Sprucing Up Our Strip Malls

The Italian Centre on 51 Avenue is my happy place. If you go there on a Saturday afternoon, it’s packed. The deli lineup is twenty people deep. The people who shop there come from across the Ward and across the city. The cannoli alone are worth the trip.

Why am I waxing poetic about the Italian Centre? Well, it’s a great example of a thriving local business in a mature neighbourhood, and yesterday, Executive Committee approved a pilot program to try and encourage more local businesses to set up shop in mature neighbourhoods. 

As this program moves forward, the city will choose three communities where three or more businesses are willing to work together. These businesses can be anything: hairdressers, bakers, bookstores, and anything in between. The city will provide demographic analysis and market research advice to help those businesses create a joint marketing campaign. Each pilot site will receive $250,000 worth of support, along with an additional $30,000 in matching dollars for facade improvements or community involvement.

Many neighbourhoods in Ward 10 could benefit from this program. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a thriving shopping centre in Lansdowne or a bustling local grocery store in Ermineskin or a local brewery at Petrolia Mall? Imagine the Glass Monkey Bistro or Sunterra or a locally owned pizzeria like Famoso within easy walking distance of anywhere in the Ward.

We have a lot of work to do before we get to that point, and the City doesn’t have all the answers, but we do have a role to play in in creating the conditions for businesses to succeed in mature neighbourhoods. This pilot project will help us find some answers and bring fresh, locally-made cannoli to mature neighbourhoods across the city.