Canadian Urban Institute “Pandemic Impact on Main Street” 


The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) is the national platform that houses the best in in Canadian city building, where policymakers, urban professionals, civic and business leaders, community activists, and academics can learn, share, and collaborate with one another from coast to coast to coast. CUI connects by linking city builders to the most effective solutions and ideas, catalyzes by developing powerful research and tools for action that promote best practices, and communicates stories that reflect Canada’s diverse urban reality. 

Image geaturing a graffiti saying "Toronto- we don't take naps" in pink and black on a white wall
Image credits: Cassidy Dickens


Project Description

COVID has radically altered our way of life. As we move past the peak of the pandemic it remains to be seen how much of this change is temporary and how much represents a more permanent evolution of our society. A combination of relatively new technologies and alterations to workplace policies has allowed many people to work from home. The evolving spatial patterns of production and consumption are fundamentally altering the traditional geographic structures of cities. Not all places have felt these changes equally. 

This project seeks to assess the impact of the changes on main streets in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Main streets have typically been a focal point for urban society. They are places where people congregate for a wide variety of reasons. The aim of this research project is to better understand the varying degree to which main streets have been impacted by the pandemic and what interventions have had the greatest impact to support long-term equity and future-proof the recovery of our main streets. 

In this project, the Client expects the team to design the following: 

  1. Develop a methodology to measure and evaluate the impact of COVID on main streets in the GTHA by assessing their relative vitality before, during, and after the peak(s) of the COVID pandemic.  
  2. Develop a methodology to identify ‘types’ of main streets using quantitative analysis that takes into consideration factors such as relative location, local socio-economic conditions, transportation, and local community assets.  
  3. Using quantitative analysis to identify general trends in vitality across various types of main streets through the stages of the COVID pandemic. 
  4. Choose a set of main streets for detailed qualitative study that aims to better understand local community dynamics and interventions through the stages of the COVID pandemic. 
  5. Identify general principles for creating and maintaining vitality on main streets. Identify lessons on how main streets can support surrounding communities and vice versa – particularly through an equity lens.