Walkabout: Jeff Walker September 1st, 2017

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Bayview surviving better than most shopping strips

Judging by vacancies I’ve counted in my latest informal walkabout study

Jeff Walker/Streeter CASE IN POINT: One of the business premises sitting empty on the west side of Laird Drive.

Jeff Walker Walkabout column logoIn the March issue of Streeter, WalkAbout debunked the conventional wisdom that the new plazas on Laird Drive have been particularly hard on street-level retail business on Bayview Avenue.

Our careful, if not exactly scientific, study revealed the store-size-adjusted vacancy rate on Mt. Pleasant was 8 percent versus Bayview’s 6.5 percent.

But of course, there’s a strictly-within-Leaside comparison that perhaps should be made as well: how is the west side of Laird faring, versus Bayview? Is the plaza-side of Laird killing its west side?

In search of answers, I strolled from the Husky gas station/San Francesco’s Italian Sandwiches at Millwood Road, north, all the way to the Tao North Chinese Cuisine restaurant (formerly Leonard’s) with pad and pencil, noting all the establishments that are, were or could be retail premises.

I didn’t count the likes of the Toronto Civic Employees Union Local 416 building, nor second-floor businesses. From prior casual walks, I had suspected that Laird might be in worse shape than Bayview.

And so it is. I  don’t believe the number 6.5 for Bayview has changed significantly since late winter, so Bayviewers might take Laird’s surprisingly bad — 14 percent — vacancy rate as something of a cheery result, relatively speaking.

Once again, hurrah for Bayview. And boos for Laird the plazas-bully, now turning on itself. As revolutions tend to devour their own, so too has east-Laird’s retail revolution made heads roll on the street’s staider west side.

The west side, with its repair garages, car-wash, roof-rack retailer, Mazda dealership and so forth, definitely shares a strong automotive theme with the east side.

Of course, as per the photo illustration, it seems bizarre that the street once featured three traffic-ticket-fighting outlets; this one went under years ago, and the building remains empty.

(Just wait till cameras are installed to monitor stop-sign infractions in Leaside. Ontario’s debt could disappear virtually overnight.)

Bear in mind that 14 percent vacant means 86 percent occupied, and that the west side of Laird remains a quirky, vibrant and varied strip featuring classic Leaside restaurants such as Olde Yorke Fish and Chips and the Golden Griddle, and busy pubs such the Local and the Leaside Pub.

From recent walks on the equivalent section of Yonge Street, I suspect that a higher vacancy rate than Bayview’s prevails there as well.

The lesson, I believe, is that things are somewhat tough all over midtown, and that the new plazas on Laird haven’t made things any easier for Yonge, Mt. Pleasant, Bayview and even Laird’s west side.

However, Bayview appears to be the hardiest survivor of the lot. Compared to the others, it’s prospering. Maybe it’s those Bayview Pixies. They’re sure making Bayview a far greater pleasure to walk along these days.