The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have heavily impacted both the arts and culture sectors and main street retail in Toronto. The City has taken measures to support these sectors, including expanding the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclasses (reduced taxation levels) to include live music venues and the expansion of Digital Main Street as well as the introduction of ShopHere.
COVID-19 has exacerbated longstanding issues in Toronto that challenged the viability of cultural enterprises and organizations that rely on public gatherings to generate income have been particularly impacted. At the same time, main street retail properties are seeing a significant increase in vacancies.
In order to stimulate economic and cultural activity on main streets, I presented a motion which proposed that City staff work with Business Improvement Areas to assess the role of retail recovery programs in supporting cultural animation with the potential to provide neighbourhood economic development. The motion proposed research into programs that would encourage landlords to allow temporary use of their vacant properties by artists and cultural organizations through short term leases. The aim of this effort is to animate main streets, provide affordable spaces to artists who currently have little to no income, and assist in social and economic recovery efforts.