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Bringing Honest Ed’s Alley to life: A new home for micro-enterprises in Toronto

When we were invited a few months ago to participate in an innovative new micro-enterprise space being developed in Toronto, we could not have been more excited to give a resounding “Yes – when do we start?!” A new micro-enterprise market space? Dedicated to emerging retail concepts & retail start-ups? In Toronto? It was almost a dream come true.

Honest_Eds_SignAnd so began our work on the Honest Ed’s Alley – a project that could not be more up our alley! The Alley is a new, purpose built micro–enterprise space being created as part of Westbank Corp.’s redevelopment of the Honest Ed’s site at Bloor and Bathurst. The redevelopment envisions new rental housing, a centrepiece public marketplace and the preservation of some of the iconic Markham Street houses that form Mirvish Village.

In partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) and The Next Practice (TNP), our role is to help develop a business case for what will likely be one of the most amazing new experiences to hit Toronto in a long time. The current plan is to create a micro-enterprise bazaar focused on small business and incubating emerging and socially innovative retail ideas. It will be a place where retail start-ups can get space and market access, not too dissimilar to what CSI has been offering small social innovators (like us!) and non-profits for over 11 years.

Honest Eds Alley Layout. Courtesy Westbank & Henriquez Partners ArchitectsOur first task is getting a handle on the micro-enterprise retail space in Toronto and doing some background research on the issue around the world. From our work on Market 707, we know that such purpose built spaces are few and far between and the Alley’s emphasis on new and socially innovative will definitely be hard to match. Our hope is to find compelling case studies of different aspects of these ideas in action and learn via direct engagement what would such businesses need. We will then develop programming concepts for the Alley and figure out the parameters behind it. As we develop this plan, we will be reaching out to micro businesses in Toronto to learn more – if you’re reading this and would like to participate in our work, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Those who have been following the redevelopment plans will know that the project has been receiving many positive reviews.  We are very proud to be part of this exciting initiative and look forward to seeing the site come to life. While we are sad to see this storied Toronto landmark disappear, we are confident that the plan will keep the spirit of Honest Ed’s alive and create new unique experiences for many generations of Torontonians.

As work progresses, we will continue to post updates on our blog about our work – please check back often.

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