Business leads the way for positive change in Corktown, a neighbourhood rich in character and charm.
The area — south of Queen Street East running between Parliament Street and the DVP — might just be starting to see the steady rejuvenation it so rightly deserves.
Near the corner of Parliament and Queen streets, Barbara Stewart’s decor boutique Adornments on Queen (338 Queen St. E.) has been open barely a few weeks but is already making a splash with its bold direction. Stewart’s store is filled with elegant gifts and furniture far more common in upscale areas like Queen West or Rosedale than places like Corktown and Stewart hopes it will raise the bar in people’s eyes for what Corktown can be.
The recent Regent Park redevelopment plan made her believe a community like Corktown can thrive if people simply make an effort to help it be its best.
“I was really inspired by the attempts of the city to redo a great error with Regent Park — a community is enriched by having different people, different income levels and demographics in it. The new condos opening here will be a great boon from a business standpoint,” Stewart said.
Being a part of the community is a goal of Stewart’s — she has already sourced services from local businesses and all of her food will be delivered daily from local providers. Stewart will donate daily leftovers to local missions within the neighbourhood as well — it’s all a part of her plan to be a part of the change that helps elevate the neighbourhood.
“I want to be a part of this community, to contribute to this community and to beautify this community. This little strip has been neglected by the city so at this point it’s up to the residents and business owners to help invest in seeing it succeed. All the forward-looking businesses here are looking towards making this area a destination for decor and design,” Stewart said.
At nearby Gen-Cor Furniture (342 Queen St. E.), owner Corey Corvo agrees with Stewart and says the area has matured a lot since his father started building and selling his own furniture more than 26 years ago.
“This area is growing and it’s getting better and better every year — to be able to watch that change has been gratifying,” Corvo said.
Yet while the area has been steadily seeing more investment, reputations and perceptions are not as easy to shake off.
“I have clients who are afraid to walk past Sherbourne and I think cleaning that area up a bit would really help but I’ve never had a problem here. I’ve never even had a broken window,” Corvo said.
To the south in the freshly re-minted Distillery District, design, art and entertainment takes centre stage at the rejuvenated historic site.
Joel Dart, manager of artisanal jewellery shop Corktown Designs (55 Mill St., Bldg 54), says the rebirth of the Distillery District appears to have kicked off a similar trend in the surrounding neighbourhood and he hopes businesses will lead the way in continuing to transform the area.
“The change in the area has been positive, you can tell that nicer houses are going in and people are starting to fix up their façades. The developers here were smart in promoting the artisanal side and the businesses here all sort of work together,” Dart said.