The stretch of the Danforth east of "Greek Town" had been somewhat desolate and rundown for a number of years much to the chagrin of the local residents who knew their neighbourhood had alot more to offer than the first impressions many people were getting as they drove along the Danforth. In 2012, The Danforth East Community Association - a volunteer run organization - set out to improve their main street and present a more wholesome image for their neighbourhood.
The first step to revitalization took place in 2012, when DECA invited Marcus Westbury, a leader in community renewal efforts from Renew Newcastle to speak (he was visiting North America). He shared his group’s experience using pop-up shops to renew lagging commercial areas. Following this presentation, an ad hoc team of DECA volunteers led by Catherine Porter and Natasha Granatstein decided to focus their efforts on a similar project along Danforth Avenue, and the Pop-up Project was born.
The first pop-up shop opened for a weekend in October 2012, adopting a similar model as the Australian group: free access to the space in exchange for cleaning, painting and staging of the retail space for prospective tenants. In December of 2012, 11 pop-up shops opened in 6 different locations throughout the month. Since the inception, a total of 24 pop-up shops have launched in 9 locations along the Danforth. With each round of pop-up shops launched, this project has evolved thanks to feedback from the participants.
In June 2013, DECA partnered with WoodGreen.org and received a grant from the Metcalf Foundation to run the pop-up shop project. Gay Stephenson and Tina Scherz, two keen volunteers working on the project were hired to oversee it, sharing the position of Community Economic Development Coordinator. "It's been incredible", says Stephenson. "Over 100 volunteers from the community have participated! This work wouldn't be possible without their time and energy."
To say Pop Up Shops are popular in Danforth Village would be an understatement. Stephenson says "The community gets really pumped when new pop-up shops open. One of the side benefits is that over the past 18 months, quite a few new businesses have chosen to locate permanently on Danforth East, building even more excitement in the neighbourhood. Many young families are choosing to move here. They want walkable neighbourhoods, including walking around the corner to shop."
The variety of Pop Up Shops that have opened so far have included: an art gallery, fitness studio, yoga studio, a cupcake shop, women's fashion, kids clothing, discount fashion and housewares. "All have brought their own special offerings to our community" says Stephenson who adds that DECA is currently advertising on Craigslist and Kajiji for pop-up shop tenants. "We have a few select stores available starting at $750 +HST + utilities per month. Anyone interested can check out our website for more information and fill out an application. Most questions applicants might have are answered in our FAQs. http://danfortheastcommunityassociation.com/how-to-apply-to-be-a-pop-up-tenant/
Thank you to Corinne McCabe, Broker at Bosley Real Estate Ltd and Gay Stephenson for their assistance in putting together this blog.