Beacon of Bridgeland

Bridgeland Market shines while other corner stores are going the way of the dodo

Fresh-baked cookies, cheese from around the world and pints of organic ice cream are just a few of the treats visitors will find at Bridgeland Market, one of a vanishing breed of family-run corner stores slowly fading from the Calgary landscape.

Run by the Traya family, which also operates Tazza Deli & Grill across the street, Bridgeland Market, like Lukes Drug Mart a few blocks away, has actually grown with the times to become a community mainstay.

On varying weeks, “neighbourhood discounts” are provided to streets and avenues surrounding the store, while the message board on the building’s west side draws people in with messages such as, “Sorry Nenshi, Ferland for Mayor,” and, “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”

“Amazing, unique selection and the staff make the experience all the better,” said Christina Freudenthaler on Facebook. “Buy local, it’s worth it.”

Yet while corner stores such as Bridgeland Market and Luke’s have thrived with the times, others have faltered. Mary’s a 1940s-era gem located in Bowness, was demolished last year after damage from June 2013 flooding. Burt’s, located in Windsor Park, was also demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development.

“Trying to embrace change, I think that’s probably the biggest thing,” said Lukes owner Gareth Lukes of maintaining a corner store in a growing city. “So if the district is changing, you have to change with the district.”

Some cities are attempting to revitalize the fading community corner store. In May 2014, Edmonton city council approved a pilot program to help revitalize small shopping sites in mature neighbourhoods. The pilot included helping businesses and property owners make physical improvements, providing better opportunity for residents to get goods and services at attractive locations and improving the opportunity for small shopping centres to be a “valued community landmark.”

Edmonton officials said the pilot, which included three locations each receiving $250,000 for public infrastructure improvements, is consistent with the city’s strategic and municipal development plans, which are attempting to shift the provincial capital to become more walkable and transit oriented.

“This is just adding in the local business revitalization piece to compliment the discussions about, ‘How do you keep schools open in certain communities as a catalyst for density? How do you support more family-oriented infill housing?” said Mayor Don Iveson.

While Calgary doesn’t have a specific corner store program, it does have the Main Streets initiative and 10 Business Revitalization Zones. Main Streets serves to analyze neighbourhoods with main streets – 24 have been identified, including Kensington Road, Bowness Road and 17th Avenue – and determine their respective growth opportunities.

Throughout the spring, the City will be hosting a second round of drop-in sessions with stations and topics for workshops and online input for residents to respond to ideas shared by neighbours.

For more information about the Main Streets initiative, visit www.calgary.ca and search “Main Streets.”

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