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BLOORDALE RESIDENTS' GROUP LOOKS TO FILL EMPTY STOREFRONTS

The Bloordale CIA, teamed up with city-wide cause Vacantful, is making meaningful strides toward filling up some of Bloor St.’s empty spaces

A group of local business owners have teamed up with Vacantful, an online referral system that connects vacant marketable spaces with potential renters.

A public meeting held late in March at Duffy’s Tavern covered a variety of topics and possible issues. Some of which included businesses looking to open up popup shops, grabbing real estate assistance to help the process, searching for spaces that are available to the group, and notifying landlords of the idea of bringing popups to their location.

Dan Milford-Warren, member of the Bloordale Community Improvement Association (CIA), said roles have been spread out throughout different members, and it is now time to take action.

“Gay Stephenson, from Vacantful, and Ghazaleh Etezal, came and talked about their experience,” said Milford-Warren. “We basically left off with basic knowledge of what could be done, and determined that we would meet again in a month for a sort of ‘next-step’ meeting.”

The process has begun, and the meeting became the first step toward a positive movement for the group and residents.

“Now we’re just striking out on committees and find out if there is any business owners who are willing to let a young Andy Business come in there for a couple of months, check it out, try it out, see if it’s profitable, and then they can renegotiate for a market level rent,” said Milford-Warren.

“We want to support this community, every which way. By allowing some people who, perhaps, don’t have larger budgets to fill these spaces, we’re trying to facilitate that deal.”

– Harrison Mazis, Owner of Duffy’s Tavern

A walk along the Bloordale strip will reveal a lot of vacant buildings and abandoned store units. Judy Land, of the Bloordale CIA, said the discussion of bringing popup shops to Bloordale began about a month and a half ago, and the first few steps of the process is underway.

“We met with Vacantful and the DECA (Danforth East Community Association) people,” said Land. “We sort of did a ‘shout-out’ to people, saying ‘this is what is going on, come meet with us,’ and we just sort of, just sat and listened to what they did, and how they went about their business, and we are just going to take their knowledge and make it work here.”

“The goal is to have any of the vacant buildings to have either a temporary business that may turn into permanent businesses,” she said.

Many residents have also taken part of the leadership to change Bloordale for the better. Owner of Duffy’s Tavern, Harrison Mazis, said the important part of the operation is to fill up unfilled properties and remodel the look of those stores for possible popup shop locations.

“Just expanding the neighbourhood and making it more beautiful. It’s important not to just be looking at the mercantile side of things,” said Mazis.

“We want to support this community every which way. By allowing some people who perhaps don’t have larger budgets to fill these spaces, we’re trying to facilitate that deal. It’s not just going to be about money. It’s not just going to be about mercantile or consumer. A lot of it is just representation of what we want Bloordale to be.”

Property owners are already in talks with Vacantful, and the first popup shop could make its debut as early as this spring.

The Bloordale Times – April 2015
By Domenic Loschiavo

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