Summer 2020 should have been the beginning of a Church Street Renaissance. Through 2019 and early this year many vacant storefronts had been renovated and found new tenants. Scaffolding came down, new paint jobs freshened up exteriors and heritage facades regained their former glory. The future looked especially bright with a long-awaited plan to redesign Church Street getting underway.
Then COVID-19 happened.
As in the rest of the country, the pandemic has had a profound effect on Church Street businesses. Non-essential retail operations have only recently been allowed to get back up and running with curb-side service. Restaurants have been reduced to take-out and delivery orders, and are still waiting for the go-ahead to start patio table service. Bars haven't been open for months, and many have been boarded up to prevent break-ins. Businesses hoping for a break on their rent have been out of luck, with landlords opting not to take advantage of the federal commercial rent relief program.
So what can we expect on Church Street this summer, usually the busiest and more festive season of the year?
With summer underway, the street is looking cheerier, thanks to splashes of colour from floral hanging baskets and planters freshly filled with annuals, courtesy the Church Wellesley Village BIA. And those boarded up windows are now in the process of being transformed into eye-catching murals, another BIA innovation.
Most important, more people are coming out on the street, taking advantage of the warmer weather and offering a hint of that familiar Church Street vibe. To accommodate social distancing, some of the street parking lanes have been temporarily converted to pedestrians only through the CurbTO program, and there may be more pedestrianization in store. The provincial and city governments are cutting red tape so that, when restaurants and bars start serving again, they can more readily get extra patio space.
Everyone, especially those whose income hasn't been affected by the pandemic, can help by patronizing local restaurants for take out and delivery and by making an extra effort to shop Church. While Church Street will not be the same this summer, if we all do our part the Village main street will endure -- and flourish another day.