Barrington Street is getting a massive facelift. Within the next couple years, it should be a clean, rehabilitated, popular destination for new communities, tourists, students and locals.
“The sidewalk will be open all the way from one end to the other for the first time in two years. That’s a huge freakin’ deal,” said Waye Mason, the regional councillor for the area.
Amidst the construction signs and machinery, there are a few significant hints indicating an evolving space.
An Urban Outfitters is expected to open in May at 1652 Barrington Street, Freak Lunchbox is expanding, the Roy Building is under construction and new office spaces just opened up between Venus Envy and the Khyber Centre.
It won’t be easy.
“Rebuilding downtown is an ugly, dirty business,” Mason said.
The street is in need of some basic repairs. The sidewalks are old and cracked, the signs are rusty and like Mason pointed out, the road has one of the worst surface distress conditions of any street on the peninsula.
“It’s got certain grandeur and it’s got certain potential, but it’s got parking signs that have been put up 20 or 40 years ago and the red paint is all worn off and it just looks like nobody cares,” Mason said.
Boarded up windows and ‘for lease’ signs are common sights on Barrington Street. Many businesses haven’t been able to last a year due to high rents and poor business.
“Almost every business that’s failed on Barrington Street- not every one but almost every one- in the last decade is an analog media business. They’re book stores, camera shops, record stores, so nothing that is coming back, and it doesn’t exist anywhere anymore,” Mason said.
A number of stores and bars are helping to keep Barrington Street alive. Venus Envy has been on the block for 16 years and has no plans to leave.
“I love Barrington Street and I really want it to be as vibrant as it used to be,” said Kaleigh Trace, the education co-ordinator at Venus Envy.
Freak Lunchbox is making a significant move. The candy store is relocating to a larger location, just a couple doors down from its current spot.
“Freak continues to thrive despite some small businesses struggling – I plan to just continue on the same path of constant improvement and growth. It has been working so far,” store owner Jeremy Smith said in an email.
“More business is always better. Competition is always better and more businesses downtown bring more people downtown. It is a win-win situation,” he said.