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The growing sector of East London

Old East Village tile wall mural
Image Credit: Hannah Theodore

East London has had something of a bad reputation in the past. You’ve probably been told to not go to “east of Adelaide” if you value your safety.

But the true identity of East London is defined by its residents. Councillor for Ward 2, Shawn Lewis said the media often gets it wrong. East London is more than just the popular neighbourhood of Old East Village, and stands as a diverse area with a rich history.

“The roots of, ‘I’m living in the east end and I’m working and playing in the east end,’ are very much alive and well.”

“It is people without a whole lot of airs about them,” said Lewis. “They’re just going about their daily business. They look after each other the best they can. They’re very proud of their neighborhoods, and they’re proud of their homes and as they should be.”

Lewis explained that the area he represents, Argyle, has become a welcome community for immigrants and families. The area also boasts a hidden natural oasis in Kiwanis Park, where trails stretch all the way from the east to downtown.

Businesses have also found success in the east end, with a wave of breweries popping up throughout the area. But the area has strong potential for the future, with the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in the works, and a push by Councillor Lewis to attract more businesses to the usable industrial land in the east.

“The industrial sectors are primarily in the south and the east,” he said. “So I think the east end offers a really big opportunity for us.”

Residents of East London, like Brandon Eedy, agreed that there is a sense of optimism in the community, even through COVID-19.

“For the longest time there was not much going on in the area,” said Eedy. “And I think now, there is tons. And there’s a lot of optimism behind the growth, you know, in the area and the businesses that are here now and that will be coming in the future.”

Eedy has lived in the Old East Village community for 10 years, and said he’s seen the area transition into a hotspot for artists and small businesses.

For Lewis, the number one thing that still needs addressing in the east end is recreational facilities.

“The roots of, ‘I’m living in the east end and I’m working and playing in the east end,’ are very much alive and well,” said Lewis. “I think to maintain that we are going to have to continue to invest particularly in our recreational infrastructure. We need opportunities for people to play a little more.”

The best could still be yet to come for East London, and Lewis said he believes the area has a big role to play in helping the city recover after COVID-19.