A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘neighbourhood

[URBAN NOTE] “The lost streets of South Parkdale”

Spacing Toronto’s Chris Bateman looks at the history of South Parkdale, a part of the neighbourhood of the same name that got obliterated in the mid-20th century by the construction of the Gardiner.

No Toronto neighbourhood paid for the Gardiner Expressway quite like Parkdale.

Before construction of the lakefront highway in 1958, the land south of Springhurst Avenue and the rail tracks was just like the rest of Parkdale: residential, consisting of mostly detached homes on spacious lots.

At the time, Dunn and Jameson Avenues passed over the rail tracks south to the waterfront and a tangle of smaller streets such as Laburnam and Starr Avenues, Empress Crescent, and Hawthorne Terrace intersected them.

South Parkdale was distinct enough to have its own railway station near the present-day foot of Close Avenue.

The first major road to penetrate the neighbourhood was Lake Shore Boulevard, which snaked south of Exhibition Place along the waterfront toward the Humber River in the 1920s.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2017 at 7:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Koreatown unsure of what comes next after Mirvish Village”

blogTO’s Amy Grief looks at the speculation in Koreatown as to what will happen to this Bloor West neighbourhood after Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village are gone.

Mirvish Village is vacant and Honest Ed’s had its big goodbye party this past weekend. The end is nigh for the southwest corner of Bloor and Bathurst as the wrecking ball slowly swoops in.

While the intersection was lively this weekend, it’s going to be pretty quiet for the next little while. That’s why I spoke to some of those nearby to see what they think about living and working near a ghost town.

“I think it does feel a bit empty in this moment, but I don’t think it’s really hit a lot of us until we start to see the kind of demolition of buildings,” says Adil Dhalla, one of the organizers behind last weekend’s festivities. We spoke as he was setting up the space.

Dhalla is also the executive direct of the Centre for Social Innovation, which is headquartered just south of Honest Ed’s.

The CSI also has a location in Regent Park, so Dhalla knows it can be complicated to watch as a neighbourhood changes.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2017 at 9:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Honest Ed’s redevelopment shows what it takes to make a Village”

The Globe and Mail‘s Alex Bozikovic really quite likes the proposed redevelopment of the area of Honest Ed’s and Mirvish Village.

Mirvish Village is dead. Long live Mirvish Village. In the area near Honest Ed’s this week, workers had put up fences around a string of Victorian houses on Markham Street, preparing to gut them, while creatives assembled an “Art Maze” inside the old Honest Ed’s store for a festival and sendoff, An Honest Farewell, this weekend.

It’s the end of an age at Bloor and Bathurst Streets: the loveable shambles of Honest Ed’s is gone forever. But as this weekend’s events suggest, the past will continue to have a presence on the site.

The new development at Mirvish Village, after two years of conversation between developers Westbank, locals and the city, is inching closer to approval, with a new proposal submitted in January to the city. Westbank paid $72-million for the site, a big number, and yet the result is as good as private development gets in Toronto. It features meaningful preservation of heritage buildings, a serious sustainability agenda, and affordable housing – not to mention an architectural and leasing strategy geared at making the place as lively as possible, even a bit weird.

That’s all because the developers have been ready to engage in meaningful discussion: The city and the community have made this proposal better through talking and listening.

When the first Westbank proposal emerged in early 2015, “I think [the City of Toronto] were surprised by how much we were offering,” the main architect, Vancouver’s Gregory Henriquez, told me last week. “That’s how we deal in Vancouver: We come with our best offer.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 25, 2017 at 7:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “With urbanity denied in North York, what is Scarborough’s fate?”

In the Toronto Star, Shawn Micallef wonders whether North York and Scarborough will be able to break through and emerge from suburbia into “downtownness”, or if politics will prevent this.

The Scarborough Subway comes with a lot of promise.

Though these political promises include economic benefits and increased mobility, there’s also the implicit and explicit promise of the arrival of downtown-style urbanity to Scarborough City Centre, the cluster of office and residential buildings surrounding the Scarborough Town Centre mall and Civic Centre.

Those who arrive in Toronto via Highway 401 from the east pass it all by, and visitors who know little about our city might be forgiven for thinking it’s actually downtown Toronto: it’s an impressive cluster, especially when driving by, just one of the many dense nodes across this city and region.

However, once the car is parked, this city centre doesn’t feel so downtown; instead, there are large swaths of paved parking lot and open space in between the buildings. Some structures are quite fantastic, like the 1973 Raymond Moriyama-designed Civic Centre and the new branch of the Toronto Public Library.

The promise of the Scarborough Subway, should a plan ever be finalized, is to create a more beautiful and humane public realm here, a “downtown neighbourhood” kind of feel that would connect and transform all these buildings and spaces. Much of our fast-growing city was created this way, and it would not be the first Toronto neighbourhood to go from farmers’ field or village to a dense urban core in just half a century or so.

Downtown North York, or North York City Centre (or maybe we can just call it “Uptown” now), is one of these places. Sometimes called the downtown that Mel Lastman built, just a generation or two ago the strip of Yonge St. between Sheppard and Finch Aves. was a low-rise, mid-century streetscape. It still bears those mid-century traces, and even those of the original villages that were here before, like Willowdale and Newtonbrook, but they are fleeting.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Yonge Street project in North York might become casualty of budget debate”

David Rider in the Toronto Star describes how budget shenanigans may hurt a plan to make a large part of Yonge Street in North York, far north of the downtown, more usable for non-vehicular traffic.

City council’s sometimes chaotic 15-hour budget meeting included dozens of choices that won’t generate headlines but can shape Toronto neighbourhoods for years to come.

A 24-20 vote in favour of a Councillor David Shiner motion has thrown a wrench in a long-fostered community plan to remake a stretch of Yonge St. in North York, from Sheppard to Finch Aves., including the addition of bike lanes.

Councillor John Filion, whose Ward 23 encompasses almost all the proposed “Re-imagining Yonge Street” project, says it “might be dead.” He pins much of the blame on Mayor John Tory, whose note to council allies — recommending how they vote on various 20 7 budget items — backed Shiner’s motion.

“This project has been in the works for at least two years, enthusiastically supported by the community and city staff, including the chief planner, to change the bleakness of that strip of Yonge St. — to widen sidewalks, put in bike lanes and other features to try to turn a sea of high rises and storefronts into a real community,” Filion said in an interview Thursday.

“My extreme disappointment is in the mayor — (the Shiner motion) only passed because he was actively supporting it. The mayor’s office was pulling votes away from me.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 8:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The Scarborough roots of Wayne’s World”

blogTO’s Ed Conroy reintroduces readers to the origins of Wayne’s World in Mike Myers’ suburban upbringing in Scarborough.

After a long-ish period of dormancy, it seems Scarborough native Mike Myers is everywhere these days. He published a book last year – Canada – which chronicles his early years growing up in Scarborough, and the affect that offbeat Canadian culture has played in all of his work.

Perhaps even more (in)famously, President Trump referenced his most popular character Wayne Campbell’s “Not!” joke in a tweet recently.

Wayne’s World turns 25 this month and aside from being appropriated by Trump, is being celebrated roundly for holding up and reminding us of a time when Saturday Night Live was actually funny and not a one-note partisan chainsaw.

For many, Wayne’s World the movie (or the SNL sketch) was their first introduction to the Wayne character, and even after all these years it comes as a surprise that Myers had been honing Wayne for a decade previous on local Toronto television.

Myers created the Wayne character as a “bit” to do at parties to impress girls. “Wayne” was a stereotypical Canadian guy, loved hockey and beer, and was cut from the same cloth as classic Canadiana hosers like Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (SCTV and Strange Brew).

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The Stories of Draper Street”

Torontoist’s Erin Sylvester tells the story of downtown Toronto’s Draper Street.

The future site of Draper Street, which runs one way from Front Street West to Wellington Street West, first appears on a map in 1833. It didn’t yet have a name or building lots, but it was the start of what has become a carefully preserved district to reflect what Toronto looked like in the late 19th century.

The first houses—Empire-style cottages—were built on Draper Street between 1881 and 1882. These were paid for by Jonathan Mandell, a developer, and designed by Richard Humphries. These early houses are all semi-detached and one-and-a-half storeys. A new phase of building started in 1886 with semi-detached houses built by the firm Smith and Simpson. The final phase was a row of houses built in 1889 on what was a lumberyard for Wagner Ziedler and Company, the firm that, among other things, did the woodwork and speaker’s dais in the new Ontario Parliament buildings at Queen’s Park, which opened in the 1890s.

Draper Street is part of the King and Spadina neighbourhood, which became an industrial centre in the growing city of Toronto. King and Spadina was the heart of the textile and garment industries, a heritage now reflected in some of the remaining industrial buildings and a giant, colourful button and thimble at the corner of Richmond and Spadina. The area also saw early labour agitation in Toronto, most notably from the Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike in 1931.

Although Draper Street sounds like it fits right in to the textile industry in the neighbourhood, it was actually named for William Henry Draper, a lawyer and local politician who had died in 1877.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 6:00 pm