Boon or burden? Navigating the challenges of a night economy in Leaside

In last month’s Leaside Life article, “Exploring the night economy – opportunity or threat for Leaside?” I posed the question: do you think a burgeoning night economy would be an improvement or a detriment for Leaside? And, you guessed it, Leaside responded in spades. Whether via email to the editor, impromptu chats in several stores, and even in a parking lot, residents, business leaders and property owners had a lot to say!

As a reminder, City Council aims to grow the city’s “night economy” over the next three years by building “a foundation that encourages a vibrant nightlife [across the city rather than only in the entertainment district as it is today] by supporting talented artists and entrepreneurs, creating jobs and spurring economic growth for Toronto.” And it isn’t just about nightclubs; it extends to late-night eateries, retail outlets, cultural spots, social clubs and more, potentially enriching urban life for those seeking after-dark cultural and social experiences while boosting economic growth. But in Leaside?

Economic benefits are enticing, but not at a cost

Residents like Mr. Milan Zelcevic are concerned. Strongly opposed, he cites potential increases in noise, crime, and other disturbances that could undermine the family-friendly atmosphere. His commentary suggests that while the economic benefits are enticing, they should not come at the cost of community well-being. These feelings are shared by others too, who moved to Leaside for its relatively safe, calm environment, one ideal for raising families. Drawing parallels with challenges faced by those living near Toronto’s current Entertainment District, residents’ top concerns include a variety of issues (see table).

 

Noise Just as in the Entertainment District, the potential increase in
nightlife venues could lead to higher noise levels in Leaside,
disturbing the peace and calm.
Safety and crime The introduction of more nightlife could lead to an uptick in petty crimes such as theft and vandalism, as has been observed in other nightlife-heavy areas.
Traffic and accessibility Increased traffic and parking issues could mirror those experienced downtown, where residents struggle to navigate congested streets or find parking during peak nightlife hours.
Litter and maintenance The likelihood of littering could increase, potentially leading to higher maintenance and cleaning costs, and alter the aesthetic
and environment of the ‘hood.

 

Putting residents’ concerns aside for the moment, the few business owners and property developers I spoke with in the Leaside Business Park were also skeptical of the opportunity and seemingly unwilling to take on more risk, given the weak economic situation many of us face. In addition, should Ontario’s Bill 97 reach royal ascent, the updated zoning might make many of the night economy activities non-starters since they will be prohibited.

Development should enhance, not undermine community well-being

The fact remains, without a strong business case or interested investors and supportive zoning, I personally doubt we will see noticeable change anytime soon. Perhaps this is best because it prevents us as a community from having to have those tougher discussions about NIMBYism and facing the accusations that get hurled at us from time to time, whether deserved or not (e.g., the homeless shelter “hoax” on Bayview by Raise the Roof back in 2015). Such resistance is indicative of the broader challenges cities face in balancing development with community preservation.

Should Toronto move forward, efforts to mitigate potential problems must include enhanced policing and security, the enforcement of strict control measures, increased measures to ensure cleanliness, and effective traffic management planning. This would help ensure development enhances, rather than detracts from, the quality of life in Leaside.

How could Leaside’s night economy cater to both young professionals and families? How should the community balance economic growth with preserving neighbourhood character in Leaside? What strategies can be employed to address “NIMBY” concerns while still pushing forward with necessary developments in urban areas like Leaside? Let us know at .

About Glenn Asano 60 Articles
Leasider Glenn Asano is a partner and principal consultant for the strategy and business development practice at Centred Performance. He is also an Instructor with the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.