One BIAs response to digital innovation for Eglinton West amid construction: “It will work well for some businesses, it won’t work well for others”

April 6, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

At a public library near Toronto’s Eglinton Avenue and Dufferin Street, Mayor John Tory and local Councillor Josh Colle announced new initiatives to help businesses on Eglinton West survive ongoing construction of the LRT.

Colle (who is also chair of the TTC board), said he is thrilled to see the investment in transit in the neighbourhood, while also acknowledging the toll it’s taking on the neighbourhood.

“While the Eglinton West community has advocated for a higher order of transit here for a long time, construction is difficult. It’s difficult for businesses, it’s difficult for residents… more needs to be done to help businesses,” Colle said.

Tory announced a city promotion for free parking near the Eglinton Avenue West area (available through the Green P parking app), support for neighbourhood art programs, new bus shelters, and a program to help the businesses get online.

Digital Main Street is the name of the tech initiative. The company assists businesses with technology and is funded by the city, TABIA, and sponsored by Google, MasterCard, Rogers, Shopify and Microsoft.

At the announcement Friday, Tory said this type of move is especially important in a retail climate that isn’t always all about location.

“Some of the products that used to be uniquely available at stores on Eglinton, now are more readily available online, or are more readily available even in other parts of the city, and so the task that we have in front of us, which can be a long term benefit to these businesses not during the construction period, is to get them online,” Tory said.

“Many of them are businesses that have been around for a long time, they have proprietors that might not see it as their first priority to have a digital presence, but I think that if they did have a digital presence they’d find that people who have shopped with them for a long time [would buy online and] expand their customer base.”

However, Aadila Valiallah, coordinator for the York-Eglinton BIA (one of the BIAs along the LRT’s route), doesn’t think this particular digital innovation is the right solution for some local enterprises.

“It will work well for some businesses, it won’t work well for others,” Valiallah said via phone Friday afternoon, explaining that many of the neighbourhood’s stores, such as the Caribbean barber shops, don’t operate through booked visits.

“It’s a walk-in clientele and experience,” Valiallah said. “You don’t even book your visit to the barber shop. There’s a slightly different culture and way it operates. For some of those businesses, which we have several of on my street, digital apps aren’t the most effective.”