Archive for the ‘Toronto’ Category
Kanishk Bhatia’s June article at Spacing about the dynamic development of the condo-dominated neighbourhood of Fort York is a thoughtful consideration. When I moved to Toronto a decade ago and walked down there, I saw nothing but wasteland. So much change!
I sometimes pause to reflect on the change that has occurred on this particular plot of land between Bathurst Street and the Princes’ Gate (entrance to Exhibition Place) and bounded by historic Fort York to the north and Lakeshore Boulevard to the south. Much of this section of the city, together with surrounding land south of the rail corridor, was previously re-claimed from the lake and had a largely industrial character for decades. With the eventual displacement of industry, this “dead” space has been transformed into a new residential neighbourhood literally started from scratch – one of several such developments in Toronto in recent years. Today there are thousands of people living here who collectively represent a new chapter in Toronto’s continuing growth.
Unlike City Place to the east which has a relative “sameness” in terms of architectural style (due to much of it being built by a single developer), the ownership of plots was dispersed amongst four developers here, which has had the effect of a slightly more varied mix of building types sprouting up. The City of Toronto went through an extensive master planning process to guide the development of this new neighbourhood in line with its desired city-building principles around elements such as transit access, public realm elements and integration with existing heritage features.
While it could be argued that the term “neighbourhood” may be pre-mature given the area’s development is still very much a work-in-progress (new building construction is still on-going), one can start to see the early signs of a sustainable residential community taking shape. To be sure, it is easy to point out a number of shortcomings based on what exists today, such as the limited public amenities and lack of vibrant street life. However, given the still evolving nature of the development context, it might be wise to wait at least another 10 years before one can reasonably assess the success or failure of the city’s vision for this neighbourhood.
I’m fond of Jason McBride’s Toronto Life article from last month, containing interviews with four different Torontonians (and photos!) from Kensington Market on the subject of how that storied neighbourhood has evolved and is continuing to evolve. It’s fun.
In the spring of 2012, with my best friend in hospital recovering from cancer surgery and my wife pregnant with our first child, I decided to join the Consciousness Explorers Club in Kensington Market. Founded by Jeff Warren, a journalist and meditation teacher, the club is dedicated to what he calls “playful spiritual exploration.” One aspect of this was an occasional sweaty dance party at Handlebar on Augusta, but the club also held weekly gatherings and more formal meditation classes in the living room of Warren’s Wales Avenue Victorian. A couple of dozen people routinely showed up, a ragtag group of doctors, writers, students, scientists and one youngish mother who sometimes hit the Hot Box pot café around the corner to get a buzz on before class. The novelist Barbara Gowdy, the playwright David Young and the filmmaker Ron Mann were among the regulars. In a room decorated with a large tapestry depicting a tiger, the floor a colourful sea of cushions, Warren led the group in a 40-minute guided meditation. After a tea break, he’d initiate a conversation around a theme—one week might be about notions of community, another week, the consciousness of animals. He called these conversations, which could be both enlightening and tedious, “collective wonderment.”
I had never meditated before in my life, and it took me several weeks to find a comfortable posture (three cushions helped). There was a lot of “sharing,” too, which I reflexively balked at but which became kind of liberating after I finally realized that there was nowhere to hide. And, to my surprise, that I didn’t want to hide. The discussions often got intimate—one guy talked a lot about his anxieties and drug addiction. At one point, I teared up as I meditated on an image of my unborn baby taking a bath. In its most sublime moments, it felt like seeing a shrink—if both you and the shrink were high on ecstasy. In other words, it was all quintessentially Kensington.
Christopher Hume’s recent Toronto Star article talking about the gentrification of eastern Toronto is worth reading.
The east is red — as in red hot. Suddenly it seems everyone in Toronto wants to be on the other side of Yonge St., an area avoided for generations.
The latest sign of the east end’s new-found desirability is a large mixed-use scheme proposed by Streetcar Developments, a firm with a long history in the district. The triple-towered project would occupy space south of Queen and Broadview.
Even more transformative is what’s unfolding in the West Don Lands. Under the administration of Waterfront Toronto, the 32-hectare site is fast becoming one of the city’s most intriguing new neighbourhoods. Organized around Corktown Common, a park that sits on a giant mound of earth created to control flooding on the Don River, the district was an industrial wasteland. The cement plant at King and River has been replaced now by elegant condos and social housing whose architecture is as laudable as its intentions.
The massive Athletes’ Village constructed for the 2015 Pan-Am Games will be turned into a student residence for nearby George Brown College once the jocks have departed. With narrow streets and extra-wide sidewalks, accessible park and transit, the Don Lands will be the first neighbourhood in Toronto to incorporate the best of 21st-century urbanism.
Though much remains incomplete, it’s a safe bet the new community will be a busy and vibrant place that attracts families as well as the usual hordes of young and upwardly mobile.