I honestly can’t for the life of me figure out what is going on around here – an experiment in INFINITELY increasing density? Toronto is a big city, and there are many other areas with plenty of development potential, but the craze to smash and raze in what used to be a busy but also pleasant neighbourhood around Yonge and Eglinton (long referred-to in our house as Young and Eligible) seems to have gone right off the rails.
Hard to believe now, but there really were a whole cluster of lovely and surprisingly quiet little residential areas centred closely around this long-important intersection, but the human-scale stuff is getting flattened fast – in favour of something that seems headed toward a less and less livable zone, containing more and more people. (Making one wonder rather a lot – who was it exactly who said they wanted that – and why?)
Even without the once highly-civilizing influences of Fran’s restaurant, Edwards books on art, Silver Snail comics, Lightman’s (best magazine shop in the city) and the great massive-screen theatre (smashed for condos, alas) – there is still a fantastic library (Northern district) ‘the good bite’ for classic greasy-spoon fare, BMV, and an only semi-obnoxious multiplex (shockingly-acceptable Americano). But however positive one tries to be, something definitely changes when the whole sky starts getting walled-in.
We all knew that this corner, N E of Yonge and Eglinton, was long doomed to suffer this fate – I’m grateful BMV (books music videos) survived – the builders dug their deep foundation hole right next to BMV’s long-covered side-wall (so come to think of it, I’m also rather grateful that they didn’t collapse!).
For decades, this area was notable for a few long-time residents of small houses who absolutely refused to budge, to make way for condos and office towers – I used to love walking along Holly St in particular, as a shortcut – just to see David still cheerily thumbing his nose at Goliath – tiny ramshackle houses standing brave and alone in vast (and incomprehensibly expensive) cleared lots. All towers now – drat!
Yonge and negligible
The idea of building a transit relief line along Eglinton has been a no-brainer forever – but it would have been so much easier if they’d finished it almost twenty years ago when they started to build it, then got stopped by a radically idiotic and anti-city government. Now, blocking-off this incredibly busy section of Eglinton on both sides of Yonge is not only disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of extra residents – it’s also wrecking businesses that are built on (and taxed for) some of the best concentrated foot-traffic in the city.
My sweet friends living up there are watching every last bit of green-space get paved over, and the concrete rises ever-higher, too – surely the next development up there should be a super-lovely new park (or ten)!
A more cynical friend of mine who used to do security regarded that area with particular suspicion (and lived only a few lights away, for decades). When I asked why, he said, “Do you really think all the crack in the city is sold to the poor people in Parkdale? No way – the heavy trade is all those lonely middle class professionals, depressed and boxed-up in their condos, with no friends and no social-skills.” Creepy, right? Certainly made me think about how modern alienation gets expressed behind closed doors – and this fellow not only proved himself an extraordinarily sharp reader of games and hustling-climates in many unusual situations – he asked even better questions of even more diverse sources than I – so I am rather inclined to trust his read.
Finally – I should explain the top photograph – this was a historical post office built on the even more historical former site of Montgomery’s Inn – where the upper-Canada rebellion came to a head – more about that soon. Not only was this crucial character-defining and precedent-setting history for Canada – but the building was also prized by the neighbourhood (so few of our lovely older stone buildings left now – citizens do often strive to save the nice ones).
The owner, who knew many were seeking to preserve-it in it’s original state, took advantage of a brief window when he wasn’t quite legally prevented (and no one thought he was ready to start work yet) and smashed-out the part he wanted rid-of first thing on a Saturday morning – so no one would be around in the necessary city departments to issue an emergency stop-work order in time. Right up there with the dingbat who is erecting a pocket skyscraper adjacent to a busy kids playground, on a tiny lot that ought to be zoned for a kiosk!
Too bad nobody ever asks me how to plan this stuff. Or you, right? To be clear – I’m not a NIMBY guy. I accept sacrifices and compromises are required. Yes, increased density is eco-necessary, and it also helps preserve downtown vitality as industrial areas fall out of use (something that only seems trivial for those who haven’t seen the opposite). But can’t we spread it around and mix it up a little bit better? Sweet folks need (and deserve) some peace! And I sure don’t remember Mammon being on the ballot!