A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[URBAN NOTE] “Street Stories: Bloor Street”

At Spacing Toronto, Eric Mutrie has a nice essay about the history and meaning of Toronto’s Bloor Street, its origins and its development.

Synonymous with both subways and shopping but most recently with streetscaping construction woes, Bloor Street has joined St. Clair as an example of the troubles tied to Toronto’s aspirations of greater beauty and efficiency. As cheeky new pylon ads proclaim that spring will bring “134 new condos” (ie: trees) to birds in the area, Bloor is finally nearing the end of its dramatic saga and settling into its much-hyped greener identity. However, while attractive couture, condos and now trees claim the street corner by corner, the man who had the most impact on Bloor Street’s identity – Joseph Bloor himself – is still awaiting proper acknowledgement.

[. . .]

Ranked the 20th most expensive shopping street in last year’s list by New York real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, “Bloor Street” has evolved to acquire the same sort of stylish reputation as the brand name flagships found along it. With Libeskind’s landmark ROM Crystal as an elaborate centrepiece and thousand-dollar scarves ripe for impulse purchase, Bloor from Yonge to St. George has become something of a high-class home base. The Cushman & Wakefield report found retail rent on Bloor Street in 2010 cost an average $313 per square foot – up from $300 in 2009. This is dwarfed by the $1,664 per square foot cost of setting up shop on Fifth Avenue, but it’s also significantly more than the next Canadian runner-up: Vancouver’s Robson street, which costs $220 per square foot.

Toronto travel guides allege that Bloor’s strip of retail stores has been dubbed the “Mink Mile,” but I’ve yet to hear anyone use this term aloud (journalists, for their part, also do a good job of making this seem like far more common a nickname than it actually is). The name seems to borrow as much from Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” as Bloor’s new physical identity does – Chicago’s famous retail strip was oft-cited as inspiration in early development proposals. Indeed, although its boundaries stretch far beyond Chanel and Prada, “Bloor Street” as a name tends itself to be most strongly associated with this posh Bloor-Yorkville strip; neighbourhoods farther east and west have nicknames that play off of their North/South intersections (“Blansdowne”) or their own identities (“Koreatown”).

Regardless of its connotation today, there’s great debate over whether “Bloor Street” as a name is even accurate to its namesake – much debate has occurred over whether “Bloor” should actually be “Bloore.” Prominent Toronto historian Mike Filey, for one, contends that “Bloor” is a misnomer. Joseph Bloor, for his part, did a great job of encouraging such confusion: he signed his name on an early Upper Canada Land Petition without an “e,” but many of his later signatures include it. Presumably, the “e” came as he developed beyond just a brewer – possibly because he believed it paired better with his wealthy new status, which makes it ironic that Toronto’s most expensive street lives on today sans “e”. Bloor’s death did little to settle debates: his obituary refers to him without an “e,” while his gravestone includes one.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm

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