Everyone knows the traditional main streets: West Wellie, Preston, Chinatown, Bank Street … The very success of these streets ensure they attract popular businesses with enough clientele to afford the rents. But where are the retailers that cannot afford main street?
Ottawa lacks many low-value retail spaces, where specialty niche businesses, startups, and some just-plain marginal businesses can locate.
Gentrification and the revival of main streets are desirable, but have the effect of squeezing out these small firms. So they slip into little-noticed spots unattractive to mainstream, main street retailers.
I previously mentioned the hotbed of nifty niche novelty firms on the west side*. Art-is-in bakery at unit 112 in the City Centre building is doing gangbusters, and friends who drink coffee tell me the brew is excellent. On the western end of Elm Street is Patrick Gordon Framing, and right next door in the basement industrial building is FunkyFurniture Company, dealing in mid-century modern furniture. Backing onto these two businesses, but facing Spruce Street, is another refugee from gentrification, exiled from rising rents in Westboro: Vintage Lighting.
Not much to look at the from the outside:
But once you enter the door into a dark but high ceilinged space, a wonderful world of recycled light fixtures appears:
If you can, enlarge these pictures on your screen. Try to figure out the chandelier in the left foreground; and look closely at that Dan Brown-themed globe/astrology light fixture just in front of the ladder. Incredible. No doubt the holy grail of light fixtures is somewhere in here.
While talking to some developers recently, I commented on how much I like the old Centretown plan feature that put small retail shops at street level of most apartment buildings. These house a neat array of not-ready-for-mainstreet businesses, such as foreign-language bookshops.
Alas, condo developers generally don’t like these small shops in their condo buildings because they complicate the paperwork; our Councilor prefers all retail be directed to the traditional commercial streets (the lone storefront proposed for 89-91 Lisgar has been banished); and some residents fear anything commercial will become a noisy bar. Fun little retail zones as found on Elm and Spruce won’t last long. The condos are coming, the condos are coming!
Surely there are other vibrant little side streets somewhere in the City, home to the less-popular tastes. Please share where you find them.
For previous related posts, click: http://westsideaction.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/rising-action/