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We must protect main streets to save the pedestrian experience in our cities.

April 28, 2020
Neighbourhood Fave Terroni seems to be packing up to close after nearly 30 years

I’ve been a proud urban dweller for my entire adult life, and have been lucky to call a number of cities ‘home’ – including Nairobi, Montreal, New York and Toronto.  For the most part, I have lived above or next to Main Streets and have always seen them as means for local communities to come together.

The social interaction which our pedestrian-friendly streets provide is the glue that binds urbanites – whilst popping into shops to exchange pleasantries with cheesemongers, smiling alongside proud pram-pushing parents and so on, we find opportunities for self-expression and dialog.

The longer urban residents are cooped up, pretending to enjoy the constant connectivity of videoconferences, the more our quality of life degrades.  City-wide ‘lockdowns’ have immediately dried up revenue for business owners and their ventures are failing as governments offer little assistance to them beyond debt finance. So, its likely that even when people begin to emerge from their homes in coming weeks or months to stroll, the pedestrian landscape will be far less enjoyable.

A post-pandemic reality will see many storefronts closed for sometime, and likely the repurposing of retail space for offices, homes and hybrid use-cases. However, there are some businesses who will survive this recession/depression by embracing new tools and services to form stronger relationships with their vendors and, perhaps most importantly – their customers.

StartWell is itself a Main Street business doing everything it takes to stay open and stand tall through this period.  No matter what our economic context, we feel that Torontonians should find respite in belonging to a place where they can succeed in new ventures and find a supportive community of like-minded urbanites.

With honest need and curiosity we will continue exploring how Main Street businesses are evolving to survive this crisis and who is offering innovative solutions to help them.

If you have recommendations of people we should speak with and feature in our Magazine please feel free to email me – qasim@startwell.co

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/ Photos
Queen Street Diminished: Closed & Empty Stores

Queen Street Diminished: Closed & Empty Stores

In 2014 Vogue Magazine rated this same strip as the 2nd coolest neighbourhood in North America - now, the majority of stores are either closing or closed.