Is the Walkerville Miracle Over?

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Tuomi-HeaderThere is a rather strange turn of events in Walkerville these days. A number of stores are unceremoniously turning out their lights.

Is this the beginning of the end of the once former town’s lionized commercial strip? Is the urban miracle on Wyandotte over?

In a recent report entitled Ten Principles for Rebuilding Neighborhood Retail, the Urban Land Institute opines closings can reduce the variety and quality of retailers and service providers to produce, “… a profound effect on the desirability of many urban neighborhoods and communities.”

The report’s writers believe much of this desirability centres on convenience and is a factor in what motivates new home buyers. Commercial areas near residential ones, “… without suitable retailing are dramatically weakened.”

Residents who can afford it, leave, and potential new residents choose to live somewhere else. In this type of environment, communities cannot be sustained over the long term.

Sustainability might be one of the critical reasons Walkerville is losing its retail base. Some are packing it in. Admittedly, others are relocating.

Both reasons indicate a business climate not amenable to their offerings.

Now closed bespoke tailor, Aardvark Tailoring, was actually in Wyandotte Town Centre. When it opened a year or so ago there were almost no empty storefronts along Walkerville’s section of the historic commercial street. In fact, demand was so brisk, empty retail units on the strip’s side streets were being renovated and brought back into service.

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The Aardvark Tailoring location in Walkerville, seen on 21 October 2016, is now available for rent.
Photo by Robert Tuomi.

An example was the southwest side of Lincoln Road, which now houses the famed City Cyclery, among others.

Those were heady days.

So far, the departed outfits include holistic healer Truthful Healing. It is moving downtown. Naturopathic medicine practitioner Dr Jennifer Strong has moved her practice from the Ashiatsu Training Centre. Two other ND’s are on maternity leave, no announcement has been made of their return, if at all.

There is one less beauty parlour. The windows are papered over and the sign is partially pulled off at European-style spa Beautiful You.

In April, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s Devonshire Road branch will be shutdown. Across the street, Windsor’s Printmaker’s Forum had a sign on its door announcing a relocation.

Most of the restaurants that have sprung up on Wyandotte remain with two exceptions.

Salute, the upscale espresso bar, closed, but was soon returned to service offering vegan and gluten free food. Things at one time seemed good enough for Jackie’s Corner, a convenience store, to bring back its lunch bar. It didn’t last.

Another sign of a weak retail environment is reduced operating hours.

The Doggy Bakery closes on Monday and Tuesday. George and Alice’s antique emporium only opens from Friday to Sunday. Massage provider Village Wellness shuts down on Thursday as well as Saturday and Sunday.

On the business front, Flexxia Corporation has moved out after finding a location further east on Wyandotte.

Although it is too early to assess the “damage” from these departures, once the bank closes it will mean the neighbourhood will be without senior financial institutions. At one time, Wyandotte alone had six bank branches. All have since been repurposed.

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About the Author

Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi