A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

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[PHOTO] Looking northwest, Church and Wellesley

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Looking northwest, Church and Wellesley

In the afternoon light, the condo towers of the Yonge and Bloor area loom over Church and Wellesley. The northwest corner of this intersection is likewise set for a massive transformation, a condoization. This scene will not be here for much longer.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 7, 2017 at 11:14 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Podium Concepts Revealed at Church & Wellesley Consultation”

Urban Toronto’s Greg Lipinski reports that, on the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, a tall tower will rise. How tall? The developers do not know. Right now, they are concentrated on the question of how to design the streetfront podium, the very base of the tower.

When One Properties purchased buildings at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, the very heart of Toronto’s gay community, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam was ready to hear about another overly tall, dense, boxy development with very little regard to how it will be a benefit to the established community. When she asked One Properties to host a consultation meeting prior to them making a re-zoning application, she was shocked to learn that the developers did not want to proceed with only one meeting, but host three different “pre-app” meetings. This would allow members of the Church & Wellesley community to voice their thoughts and suggestions on how a project here could reach its full potential.

The ultimate vision of the development is to have a 4-storey, 18-metre-high podium, animated with fine grain retail at grade, and reflective of existing retailers in the Village. The podium would also be set-back from the street, allowing more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk, in addition to allowing for more sunlight. A boutique hotel would be on the third and fourth levels of the podium, while the second level would be dedicated to the community. A rental apartment tower would rise from the western side of the site; height scale and massing still to be determined.

A handful of notable firms are involved in this project. Renowned planner Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants is acting as the facilitator for these meetings, while SvN Architects + Planners have been leading roundtable discussions. Claude Cormier & Associés have been chosen as the landscape design firm, with projects in Toronto including the new Berczy Park restoration, the parkette at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, and several more. Bousfields is tackling planning work, while Copenhagen’s 3XN Architects has been chosen to lead the overall design.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Cardinal Rule shacks up with Glad Day on Church”

NOW Toronto‘s Natalia Manzocco describes another good reason to go to Glad Day Bookshop: Roncesvalles diner Cardinal Rule is setting up shop in the location’s kitchen. I really like this addition to Glad Day’s business model, not least because the idea of indie businesses collaborating for greater profit for everyone has a lot of appeal for me.

Even with all the cultural clout that comes from 47 years in business, Glad Day Bookshop had to face up to a tough truth last year: It’s tough for a business to survive on book sales alone.

With a move to spacious new digs in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village (499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-961-4161, gladdaybookshop.com) at the end of 2016, the world’s oldest surviving gay bookstore gained a few new titles – bar, cafe, and multi-use event space.

Its latest sobriquet: restaurant. Before the shelves of books (several of which are on wheels – all the better to make room for dance parties!) were brought in, the ground-floor unit was home to Byzantium, a martini bar and Continental kitchen that served the community for 23 years.

“Byzantium was mostly known as an eating spot. It was a bit of a martini bar in the 90s, but in the last 10 years, most of the people came for the food,” CEO Michael Erickson says. The space was already fully outfitted for cooking and backing, and though meal service was always in the cards for the new space, they weren’t sure if they were up to the task themselves.

“When we talked about what we wanted to do for food, we were like, ‘We want it to be like Cardinal Rule’,” Erickson says. “And then we thought, ‘Why don’t we just ask them?'” Looks like it all worked out. Last week, the beloved queer-owned Roncy diner (co-owners Katie James and chef Marta Kusel are a married couple) debuted its first slate of menu items out of Glad Day.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 16, 2017 at 7:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Cannabis Culture accused of attracting anti-LGBT clients to Toronto’s gay village”

James Goldie’s Daily Xtra article caught my eye on the trip out, not least because of Cannibis Culture owner Marc Emery’s comparison of the plights of LGBT people and marijuana smokers.

The smoke is beginning to clear following an online firestorm that appears to have spilled into the street — over a marijuana shop in the Church-Wellesley Village, with allegations it’s been attracting a clientele unfriendly to LGBT people.

On Jan 3, 2017, the Cannabis Culture shop on Church Street received a one-star public review on its Facebook page, alleging that some of its customers have routinely been making homophobic and transphobic comments, both in the store and outside, causing some LGBT community members to feel unsafe in the village. Three days later, someone splashed blue paint on the shop’s storefront.

Joey Viola, who organizes FML Mondays each week next door at Flash, wrote the review, kicking off the controversy.

“When I had my patrons coming up to me and confiding in me that when they go outside for cigarettes or whatever they’re being harassed by certain loiterers that are outside next door, that prompted me to take a closer look,” Viola says. “Now I don’t see it to be [Cannabis Culture’s] fault, however, they are bringing in some clientele that are not necessarily down with the LGBT lifestyle.”

[. . . Marc] Emery, who is featured prominently in Albert Nerenberg’s 2005 documentary Escape to Canada, which examines the battles to legalize both gay marriage and marijuana, says he was hurt that LGBT opponents to his store’s presence in the neighbourhood don’t stand in solidarity with the cannabis community, given the persecution both have experienced historically.

“We’re still being arrested every day in Canada. We still haven’t had any equal rights for 50 years, the cannabis community.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 16, 2017 at 7:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Is gay village on edge?”

At 24 Hours, Shaun Proulx reports on fear of a new crime wave in Church and Wellesley, perhaps linked to a new marijuana dispensary on Church Street. People who live in the area, what’s your take?

This week, in my backyard, which happens to be in the heart of Toronto’s LGBT community, many are understandably outraged following the physical assault of a young gay man on Church Street, sacred ground and assumed safe space for LGBT people for decades.

On social media, where dialogue about the matter is lively, to say the least, blame is being heavily laid on the “sketch” element a recently opened business is said to be attracting, and, therefore, on the business itself.

Cannabis Culture, a recreational marijuana dispensary owned by Marc “Prince of Pot” Emery, opened its doors September 1st, 2016.

It is attracting, according to anecdotes, a shady customer base, some of whom are alleged to have harassed and bullied LGBT people within Cannabis Culture, while others are alleged to have attacked them verbally and physically out on Church Street itself.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm

[PHOTO] “Books! Booze! Come in and get lit”

This sandwich board on Church Street outside the door of Glad Day Bookshop cheered me up last week. Since its move to the heart of Church and Wellesley, I’ve been trying to go to Glad Day as often as I can. It’s a good bookshop and a great space. Plus, who doesn’t like a bookshop where you can get pints?

Written by Randy McDonald

December 12, 2016 at 12:26 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Downtown street corner had a storied history”

In the Toronto Star, Sean Micallef looks at the history of the southeast corner of Church Street and Dundas Street West, set to be the site of a new condo development.

There’s a quintessential jumble of Toronto shacks on the southeast corner of Church and Dundas Sts. Cheaply built, like so much of Toronto, the jumble is ugly to unsympathetic eyes. Though awaiting a hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board over design details, the buildings will eventually make way for a proposed residential development. Yet, this quotidian corner has housed more Toronto life than seems possible in one place.

A visit to the deep wells of civic memory stored in the old city directories on the second floor of the Toronto Reference Library, randomly selecting volumes about a decade apart from 1915 until 1993, revealed that life. Here’s just a sliver of it.

Part of the redevelopment parcel includes an unpaved parking lot along Church, and buildings on both the north and south side of it bear ghost traces of the structures that once abutted them, addresses numbered 215 to 221. In 1915, Ebenezer Chesney’s cigar shop, the Porter Plumbing Supply Company and various apartment dwellers were here.

In 1925, Porter was still a going concern but the cigar shop was vacant, Hawley Auto Supply had moved in next door, and Samuel Barrett had started selling date products. By 1936, Seto Kwan had set up his tailoring business in Ebenezer’s old place, and Tire Chains & Accessories had opened next door along with the Collins Printing Company next to it. Porter was still in the plumbing business.

In 1947, Kwan had become a “Designing Tailor” and Church Cleaners and the Lewis Fur Company had moved into the block, while Porter Plumbing had evolved into Good Specialties Plumbing and Heating. By 1958, Master Brothers Business Machines was in operation here alongside M & R Enterprises Clothing and Novelties. In 1968, the Club Coffee Company was operating where Kwan once sewed, and next to it Athens Photo Studio had opened and Art Electric Construction had slipped in here too.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 11, 2016 at 8:00 pm