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My eight proposals to help Bayview

In the March issue of Leaside Life, Geoff Kettel and I debated whether the Laird developments are primarily responsible for Bayview’s store closings. I said that the street’s demise is its own doing. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that if you find fault, you should also find solutions.

With that in mind, here is my eight-point plan for improving Bayview.

1. Create a BIA (Business Improvement Area)

The strip needs to develop vibrant public spaces that are children friendly. Successful business districts understand that people come before commerce. If Bayview aims to become a destination where it’s fun to hang out, business will surely follow.

Why is it that there are no decent backyard patios on the street? With the exception of Fukui Sushi, which has a hidden one out back, there’s little excitement from the handful of restaurants that offer patios. Go to Allen’s on the Danforth or Sidecar on College. Their patios are hidden oases.

2. Eliminate product overlaps  

When it comes to a variety of products, there are too many of some things and not enough of others.

Essence du Papier, which recently closed, didn’t even last six months. That’s not surprising. The demand for specialty paper couldn’t possibly support a second store in addition to Write Impressions.

Meanwhile, Dollarama’s presence only exacerbated the situation because of its wide selection of paper products.

To avoid similar missteps, the strip needs to hire a top-notch research firm to perform a thorough supply and demand gap analysis.

3.  Offer parking perks 

Bayview business owners should take note that the Kensington BRZ (Business Revitalization Zone) in Calgary sends out parking elves each Christmas, randomly giving out two-hour parking passes to those who ask for them. This past Christmas they gave out 2,000 free hours, a $4,500 freebie. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. And the PR is priceless.

If parking on the street is as bad as Geoff Kettel believes, the entire 100-plus stores should also develop an e-commerce program that allows customers to order from all the stores getting a single unified delivery, whether the order is product from one store or three. That will help reduce the competition with Laird.

4.  Create a sense of fun

We need a heck of a lot more fun on Bayview. If Leasiders can pool enough funds to mount successful residential street festivals each spring, with face-painting, home-cooked food, sports, and floats for the kiddies, why can’t Bayview?

The Rotary Club’s Bits and Bites event held last June was a modest success. Unfortunately, it found very little enthusiasm from Bayview retailers during the event and even less nine months later. It’s sad that a street literally wilting in front of us can’t find the gumption to pull off one measly event. Forget just one – the number of events held annually needs to be ramped up exponentially, especially in the winter when the tendency is to stay inside and cocoon.

Winterfest is a must!

5. Improve signage

The Bayview strip needs to adopt strict signage and window standards. While some businesses look modern and up to date, others appear as if they’ve been caught in a time warp and are still living in the ‘70s.

6. Landlords need to get realistic about rents 

Landlords need to give their heads a shake. According to the Behar Group’s website the two below grade retail locations (1,000 and 1,208 square feet) at 1560 Bayview (at Belsize) cost $57 per square foot to rent. Generally, small businesses should pay no more than 10 percent of total revenue. On the basis of these rents a business would have to generate $570,000 in revenue per year in order to be considered affordable. That’s $1,560 a day. It’s not hard to figure out why both units have been sitting empty for a while.

These last two suggestions require a great deal of cooperation by the city, landlords, tenants, residents, etc. I’ve seen very little of that in the five years I’ve lived in Leaside, but you always can hope.

7. Tear down the five-shop strip currently on the east side of Bayview south of Millwood 

It would be better to build a new, four-storey building (one floor retail, one floor offices and two floors residential) using this land and the Green P lot beside it. Ironically, the Green P was a pub until it was bulldozed to make way for the current parking lot. People don’t use the parking enough. It’s more valuable as a commercial development. Not to mention it would better define the south end of the strip.

8. Tear down 1560 Bayview

In its place put a two-level underground Green P with an open-air square above it. This would become the meeting place for Bayview while providing more parking closer to the bulk of stores.

Conclusion: Learn to love your street

Some might feel I’m being too hard on Bayview. You’re entitled to your opinion. However, I have a vested interest in Bayview succeeding. Why? Because I actually live on the street. I walk to Starbucks every day. I shop at valu-mart. I buy a loaf of bread at Cobs and occasionally even enjoy a beer or three at McSorley’s. The street’s a big part of my life.

I’ve called Bayview “mediocre” because I know it can be so much better. A little creative planning combined with some serious follow through could be a difference maker. I might not have lived in Leaside for 30 years but I do know when a street is tired and suffering from an acute case of apathy.

If the people of Leaside truly care about a thriving Bayview it must call on all those opposed to a BIA to reconsider their stance. It’s backward, plain wrong and extremely detrimental to the health of a once burgeoning shopping district.

When it comes to a variety of products, there are too many of some things and not enough of others.

Essence du Papier, which recently closed, didn’t even last six months. That’s not surprising. The demand for specialty paper couldn’t possibly support a second store in addition to Write Impressions.

Meanwhile, Dollarama’s presence only exacerbated the situation because of its wide selection of paper products.

To avoid similar missteps, the strip needs to hire a top-notch research firm to perform a thorough supply and demand gap analysis.

3.  Offer parking perks

Bayview business owners should take note that the Kensington BRZ (Business Revitalization Zone) in Calgary sends out parking elves each Christmas, randomly giving out two-hour parking passes to those who ask for them. This past Christmas they gave out 2,000 free hours, a $4,500 freebie. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. And the PR is priceless.

If parking on the street is as bad as Geoff Kettel believes, the entire 100-plus stores should also develop an e-commerce program that allows customers to order from all the stores getting a single unified delivery, whether the order is product from one store or three. That will help reduce the competition with Laird.

4.  Create a sense of fun

We need a heck of a lot more fun on Bayview. If Leasiders can pool enough funds to mount successful residential street festivals each spring, with face-painting, home-cooked food, sports, and floats for the kiddies, why can’t Bayview?

The Rotary Club’s Bits and Bites event held last June was a modest success. Unfortunately, it found very little enthusiasm from Bayview retailers during the event and even less nine months later. It’s sad that a street literally wilting in front of us can’t find the gumption to pull off one measly event. Forget just one – the number of events held annually needs to be ramped up exponentially, especially in the winter when the tendency is to stay inside and cocoon.

Winterfest is a must!

5. Improve signage

The Bayview strip needs to adopt strict signage and window standards. While some businesses look modern and up to date, others appear as if they’ve been caught in a time warp and are still living in the ‘70s.

6. Landlords need to get realistic about rents

Landlords need to give their heads a shake. According to the Behar Group’s website the two below grade retail locations (1,000 and 1,208 square feet) at 1560 Bayview (at Belsize) cost $57 per square foot to rent. Generally, small businesses should pay no more than 10 percent of total revenue. On the basis of these rents a business would have to generate $570,000 in revenue per year in order to be considered affordable. That’s $1,560 a day. It’s not hard to figure out why both units have been sitting empty for a while.

These last two suggestions require a great deal of cooperation by the city, landlords, tenants, residents, etc. I’ve seen very little of that in the five years I’ve lived in Leaside, but you always can hope.

7. Tear down the five-shop strip currently on the east side of Bayview south of Millwood

It would be better to build a new, four-storey building (one floor retail, one floor offices and two floors residential) using this land and the Green P lot beside it. Ironically, the Green P was a pub until it was bulldozed to make way for the current parking lot. People don’t use the parking enough. It’s more valuable as a commercial development. Not to mention it would better define the south end of the strip.

8. Tear down 1560 Bayview

In its place put a two-level underground Green P with an open-air square above it. This would become the meeting place for Bayview while providing more parking closer to the bulk of stores.

Conclusion:  Learn to love your street

Some might feel I’m being too hard on Bayview. You’re entitled to your opinion. However, I have a vested interest in Bayview succeeding. Why? Because I actually live on the street. I walk to Starbucks every day.  I shop at valu-mart.  I buy a loaf of bread at Cobs and occasionally even enjoy a beer or three at McSorley’s. The street’s a big part of my life.

I’ve called Bayview “mediocre” because I know it can be so much better. A little creative planning combined with some serious follow through could be a difference maker. I might not have lived in Leaside for 30 years but I do know when a street is tired and suffering from an acute case of apathy.

If the people of Leaside truly care about a thriving Bayview it must call on all those opposed to a BIA to reconsider their stance. It’s backward, plain wrong and extremely detrimental to the health of a once burgeoning shopping district.