On November 10 2015, the Danforth East Community Association (DECA) in collaboration with Woodgreen Community Services hosted a symposium on Building Vibrant Main Streets and the Power of Local – examining the value of local businesses and their connection to lively streets.
DECA has been one of the pioneering groups in Toronto working on refreshing local main streets through their pop-up shops program. Modelled on the Renew Newcastle program in Newcastle, Australia, the program has been very successful at reducing storefront vacancies along a stretch of Danforth Avenue near Woodbine Ave through occupying them with temporary pop-up shops. DECA has even written a toolkit on how to host vacant storefront pop-ups for any neighbourhood!
The day began with a speech from Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s Chief Planner, who spoke about the value of complete streets and how to plan great main streets. The session also featured a speech from Michael Smith with StreetSense, a Washington DC based retail consultancy who spoke about retail trends and what makes a retail success.
ThinkFresh, along with our partners the Centre for Social Innovation and Westbank Corp. was invited to speak on our recent work with Mirvish Village and the Honest Ed’s Alley Micro-Retail Incubator project. Our principal, Howard Tam, spoke about the case studies such as the Minneapolis Midtown Global Market and Buffalo’s Foundry that have inspired our work and some of the micro-retail trends we have been examining from a survey we did with micro-retail vendors across Toronto. Kevin Hurley from CSI spoke about CSI’s involvement and experience with socially minded retail businesses while Jonah Letovsky from Westbank spoke about the developer’s motivations behind the project.
Other great sessions at the event included a talk from University of Toronto Professor Rafael Gomez on BIAs and the power of small businesses along with a discussion on revitalizing streets with pop-ups from Pauline Larsen from the Downtown Yonge BIA. (Indeed Downtown Yonge BIA has just published an amazing report on a public consultation campaign they did about the public vision for Yonge Street – one of the key findings was a desire for more pop-ups and independent businesses! See report: http://www.yongelove.ca/YongeLove_Report.pdf)
We were indeed excited to celebrate the success of DECA’s program and we look forward to seeing the continuing evolution of it! To find out more about this program visit: http://pop-upshops.ca/