Lighting Up the Neighborhood

In ecology, we think it normal that there be a succession of land uses. The swamp gives way to the meadow, to the woods, and ultimately to the climax forest or mature ecosystem. The ecosystem is of course subject to external disturbances.

Retail main streets are similar. It wasn’t many years ago that the stores along West Wellie and Richmond Road were … shall we say, a bit sad. Since then, the area has rejuvenated with the fresh influx of a new species of shoppers. As part of the change, some existing businesses get forced out, no longer popular or doing enough business to warrant the increasing rents.

West Wellie is an interesting case where rents have risen a lot, so much so that there are many storefront vacancies along the strip. The supporting hinterland behind this street isn’t strong enough to maintain certain businesses. Carbon Computing, for example, does not depend on Hintonburg for its life. In Chinatown there are also many vacancies, and for longer periods of time.

At a recent meeting, we were speculating how long before the developers who can’t find developable space in Westboro or Centretown and move into Dalhousie. And we were predicting what types of businesses would be forced out of the expensive West Welllie/Richmond Road and perhaps there would be a migration over to Somerset.

I noticed Eric Cohen’s Lighting store on Richmond Road just west of Churchill is moving. Where to? Spruce Street, which isn’t exactly a shopping mecca, but is in an up and coming Little Italy neighborhood. Personally, I’d rather he had put his storefront on Preston, like Darryl Thomas Textiles did. Both are destination stores, where people come from all over the region and are willing to search out the business for its unique products. So people will find his business tucked away on Spruce. The building is attractive, heritage-looking, always has a dozen bikes parked in front of it (day and night). It also has a number of annexes and add-ons to the left of the photo – quirky and quaint might be the terms.

In some ways, this is a homecoming for the store owner. For a number of years he lived in one of the Bronson Hill mansions, at Laurier/Cambridge, a beautifully maintained house now much less well cared for. Welcome back.