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Thursday, 02 May 2019 10:37

PlazaPOPS in Scarborough tries 'eye-catching' design to boost business

Daniel Rotsztain (left) shows Tony Kiriakou, owner of Wexford Heights Plaza, his vision for enhancing strip plazas by improving landscaping around restaruants and cafes. Rotsztain is one of the creators of plazaPOPS, a project designed to suggest ways strip plazas can spruce themselves up in exciting ways. Daniel Rotsztain (left) shows Tony Kiriakou, owner of Wexford Heights Plaza, his vision for enhancing strip plazas by improving landscaping around restaruants and cafes. Rotsztain is one of the creators of plazaPOPS, a project designed to suggest ways strip plazas can spruce themselves up in exciting ways. Dan Pearce/Metroland

from Toronto.com:

Unique project launches at Wexford Heights Plaza in July

As strip malls go, Wexford Heights Plaza is famous already.

It’s inspired a feature film, a documentary about its Wexford Restaurant, and an interactive walking tour.

Still, expect it to gain more notoriety this summer as it hosts plazaPOPS, an experiment in giving passersby something new to see and visit.

Launching at the Taste of Lawrence street festival in July, plazaPOPS lets the community comment on six potential designs — featuring a colossal loom, a stopover for birds, and a programmable community food truck, among other things — by April 12.

What’s chosen may be a hybrid, but plazaPOPS is a chance to try some possibilities for a retail model still common on Toronto’s suburban streets, says project co-lead Daniel Rotsztain.

Plazas are where small businesses set up in places like Wexford in Scarborough. They’re de facto community centres, places where people meet, he added.

Some plaza businesses are thriving, but others aren’t, and “blight is not good for anyone,” said Rotsztain, who has interviewed plaza owners, customers and business owners on what can be done.

Esthetic improvements were welcomed, he found, as long as they bring more people into the plaza. PlazaPOPS tries to do that, Rotsztain said.

“The whole ethos of the project is supporting small businesses.”

Co-lead Brendan Stewart, a landscape architecture professor at University of Guelph, had his students provide the designs, Rotsztain got financial backing from the city and advocacy group Park People.

He secured unanimous support from the Wexford Heights Business Improvement Area, and the project is starting to look like it could be replicated on other suburban streets.

University of Toronto students are creating economic metrics to measure its success, Rotsztain said.

Anthony Kiriakou, who owns the plaza and the family-run diner bearing the neighbourhood’s name, believes plazaPOPS is good for business.

“I like something that’s eye-catching,” he said.

“At least like this, you are on the map.”

The project will occupy eight to 10 parking spots, and while getting rid of parking can be “pretty tense,” Rotsztain said many business owners and customers would sacrifice a little.

Open houses for PlazaPOPS are coming to the Arab Community Centre of Toronto on April 12, from 4 to 8 p.m., and the Victoria Village Hub on April 13, from noon to 4 p.m.

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