Walking along Queen Street East in the Beach, you can’t help but notice the empty storefronts. Perhaps your favourite local mom-and-pop shop has closed, maybe you see the ‘For Lease’ signs in windows, or you have observed a new restaurant arrive and then, just as quickly, disappear. There has been a visible change.
Some of the reasons I hear to explain the decline are that the area is a seasonal destination, and cold weather deters people from visiting Queen Street, the steep hill is an obstacle for pedestrians, transit options are too limited, and the existence of the vacant commercial property tax relief program. Many neighbourhood commercial strips face similar barriers or worse in Toronto, and across the city, residents and businesses are working together to rejuvenate and retain local businesses. Shop local campaigns, pop-up shops, boulevard cafés, and turning a parking space into a ‘parklet’ can all breathe life into a commercial street.
Council is working with the province to amend current provincial legislation. Currently it is mandatory for municipalities to provide property tax relief to vacant commercial and industrial buildings. There should not be an incentive for commercial properties to remain vacant, and I will continue to work with my council colleagues to redesign this program.
Queen Street Revival
There is a great challenge before us – but many solutions and resources are at our fingertips right here in Ward 32. I truly believe we can take this on together! There is infinite value in a vibrant commercial hub for a community, and we must not waste this opportunity to revive our local strip.
This is why I am co-hosting an evening with the Beach Village BIA for Beach residents and business owners to talk about the vitality of our local business area and brainstorm potential solutions. The ‘Queen Street Revival’ workshop will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at Beach United Church. The evening will include case studies from the Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association and Danforth East Community Association, plus a workshop. I hope you will join us for a productive and exciting evening!
Another reason to get out and about this winter is the upcoming Winter Stations art installation. I am thrilled that Ward 32 is hosting five station designs that were selected through an international design competition of about 200 applicants. These art installations will transform the lifeguard stands along the beach, stretching from Kew to Balmy.
The Winter Stations kick-off event is taking place on Family Day, Monday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. at the Kew Pavilion. The event will include the unveiling of the art installations and an incredible opportunity for a meet and greet with the artists! The walk will be lead by fellow Beacher, co-founder of the Friends of Beaches Parks, and architecture critic for the Globe and Mail, Lisa Rochon. The Winter Stations will brighten up the beach until March 20.
Finally, another reason to get out and brave the cold is to enjoy our many local skating rinks ! We are so lucky to have several outdoor skating rinks in Ward 32 organized by numerous hardworking and enthusiastic volunteers.
Bring your skates and get out there to enjoy the cold with your neighbours in one of our many outdoor rinks. Please contact my office if you would like help volunteer to flood your local rink. See you out there!
By Mary-Margaret McMahon, Ward 32 Councillor • January 27, 2015