For years people have been talking about the state of Queen St in the Beach, with our empty storefronts looking derelict and decrepit and dragging down the whole strip. But this is not unique to Queen, it’s a problem across the city. Danforth was very lucky to have DECA, who made a concerted effort to fill their stores. We can do better for our small businesses, and I have a plan.
- Keep empty storefronts to a minimum standard of upkeep. We all know there are bylaws about keeping your lawn too long or full of weeds, but there is no equivalent for empty storefronts. We need to create a minimum standard that does not allow facades to appear crumbling and derelict, forces building owners to sweep away trash that has collected, and requires a more presentable window covering than craft paper or newsprint. Perhaps it should even go so far as to require old signs and obsolete awnings to be covered in some way until a new business moves in.
2. Gather economic information about businesses. Information is power, and without it we cannot tell exactly what the problem is or where we have levers to relieve pressure. For example, we should know what is base rent, vs property taxes, vs utilities, vs maintenance, vs the BIA levy for our businesses so we can properly identify where the burden is greatest and where it can be relieved. Many businesses on Queen don’t even know they’re part of a BIA because the levy is not broken down on their lease.
3. Survey residents to find out what the gaps in business are. If we want retail strips that truly serve the community and thrive, we need to ensure they are filled with the kind of businesses residents want to see. With surveying of shoppers we can identify these gaps and encourage certain desired businesses to fill them.
4. Advertise vacant spaces. Along with knowing what types of businesses are missing from the mix, we should be advertising all our empty spaces to attract new business thinking of moving to the area. Combine this information with the economic information and a possible business will have alot of insight into the business dynamic of an area to really make an informed decision on whether or not to open a business there.