Our Development survey indicated that the current state of our commercial strips left a lot to be desired by area residents. There seemed to be a general sense that current retail options along our high streets such as Parliament do not serve our area residents. Pockets of Parliament, Gerrard and Carlton fill the needs of area homeowners while many stretches of the commercial main streets cater to renters in Regent and Moss Park and St Jamestown to the north. Many homeowners in the area indicated that they tend to travel farther afield and patronize other shopping districts such as Davisville/Bayview and Queen Street/Beach. When surveyed about new businesses and shopping area residents had a wide range of excellent suggestons and ideas for the area. The top choices were an art gallery, coffee shop, nursery/florist, antique store and clothing stores. Second choices included a bakery, gym, furniture stores, bath and bed outlet, book and music store. There is considerable interest in creating a better shopping street in the area. Although the area may not attract a Yorkville or Queen West art gallery, a gallery/print/framing business may do very well judging from the responses. There were also suggestions and a strong desire to attract independent and one of a kind retail, restaurants and cafes such as Mylk and Cookies on Gerrard, pictured above. Small cafes and restaurants can be a driving force in student employment in the area and Regent Park and Ryerson Students are always seeking employment opportunities.
Parliament Street south of Gerrard offers some shopping geared to the latest wave of ethnic communities in Regent and Moss Park. Entire stretches of Parliament, Dundas and Sherbourne Street are avoided by many area residents. Many pockets of the neighbourhood have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of clientelle drawn to the social housing, hostels and social services in the area and the commercial retail districts are suffering.
Queen Street East at Parliament has a wider range of retail but there is little on offer on Parliament Street between Gerrard and Queen.
It is only recently that we have seen the massive investment in the downtown east end by grocery chains, banks etc. The grocery chains are also rethinking their old stand alone suburban models and incorporating stores in condos like the Merchandise Building, One Cole and Market Square, or in mixed use buildings like the old Maple Leaf Gardens/Ryerson University complex.
Obviously it is densities which drive commercial investment and a better balance of economic diversity within our area is key to a prosperous shopping district. As the ratio of market driven housing and geared to income housing improves in the New Regent Park, we find increased pedestrian traffic throughout our neighbourhood. Enterprising shop keepers and restauranteurs are taking note and commercial landlords will reinvest in their properties to attract potential new businesses. We have several vintage commercial building blocks in the neighbourhood featuring storefronts like this one pictured right.
It is our hope that this new ratio of market valued housing to geared to income at 65 to 35 percent will drive a better mix of new development along Sherbourne, Dundas, and Shuter Streets. With over 2500 geared to income housing in the Shuter - Sherbourne areas, there is a real need to redistribute and rework social housing in a way that reenergizes commercial/retail blocks. There is a real need to rethink single storey businesses in the inner core such as Beer Stores, LCBO outlets, drug store chains and banks. There is no reason that larger retail stores cannot be integrated into mid to low rise housing. A car dealership on the ground floor of a condo was unheard of a few years back but this example in Corktown illustrates how to think outside the box. There is no reason why LCBO and Beer Stores could not be on the ground floor with other retail stores and a low rise housing above.
As The Beer Stores are dealing with returns generated by the LCBO the two outlets should be built in close proximity preferably near major intersections. While the LCBO is in an expansion mode the Brewers Retail has closed two stores in the area. The more pedestrian and transit freindly Greenwin Square and the South St Lawrence Market stores were closed several years ago. A new "Beer Boutique" recently opened on Mill Street and another at Dundas Square but the boutiques do not accept returns. Where are area residents who do not have a car suppose to return empty beer and liquour containers? It is unlikely that residents living on Bay Street or the St Lawrence Neighbourhood are going to walk or take a cab to the current Beer Stores to return $2.00s wourth of empties. The Province needs to work with the LCBO and Beer Stores to develop a plan to combine operations in urban centers to make the outlets more pedestrian freindly. More and more city dwellers opt not to own an automobile and we need to service those living in the core to assure that bottles and cans do not end up in land fill.
The Beer Store on Gerrard at Seaton should relocate near LCBO stores such as the new Liquour Store on Front and Sherbourne Streets. The Beer Store property could then be redeveloped to include low rise housing with retail on Gerrard. This would greatly enhance the shopping/commercial blocks to the east of that location and do much to develop a village feel along Gerrard Street. A new combination Beer and LCBO outlet could be part of the new Regent Park Development as well.
The map below indicates where existing outlets are located and a wish list of where LCBO and Brewers Retail could better coordinate services. There is also the potential of LCBO housing automated return systems in or near their existing stores.
Social Services also take up a lot of prime real estate and need to rework how they operate to better serve the city at large. Sherbourne Health has invested in mobile care with their Sherbourne Health Bus which brings services to the hostels and housing in the downtown area. All Saints Church has moved some of its programs to the Dan Harrison and William Dennison premises to better serve tenants in those buildings. There are many social services in the area that could better consolidate their services with other service providers or within existing housing complexes.
Business Improvement Areas
A BIA is a community based business organization that is officially recognized by the city. Several steps are involved in forming a BIA. The first step is in canvasing a group of area business and property owners within a georgraphical area to discuss the benefits of forming a BIA. If there is deemed to be sufficient support, the CIty notifys intent to all property owners in the geographical boundaries. As there is already a BIA operating on portions fo Parliament and Gerrard it is likely that they would be involved and interested in extending their influence south along Parliament and eventually along Dundas Street. The purpose of a BIA is to increase the economic potential of an area and develop better relations between area property owers and businesses. The City of Toronto levies a fee on all business property owners in the BIA based on property values. These fees are returned to the BIA to fund activities. The Old Cabbagetown BIA is involved in many community events such as the Cabbagetown Festival and Christmas Celebrations.