By James Armstrong Global News
TORONTO – Small business owners within Bloordale Village are leading the charge towards gentrification while still holding on to the “gritty” aura of the neighbourhood.
And they don’t all like the word gentrification either.
“I think a neighbourhood thrives when you have lots of different kinds of businesses that appeal to lots of different kinds of people owned independently by a family or individuals,” Liza Lukashevsky, owner of Nuthouse said. “[If a] large business that’s owned by a corporation were to come into this neighbourhood, there would be backlash and people would be very upset.”
Lukashevsky owns Nuthouse, a health food store on Bloor Street West, a block east of Lansdowne Avenue. The store, like the name suggests, sells a variety of nuts and the storefront is crowned with a giant walnut. It’s easy to find.
She opened the store three years ago with her husband. They have lived in the neighbourhood for 11 years and were frustrated they couldn’t find a local health food store to buy food for their kids.
“We kept waiting and waiting for someone to open a shop that we would shop in and it just never happened,” she said. “We just decided we couldn’t wait anymore and we would open a store that we would want to shop in.”
She said her family criticized her for not doing any market research. Her retort? She was the market. She and her husband wanted the store to serve the community it’s in.
“It’s been very busy since then,” she said.
Like Queen Street West, Regent Park and Leslieville before it, Bloordale Village is in the early stages of gentrification. It still has a “scrappy” attitude and several stores with boarded up windows, but residents say the neighbourhood has changed dramatically.
“Safety has increased tremendously, ten years ago, my god, Bloor and Lansdowne was not a good neighbourhood to visit,” area-councillor Ana Bailao said. “Having that safety, people walking on the street and families going down to Bloor and Lansdowne to have a brunch and at night to have a coffee, it’s great.”
But property values are increasing. Data collected by Global News shows the average price of a home in the neighbourhood jumped 37.5 per cent from 2005 to 2012. The average price in 2005? $436,441. In 2012? $600,136.
Councillor Bailao says skyrocketing property values are a “challenge.”
“Property values are increasing all over the city, we know how our real estate is doing in Toronto and this neighbourhood is no different,” she said. “Actually property values have been going up substantially and that’s definitely something that needs to be addressed. How do we keep affordability in this place?”
Bailao pointed to co-op housing and rooming houses in the area that need to be welcome and not “pushed out” during gentrification.
And it’s the relatively cheap rents that have brought some business owners to the area.
“I was looking between either Parkdale or Bloordale,” Amanda Somerville said.
“It’s still reasonable as far as rents go and it’s cool to be a part of the gentrification in a sense that you’re bringing a good thing to a neighbourhood that has so much potential and there’s a need for it.”
Somerville owns the Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Company – a store serving prepared foods and baked goods. But everything, as the name suggests, is vegan.
As for gentrification? She’s ok with it. She sees it as a “natural thing” that happens in a big city but wants a “vibrant” community post-gentrification and one that’s free from the spectre of large corporations.
“I think for now Bloordale is safe from Starbucks. There’s too many local independent owned stores here for that to happen yet.”
As for the corporate coffee-shop moving to the neighbourhood, Lukashevsky suspects one of the other businesses may be keeping it at bay.
“We have a strip club across the street and I think we all agree in this neighbourhood that as long as that strip club is there, a Starbucks probably won’t come in.”
- With files from Mark McAllister
This story originally posted http://globalnews.ca/news/1088102/bloordale-residents-want-independent-stores-to-lead-gentrification/