Mayoral Candidate to Improve Neighbourhood Main Streets by Limiting Banks, Fast Food Chains in Condos.
Toronto – Mayoral Candidate Gil Penalosa announced his plan to improve neighbourhood main streets by supporting small, independent businesses with a policy to limit chain stores in condos. Many ‘Mom & Pop’ retailers are being pushed out of neighbourhoods as they are unable to compete with banks, drugstores, and fast food chains, which dominate the ground level of new developments.
“We need to act now to protect our main streets from being overrun by block-killing bank branches and identical fast food chains,” said Penalosa. “Toronto can welcome new housing on our avenues without displacing businesses and ruining the walkability that made them attractive and vibrant in the first place.”
Modelled after similar initiatives in US cities, including San Francisco and New York, Gil’s Plan would limit formula retail establishments, commonly referred to as "chain stores.” Adopting the San Francisco model, formula retail is defined as "a type of retail sales activity or retail sales establishment which, along with eleven or more other retail sales establishments located in the World, maintains two or more of the following features: a standardized array of merchandise, a standardized facade, a standardized decor and color scheme, a uniform apparel, standardized signage, a trademark or a service mark."
The plan would apply to retail in new developments on main streets and includes a right of application to local Community Councils. Local representatives, in consultation with their residents could grant approval for chain stores they deem appropriate or needed, such as hardware and grocery stores.
Small business owners in areas like Little Jamaica on Eglinton West and Queen Street West are being pushed out by developers defaulting to ‘safer’ commercial tenants. The loss of speciality food shops, restaurants, bookstores, and other community-focused retailers also removes services that neighbourhood residents rely upon.
By pursuing large chain stores, developers are ruining a key element of what made neighbourhoods attractive and viable for them in the first place. According to the City, over 90% of Torontonians prefer independent businesses for specialty food, personal services, restaurants, and bars.
Independent businesses are also able to keep profits within Toronto as they are more likely to have local suppliers, and therefore generate a larger local economic impact. A study in San Francisco estimated that increasing independent merchant market share by just 10% would yield $200 million in additional economic activity in the city. These findings are bolstered by a recent study in Austin, Texas that discovered spending $100 at a locally owned bookstore generated $45 worth of local economic activity. Spending $100 at a national bookstore chain, on the other hand, created only $14 worth of local economic activity.