Riverside BIA: Looking Back on 2021, Looking Ahead to 2022

A message from Riverside BIA Executive Director, Jennifer Lay:

As we turn the page on 2021 we are taking a moment to reflect. YES, it has been ANOTHER YEAR…BUT, this past year has once again reinforced the perseverance, ingenuity, kindness, caring and resilience of everyone in this business community. I’ve appreciated continuing working closely with many of you and getting to know you better and a big welcome to all our new members who joined us this past year.

As we continued to get through this pandemic together in 2021, as we will do in 2022, we the Riverside BIA are here to support, and help this incredible neighbourhood shine, with MANY ‘support local’ campaigns, streetscape programs like weekly graffiti removal services, public art, CafeTO supports, and many innovative offerings. 

Read on for more…

We began 2021 in a darker place and wanted to bring some light to our main street. Thanks to a grant from the City of Toronto’s ArtworxTO program and a collaboration with local artists Jessica Lin, 10+ storefronts were activated with The Serenity Project in Riverside over winter 2021. This amazing exhibit lives on virtually – experience it for yourself!

We continued to commemorate the BIA’s 40th anniversary year over 2021 with the Riverside 40 years, 40 stories series -including intimate stories about what makes this neighbourhood special. From the story of how the BIA began with a small group of dedicated business owners, sitting around a kitchen table at night, to big projects like the Riverside bridge lighting and stories from local business members like George the Barber who has been here longer than the BIA itself. This story telling series is powerful and meaningful. 

In addition we showed some Riverside pride with our popular ‘You are Here’ campaign and Riverside commemorative merchandise – see our collection here 🙂

At the same time we worked together with our Queen Street BIAs to run some incredible promotional campaigns like the #LoveOnQueen and #HolidaysOnQueen giveaways with Queen West BIA, and the Queen East Eats programme to promote outdoor dining with the Leslieville BIA! We are better by working with our friends and neighbours…

We continued to support our business members 1:1 through 2021, just get in touch and we will likely be able to help or direct you!

Advocacy can work and it is really about bringing our concerns, needs and good ideas forward to our elected officials to help inform critical policies and programs. The BIA has been doing this throughout the pandemic and will keep doing this proactively and in response to government announcements. We have done more of this in the past year than ever in our history and will keep it up. It has produced results.

We were proud this year to continue putting a spotlight on our seasoned and new members with the ‘Get to Know Your Locals’ series – enjoy it here 

Riverside BIA continued to work hand in hand with the City of Toronto and nearly 20 of our members to run a successful CafeTO program. The 2021 program included taking part in the CafeTO Live Amplified Music Pilot project – a huge success in our BIA! Once again this would not have been possible without the support of the City, and we look forward to continued partnership in 2022 for this critical economic recovery program for our many local restaurants, bars, and cafes.

We also had the privilege of participating again in the iheART Mainstreet Art Challenge. Thanks to a partnership with Steps Public Art, the Leslieville BIA, local artists, and community supporters Rockport and Percy Ellis Developments, we implemented the ‘Welcome Back to Main Street sidewalk art project which you can still enjoy on the sidewalks and virtually here.

Over 2021, the Riverside BIA collaborated with Toronto-based arts organizations East End ArtsWomen Paint, and Native Women in the Arts and local artists on “Women Paint Riverside: Currents of Change”. The project -originally envisioned as part of the Riverside BIA Streetscape Master Plan – comprises public art murals in the laneway cooridor spanning three city blocks – located north of Queen Street East, south of Thompson Street, east of Carroll Street and west of Grant Street. Thanks to funding support from StreetArt Toronto, as well as community supporters Hullmark and Streetcar Developments, the project was realized over summer 2021 and launched with a community celebration on September 25th, 2021.

Riverside BIA was fortunate to be able to work alongside Streetcar Developments, Councillor Paula Fletcher’s office and local artist Nick Sweetman and a collective of local Toronto artists to animate the Riverside Square construction hoarding with 150+ feet of vibrant murals reflecting Riverside’s diversity and pride – enjoy a quick tour here, then go see it for yourself (just east of Riverside Common Park at 657 Queen E)

We also got busy, thanks to funding from Ontario Reconnects, and many local collaborations  – in the new Riverside Common Park!! The space was officially launched with Councillor Paula Fletcher on October 17th, 2021 and then we hosted a holiday market in December. The space was also lit up for the holiday season, thanks to the City of Toronto Parks team. We have some great ideas for special things in store for 2022! Let us know what you’d like to see happening there.

Riverside BIA took part in the Bag of Toronto initiative twice in 2021: for Mother’s Day and for the Holiday season! This initiative saw over $5000 of locals products purchased from locals Riverside businesses by Toronto residents, while promoting Riverside as a whole and giving back to our local charity of choice – the Ralph Thornton Community Organization. A big thanks to Bag of Toronto and we look forward to future collaborations!

Thanks to a grant from FedDev Ontario and cost-share with the City of Toronto BIA office, Riverside BIA project-planned over 2021 and will be implementing 43 new corten steel tree grates to replace our aging tree pits while improving accessibility and continuing to protect our city trees on Queen Street East. Keep yours eyes peeled for these upgrades!

This year’s Riverside Window Wonderland was a collaboration local artists and businesses, thanks to funding support from Ontario Reconnects! Click to see all the designs and find out who won this year’s contest as top voted window of Riverside and Queen Street East!!

We capped off the year demonstrating a virtual coming together by raising $9,000 for the Rivertowne Breakfast Program through the 10th Annual (2nd virtual) Riverside Antler Breakfast, in commemoration of Founder Chef Scott who we lost in early 2021. THANK YOU to all the sponsors, donors, supporters and organizers and the outpouring of support from the community.