Plan as we contribute to the Avenue and Corridor Studies currently underway and submit our own BIA Streetscape Master Plan.
In collaboration with DECA’s Visioning Committee, we have formalized four guiding objectives that govern our vision:
- Reverse the multi-decade momentum that has gradually transformed the Danforth from commercial and social destination to traffic corridor: the Danforth Mosaic needs to be a place for shopping, working, playing and living, attracting people for a variety of different reasons at different times of the day.
- Look for ways to bring a significant number of jobs back to the neighborhood: especially in and around existing infrastructure and subway stations, we need to replenish the essential mixed primary-use mix that has been depleted by the exit of industry, starting in the 1950’s and continuing until today.
- Raise the comfort levels of pedestrians and cyclists: we can increase the number of fellow pedestrians on sidewalks and generate more business opportunity by improving the standing of pedestrians and cyclists within the transportation priority mix.
- Create a clear set of development guidelines: engage and influence city policy on behalf of the community and actively court complementary businesses that will add to the business offering.
Clearly, the mandate of our BIA is more than décor.
It is to bring the right mix of retailers to entice local residents to shop local, and to help define city policy in order to improve the quality of life for residents and business owners alike.
We are seizing the opportunity to impact the city’s official plan and reclaim our stretch of the Danforth as a diverse, vibrant, pedestrian-friendly streetscape that serves its community and the people that live and work there.