Rebuilding Riversdale Part 2: The Reveal - New businesses move in
Walking up to 502 20th St. W., the door is propped open, books on shelves reach to the ceiling and the colourful covers create a rainbow of titles waiting to be opened. The small, typed sign in the window says "Riversdale Books," but the understated sign doesn't reflect the change the book store hopes to make in this area.
"I see reading and literacy in general, as helping meet the needs and helping young people dream and seeing that there's potential maybe outside of the pressures they would face growing up in an inner-city here," said Chris Randall, owner of Riversdale Books and director of Streetforce Youth Centre.
Randall started the book store with a few boxes of books from his basement and is accepting donations to add to the collection.
As Randall sits on a chair in the center of the store, he looks around the tiny room, which he hopes to fill with more books for kids and teens. He also wants to turn this book store into a place of employment for some of the teens he works with.
"I'd like to ... give them a chance at a first-time job, which depending on their background isn't necessarily the easiest for them to find placement," he said.
Another business looking to help the community is the Good Food Junction Co-op, the first grocery store in the area in more than a decade.
"We're able to get rid of that Food Desert as they call it and there's an opportunity for people who are able to walk here or not spend a lot of their money either on cab fare or bus fare in order to get groceries," said Ralph Winterhalt, general manager of the grocery store.
The Good Food Junction Co-op is bringing fresh produce and meat to an area that has had to rely on convenience stores since the last grocery store in Riversdale closed 13 years ago.
Winterhalt said he and his staff will work to adjust the stock to best meet customers' needs.
"We're going to start out with basics that you would find in most grocery stores and it's going to be the community that's going to ask that 'Can you carry this product for us?' It's going to be an evolution."
In his book store, Chris Randall said he's watching the change coming to Riversdale and thinks it's generally good for the area, but he worries it isn't helping everyone.
"I believe the developments and the new businesses along 20th Street are positive. I'd like to see the changes that are made benefit everyone, not just kind of the new crowd that's moving in," he said.
"Kids who were quite young came to our after school program and now are in their mid-to-late teens, I'm seeing the push of increased rents and things like that moving them out of this neighbourhood."
Randall wants to see more of a balance of bringing new people to the area, but keeping the families who've called this place home for many years part of the fabric of the community.
Tomorrow, watch for part three of News Talk Radio reporter Trelle Burdeniuk's series "Rebuilding Riversdale," which will look at some of the problems facing Riversdale's residents and who is there to help them.
Follow on Twitter:@Trelle_B