A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[URBAN NOTE] On the end of Coffee Time at Dupont and Lansdowne and Toronto gentrification

I’ve lived five minutes’ walk from the Coffee Time restaurant at 1005 Lansdowne Avenue, on the northeastern corner of Lansdowne and Dupont, for more than a decade, but I would be surprised if I went there as many as a half-dozen times. It never happened to be on any of my corridors, for TTC buses or for walking, and if I really wanted to go out for coffee locally then the McDonald’s at Dupont and Dufferin would have been much closer.

The location’s reputation may, perhaps, have entered my thinking. The restaurant’s lone reviewer at Yelp back in July rated it only one star, noting that the crowd hanging out here, in a traditionally poor neighbourhood of Wallace Emerson close to apartment towers once linked to crime including drugs and prositution, is “interesting.” See, also, the passing mentions in archived discussion threads here and here.

Coffee Time, Dupont and Lansdowne #toronto #wallaceemerson #dupontstreet #lansdowneave #coffeetime

As I noted when I blogged about it back in July of 2017, this Coffee Time’s location was limited. The transformation of the neighbourhood into one populated by tall condos and relatively affordable rentals is ongoing, and substantial: the towers at St. Clarens are no longer the only towers in the area. Approaching from the east, along Dupont from the direction of Dufferin, the Coffee Time stands right in front of a Food Basics grocery store that plays an outsized role in this transforming neighbourhood’s mythology.

Coffee Time by the towers (and Food Basics) #toronto #dupontstreet #wallaceemerson #coffeetime #foodbasics #condos #towers

This Food Basics is location is anchor store for the Fuse Condos development, on the northwest of Dupont and Lansdowne. This new grocery store opening was welcome by some, who saw no reason this store could not co-exist with the FreshCo in the Galleria Mall just a few minutes east at Dupont and Dufferin. To some, this was a betrayal: Fuse Condos had produced a Metro grocery store, a higher-end grocery store with more selection, and some buyers were quite upset. There was even a petition calling for a Metro.

All this was satirized in The Beaverton, and aptly analyzed in the Toronto Star by Edward Keenan. Keenan pointed out that this behaviour was wildly out of place given the decidedly working-class nature of Wallace Emerson. Food Basics, obviously, got installed regardless.

The Coffee Time, though, is now closed. I learned of this from a post at blogTO on Thursday, a post that made use of the first photo I posted above. I walked by Saturday morning in the light of day, and I saw the doors closed, signs thanking customers for their patronage, chairs on tables ready for movers, and someone working at packing away the equipment behind the counter and below the emptied menu display.

Coffee time, closed (1) #toronto #coffeetime #wallaceemerson #dupontstreet #lansdowneave #closed

Coffee Time, closed (8) #toronto #coffeetime #wallaceemerson #dupontstreet #lansdowneave #window #closed

Coffee Time, closed (7) #toronto #coffeetime #wallaceemerson #dupontstreet #lansdowneave #window #reflection #closed

Chelsea Lofts, on the southeast corner of Dupont and Lansdowne, is visible reflected in the Coffee Time window in the last photograph above.

This Coffee Time was far from being an undiscovered gem in the rough in west-end Toronto. It was utilitarian, catering competently to its working- and lower-class demographic in what had been until a bit more than a decade ago a consistently relatively poor area of Toronto. It’s gone. What will happen to its clientele? It may never have been very busy, but there were consistently people there, making use of a relatively affordable restaurant in their community as a meeting space. Where will these people go now?
(The r/toronto thread considers the possibility of a migration down Lansdowne towards Bloor.) There was a public-access computer available for use, presumably for people who lacked home Internet. What will the people who used this computer do now?

I don’t doubt, myself, that there is going to be condo construction on the emptied site on the northeast corner of Dupont and Lansdowne, just as there has been on every other corner there. Nothing has been filed yet, blogTO reported, but that’s only a matter of time. Dupont and Lansdowne is the hub of a rising neighbourhood, blocks and towers reaching into the sky, and all the space that can be freed up for further density in this portion of midtown Toronto so close to downtown Toronto is desperately needed. Wallace Emerson will transition towards a new equilibrium, one where–among other things–the coffee shops will have a rather nicer ambiance.

I am fine with all of this. It’s just that I think a place that has been a landmark in the area where I’ve lived, and that has been a reasonably prominent features for innumerable tens of thousands of people, deserves some commemoration. The Coffee Time at Dupont and Lansdowne was here, was open, was recognizable, and served its purpose. What better can be said of any public space than that? (I just gave it three stars on Yelp!. That seems fair.)

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