Pop-up Shop Wrap Up This Thursday


It was just four years ago when a group of us gathered together and made the decision to take matters into our own hands and do something about the high number of vacant storefronts in the area. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time, the commercial vacancy rate on our strip of the Danforth was 17%. That’s almost 1 in 5 shops empty!  While these were private properties, their empty, dreary spaces left the the public space along Danforth feeling bleak, abandoned and often unsafe. Most of us chose to go elsewhere to shop and socialize. The lack of local foot traffic, in turn, made it more difficult for existing shops to thrive.

The idea was simple. Or crazy, depending on whom you asked. Modeled after a similar project in Newcastle, Australia, we would somehow convince landlords to hand us their empty storefronts so we could place temporary tenants in them. These tenants would beautify the space and drive foot traffic to the area, which in turn would attract more businesses to the area.

Remember when many shops looked like this?
Remember when many shops looked like this?
A pop-up shop transforms the feeling on the street.
A pop-up shop transforms the feeling on the street.

The good news is…

It wasn’t so crazy after all! After 4 years of pop-ups, the vacancy rate in the area is now a healthy 6%.  During the life of the project, 32 Pop-up Shops were hosted; 6 of these businesses were incubated to stay on more permanently, and all 15 of the properties associated with the project obtained long-term leases.  And we continue to see more and more new businesses moving in regularly!

This lower vacancy rate means we’ve run out of spaces to pop into, and it’s time to wrap up the pop-up project. But we won’t go quietly. The project was a success because of all of you. So many of you played a role in its success, whether it was by volunteering, by participating in one of the community consultations or by changing your shopping habits to better support our local businesses.

Come raise a glass…

Please join us for a casual gathering on this Thursday, July 14, 7:30-9:30 pm, at The Shore Leave (1775 Danforth), where we will be raising a glass to all the work that went into this project! There will be light snacks, a cash bar and a chance to celebrate with your neighbours. Details and RSVP here.

Thank you all!

The biggest thank you and congratulations goes to all the volunteers that put their time, energy and expertise into this project. The volume of work that went into it was gargantuan, and over 100 of you played an active hand in its success. We can’t name everyone, but to give a sense of the scope of the work, volunteer project teams included:

  • Developing legal agreements and securing insurance
  • Investigating and recruiting property owners
  • Painting, cleaning and beautifying the pop-up spaces
  • Recruiting and interviewing potential pop-up shop tenants
  • Graphic design of a multitude of posters and brochures
  • Blogging and social media
  • Organizing community consultations like Danforth Dreams
  • Working with urban planning & architecture student group, and showcasing their work at Imagine the Danforth
  • Organizing shop local campaigns with both the pop-ups and existing businesses
  • Conceiving and running the popular Danforth Gems competition

Needless to say, it didn’t take us long to realize this project was not sustainable on a zero budget, 100% volunteer basis. In came WoodGreen Community Services, with whom we partnered to jointly apply for funding from the Metcalf Foundation.  The support from both of these organizations was crucial to the success of the project and our neighbourhood is all the more vibrant for it.

Work crew getting a shop ready for a pop-up
Work crew getting a shop ready for a pop-up.


Receiving funding allowed us to hire a much-needed co-ordinator (in fact, two people who job shared). While volunteers came in and out, as life circumstances dictated, Tina Scherz and Gay Stephenson, our 2 Pop-up Shop Project Co-ordinators were the enthusiastic glue that held the project together (and at times, the sanity of lead volunteers). Their energy and dedication were unmatched and made it all possible. Thank you, Tina and Gay.

This project’s success is also due to the many landlords who took a chance on a new idea, the support of our City Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis, and the members of our Advisory Committee, who lent us their expertise to help us set the direction of the project.

Thank you all.

It doesn’t end here…

Our strip of the Danforth is undeniably much busier than it was 4 years ago. But it still needs our help. If we want to see it continue to grow and become more walkable and vibrant, we need to each do our part by continuing to choose to shop, eat and play locally. The more we choose to spend our money in our neighbourhood, the more we support our local businesses and attract new ones to the area.

As we have seen, together we can do great things.

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