I live in the east end of the city, close to the Danforth, but not the part of the Danforth known as Greektown. No, we’re further east, beyond the reach of Starbucks, in a (so the lingo goes) gentrifying part of town: Danforth East.
It’s a great place to raise a family, as it has all the community amenities that one could want: a great library, good schools, local sports facilities, and a vibrant community-run farmers’ market in East Lynn Park. However, if you were to walk along our stretch of the Danforth, you’d probably be less than inclined to stay and find out what the neighbourhood is about, given the number of papered-over storefronts that line the street between Coxwell and Woodbine. There are fantastic independently-run businesses in the area deserving of foot traffic, (I’m looking at you, Better Bulk, Royal Beef, and Silly Goose Kids ) but with so many For Lease signs in windows, the whole area has the appearance of being down and out: those empty storefronts make you want to go elsewhere.
Enter the Danforth East Community Association (DECA) and their Renew East Danforth Pop-Up Stores Project. Modeled after a successful similar project in Newcastle, Australia, the Pop-Up Stores project links building owners with potential short-term tenants. DECA volunteers paint and ready the stores for the tenants, and landlords donate their empty premises for a short period to entrepreneurs looking to get their feet wet in the world of retailing. After a successful pilot this fall, DECA has organized a full-month of Pop-up stores — nine shops in six storefronts — in anticipation of the holiday season.
The Toronto Star’s Catherine Porter, who is also one of the project’s organizers, wrote a great article recently about the project’s genesis and aims: take a look!
It’s a great project with a smart bottom line: if you want to revitalize an area, you need to make it vital for people to come. By creating foot traffic on the street, DECA is creating buzz and turning the Danforth East into a destination. Newcastle, Australia saw a complete turn-around of its downtown business district in three short years. Here’s hoping the Renew East Danforth Pop-Up Stores Project can do the same here.
For more information about the Pop-Up Stores Project and the artists, entrepreneurs and creative minds who will be setting up shop, click here.
Buy local this holiday season, and pay us a visit out east. I think you’ll be glad you did.