Toronto

Little India vacant stores rile business owner

Businesses and residents in Toronto's Little India neighbourhood are concerned about the growing number of vacant storefronts popping up on Gerrard Street East.

Businesses and residents in Toronto’s Little India neighbourhood are concerned about the growing number of vacant storefronts popping up on Gerrard Street East.

The area has taken a downturn in recent years, with dozens of vacant stores and papered-over windows.

On Wednesday a group of residents will meet with their local councillor to talk about what can be done to clean up the buildings.

Dawn Chapman points to a run-down storefront across from her newly opened business Lazy Daisy's Cafe on Gerrard Street near Coxwell Avenue.

Empty stores 'gruesome,' business owner says

"That’s been empty for like four years," she told CBC. "I have put in a complaint to the city to say there are graffiti posters, pigeons roosting and obviously pigeon feces all over the place. It’s gruesome."

Chapman wants to see the buildings cleaned up.

"Let’s make this place dynamic, it can be and it should be," she said.

Bryce Miranda is a landscape architect who has an idea to spruce up the empty storefronts in the neighbourhood.

The concept came from Seattle’s Columbia City District and involves painting murals that depict thriving businesses over empty storefronts.

"Someone suggested that if the community couldn’t attract real businesses, they could at least pretend," reads a statement in a document Miranda prepared.

The document goes on to explain how the murals helped bring real businesses to the area.

"They painted an ice cream parlour on the corner and next to that a bookstore, toy store, hat shop and a dance studio. Suddenly Columbia City seems to be reborn. The murals looked so realistic that passing motorists sometimes stopped to shop."

Eventually real businesses moved in and replaced the murals.

Fine business owners, councillor says

Coun. Mary Margaret McMahon represents the Gerrard Street neighbourhood.

She thinks the city should consider fines and bylaws against business owners who let their storefronts fall into disrepair.

"We need to have accountability and I think we need to look at penalties," she said.

McMahon says abandoned commercial buildings are a problem across the city. Right now, instead of a fine, owners of the buildings often get a tax break.