Village checkup

On resilience in Osborne Village

Osborne Village was once named "Canada's greatest neighbourhood," a title that's been challenged by a rash of vacancies.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Though once deemed Canada’s greatest neighbourhood by the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), the Osborne Village narrative in the media has become dismal. High rent costs, a slew of vacancies and decreasing foot traffic are often cited as the culprit of its demise. But has the Village really lost its unique flair? 

Brian Timmerman, the executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ, remains optimistic about the state of the Village. 

“We did have a few closures, but with these closures, we’ve had quite a few businesses come into the Osborne Village,” Timmerman says. He cites a new nightclub, a Mary Brown’s Chicken and the reopening of the Toad in the Hole as some of the new developments in the works. 

One business to open in the area is Saikel Studios. Formerly located in Linden Woods, co-owner Dustin Marks says the cycle studio has been met with a warm welcome at its new location in the Stradbrook Avenue strip. 

“We’re running between seven and nine classes a day, and they’re almost always sold out,” Marks says. “We’re being well received.” 

While Saikel Studios chose to close their doors entirely until it was deemed safe to host in-person classes, other businesses in the area, including the boutique Silver Lotus, offered online services and curbside pickup. As businesses reopen, Marks has been connecting to other establishments in the area to form partnerships. 

“We’ve developed a nice cross-promotion with Green Carrot,” Marks says. 

The densely populated geography of the Osborne Village strip makes it a natural door-to-door trek for visitors and frequenters of the district. For this reason, Marks emphasizes the importance of collaboration between businesses within the area. For Saikel Studios, that includes offering discounts to those who work in the Village. 

At the same time, the strip’s high pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic makes it a tremendously visible, and therefore attractive, district for hip, small businesses. Though foot traffic has not yet returned to the level it was in pre-pandemic times, Timmerman is hopeful that the buzz will return even stronger than before. 

“For us (at the Osborne Village BIZ), the main focus is that we didn’t go away. We’re still here,” Timmerman says. 

Marks also says the visibility and central location have been a great support in garnering a local clientele and building new connections. 

“The amount of people that have contacted me saying ‘hey, I saw your new location, it’s great!’ is awesome,” Marks says. “Our neighbours are proud we’ve opened up and are super excited that our customers are coming to their businesses in the Village, too.”

The Village has had a tough go in recent years. Yet, in the face of hardship, its unique history, geography and, most importantly, community have proven to be a staple of resilience.

Published in Volume 75, Number 02 of The Uniter (September 17, 2020)

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