Thanks to former Riverside BIA Executive Directors Anjuli Solanki and Perry Lupyrypa for contributing this Guest Blog:
As macFAB has made its final exit to new digs on Bayview Ave, it’s important to recognize the many contributions owners Dale Sonier and Patrick Kennedy have made to the Riverside BIA community over the years – from the Riverside Bridge Lighting, to the Riverside Magazine. A flagship store in Riverside for close to 10 years, macFAB has left a lasting legacy in the area and though it’s sad to see them go, we know that their new ‘hood is lucky to have them.
In 2010, Dale and Patrick recognized the potential of Toronto’s Queen St East and moved their well-established Queen St West macFAB Fabrics retail shop to 734 Queen Street East as macFAB Sews, and a year later, they launched macFAB Home at 755 Queen St E. Committed to being a part of the community, Dale and Patrick joined the Riverside BIA Board of Directors in 2011. In this role they advocated to beautify Riverside’s streetscape through funding from the City of Toronto pilot for tree pits in Riverside. The project was piloted on one block in 2012 and expanded by 2014 to include the entire Riverside BIA.
Although both Patrick and Dale were actively representing both of their separate macFAB businesses for the first two years on the board, Dale became the key representative for the remaining 5 years and was a key champion for changes in the area.
The Riverside Western Gateway Project 2012- 2015
In 2012, the BIA held a long term strategic planning session. Seeing the opportunity of the Pam Am Games in 2015, Patrick declared that with the Pan Am Games Athlete’s Village being located in neighbouring Corktown, that “the eyes of the world” would be on the Riverside’s western gateway. This inspired a 3-year branding and beautification plan for Riverside’s Western gateway through a high impact bridge lighting and public art way-finding initiative. This project has become an iconic symbol of Riverside and entry point to Toronto’s East End.
Also in 2012, Dale was instrumental in extending the Riverside BIA boundaries to include the Queen St Viaduct, recognizing that it would be prudent for the BIA to officially include the bridge and ancillary properties as the BIA was embarking on the Riverside Gateway Bridge project. As one of the area’s biggest advocates Dale knew that, while transformative, this project would be expensive. From 2012 through to 2015, Dale helped the Riverside BIA continue 12 months of planters and season streetscape decorations, while delivering almost $100,000 of streetscape cost savings by sourcing the shrubbery and decorating the planters rather than out-sourcing this work.
Over the three years it took to realize the project, both Dale and Patrick invested considerable time and energy meeting with artists, city planners, lighting and electrical specialists. They were able to work with the project steering committee (composed of Riverside BIA members, The City, artist Eldon Garnet, and project installers) to include the installation to maintain a more dynamic colour pallet, rather than plain white.
Riverside’s First Mural 2012-2013
In 2012, higher impact re-branding efforts were made to reflect the area’s name change from Queen Broadview Village BIA to Riverside District BIA (which had become official several years prior). A relic to the area’s former name Queen Broadview Village was still present and highly visible on the west side of then Jilly’s Adult Entertainment (now The Broadview Hotel).
Riverside BIA Board Chair Mitch Korman made the initial contact with the management of Jilly’s to replace the Queen Broadview Village sign with a Welcome to Riverside Mural, designed by local artist Jessie Durham and to be painted by another local artist Melissa Luk. At the time, Jilly’s owners agreed to the installation.
In early 2013, the BIA was awarded a city of Toronto Mural Grant for the Welcome to Riverside Mural. Artist Melissa Luk needed space over the summer to draw and paint ten 4″ x 8″ wooden panels which would then be installed on the side of Jilly’s. Dale and macFAB generously provided an artist’s workshop for over 6 weeks, clearing away some valuable storage space to enable the BIA to realize this important branding initiative. Dale accompanied the BIA staff to a pre-installation meeting with Jilly’s owners – only to learn there was a wrinkle in a plan. The BIA learned that the owner planned to have a 20′ x 8′ sign, with a large exotic dancer silhouette alongside the Welcome to Riverside mural. As a result the mural was delayed until a more appropriate wall could be found to accommodate the mural’s dimensions. Dale, with his effervescent and persuasive personality, reached out to Harry Lazarous, owner of 742 Queen East, and he agreed to host the mural just one week before the grant installation deadline expired.
Riverside Office Space 2013-2017
In 2013 a developer had taken possession of the three properties immediately west of macFAB Home. Knowing that it could take a significant amount of time for them to develop their plans, Dale was presented with the opportunity to manage these sites and keep the streetscape active, expanding macFAB into two locations. Rather than renting the third space out, he offered it to the Riverside BIA at a far below market rate value for four years. Prior to this, the Riverside BIA maintained a small cubicle at the back of the former Hangman’s Gallery of the Artists’ Network of Riverdale (then located at 756 Queen St E, now the address is home to the Irish Design House). This new expanded office space at 765 Queen St East enabled the Riverside BIA to dramatically increase its branding impact to both members and the broader public, as well as host student interns.
In 2014, the Artists’ Network had to leave their long time gallery space. Dale offered up the space next door to the BIA office at 765 Queen St E. By supporting this non-profit artist organization that hosts the annual Riverdale Art Walk (in it’s 20th year in 2018), Dale supported a critical part of the Riverside community. Both the Riverside BIA and the Artists’ Network maintained this office space as home for 4 years.
Riverside Magazine 2013- Present
When it came to the Riverside BIA, Dale always thought big. Having spent time in the city’s West end, Dale would bring copies of the glossy King West magazine as a model for what the Riverside BIA should strive to launch. Riverside BIA Chair Mitch Korman further advocated the launch of the Riverside Magazine in 2013. In order to support the initiative, Dale committed to purchase the back cover (the most costly and valued ad space) and supported the advertising outreach – selling enough advertising to cover print costs and distribute 5000 copies. With Dale’s continued support in 2014 the Riverside Magazine expanded distribution and hosted the Magazine’s 2014 launch party at macFAB. The magazine continues to expand today to 15,000 copies distribution and is an important promotional and informational tool for Riverside.