News   Jan 27, 2022
 156     0 
News   Jan 27, 2022
 64     0 
News   Jan 27, 2022
 440     0 

Kensington Market

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
Kensington Market - Developers

Is Kensington about to get a new suit?

Developers - and the local councillor - have big plans for the market's quiet laneways

Special to The Globe and Mail
June 23, 2007

From his busy perch on Baldwin Avenue, haberdasher Tom Mihalik casts an appraising eye over Kensington Market and sees an area undergoing a kind of revival. "I see new faces and new owners and a lot of young people shopping and opening up stores," he says. So the owner of Tom's Place feels the market doesn't need a makeover so much as a bit of tailoring - repairing a cuff, fixing a seam, maybe adding a nice tie.

With Toronto's real-estate boom going strong all around it, Kensington can't remain tatty forever. As far as Mr. Mihalik is concerned, development in the market is good "as long as they don't try to change it into a mall." And though it may not look like a mall, development is certainly on the way: A group of investors has been quietly buying up land in the laneways and courtyards within Kensington's city blocks.

According to sources, British architect Will Alsop - the iconoclastic designer of the eye-catching addition to the Ontario College of Art & Design - is involved in the venture, possibly drawing up an area master plan that will include the crime-ridden Alexandra Park housing project on the south side of Dundas.

While Mr. Alsop was in town last week promoting an exhibition of his paintings of a reimagined Kensington, he denied having a commission. But he said the area is crying out for more density. "We'd love to be involved there."

The question is whether such moves are paving the way for the gentrification of Kensington Market.

For years, Kensington worked because it didn't quite work. The market's eclectic chaos evolved organically, thanks to generations of immigrant merchants operating in tiny shops on narrow lots, many with residences opening onto rear service laneways.

The streets aren't easily navigated, and fractured land-ownership patterns allowed Kensington to remain essentially unchanged for decades. "The market," area councillor Adam Vaughan says, "has naturally built-in deficiencies that allow it to survive."

But in the past few years, the roster of market merchants has grown to include a controversial Valu-mart supermarket, a spiffy chain bakery, several upscale restaurants and a pair of loft developments. Perhaps not coincidentally, the area's growing popularity has received a boost from Pedestrian Sundays, now in its fourth year.

The 16 investors behind the land assembly want to open up entirely new development opportunities by building mixed-use infill projects (a mix of retail, residential and other commercial buildings) along the market's network of laneways. Most are now difficult to access and lined with derelict structures, although there are several laneway residences. Mr. Vaughan has met with the investors and was shown architectural renderings. When it comes to the market's familiar streetscape, he says he has been assured "not one brick will be touched."

Mr. Vaughan also feels there are public-space improvements to made, such as transforming one parking lot - locked inside the block northwest of Spadina and Dundas - into an open-air market to complement the merchants operating on Kensington's internal streets. "The laneways create new ways of circulating through the market. If they were turned into mews, you could develop street faces and a whole new shopping environment that is car-free," Mr. Vaughan says. "Is there an opportunity to play here that the neighbourhood might be interested in?"

Any change may well be a tough sell for the market's famously anarchic denizens. "It's a whole big shift for the market," admits Yvonne Bambrick, one of the co-founders of Pedestrian Sundays. Like most Kensington aficionados, she worries about the spectre of gentrification, although she says there should be more housing.

While Mr. Vaughan insists that he's "totally committed" to establishing a public consultation process, it's far from clear how the city should respond to signals that redevelopment activity may be in the offing.

The city's traditional approach to the area has been one of benign neglect - a stance that helps sustain its funkiness and resilience. For the past few years, however, the city has had no secondary plan for Kensington, which is designated as a historically significant district in the official plan. "It's probably a Queen West waiting to happen," says one planning insider, referring to the development frenzy that slammed into the Queen West Triangle in the past two years.

In that case, city planners were caught unprepared for the rush of high-density development applications on several blocks between Queen and the railway corridor.

The conditions for a reprise seem ripe. As Mr. Mihalik points out, "Real-estate prices have gone up everywhere except Kensington. I would like to see owners who've been here for 30 or 40 years get a decent return on their investment. That's only fair."

The real estate is also more closely held than many residents assume. "It's a handful of people who own most of the properties here," says Victor Pavao, owner of Casa Açoreana, a café and bulk-food emporium on Augusta Avenue.

If the city moved to make the market's warren-like laneways more accessible - a process that would involve expropriations, public-space improvements and changes to the city's policy of rejecting laneway development - it could trigger a jump in real-estate prices as galleries, boutiques and cafés move in to these newly created mews.

At present, planning officials say they've received no formal or informal inquiries about development. The city isn't working on any sort of area planning study, which often signals to the development industry that an area is ripe for redevelopment.

The other piece of the puzzle is Alexandra Park, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation complex just south of the market. Mr. Vaughan confirms that the TCHC is studying the idea of a joint redevelopment along both sides of Dundas Street. "I have asked everyone to think of [them] as two neighbourhoods that could both benefit from collaboration," he says.

Mr. Alsop says he's intrigued by the notion of combining Alexandra Park and the market, as well as building funky infill projects, including some that would "hover" over the area - his signature design.

That kind of planning could lead to the provision of new affordable housing south of Dundas. But Mr. Alsop feels that such changes will also draw more tourists and prompt "wealthy people" to move into the market. Rents are unlikely to remain low, he adds, citing the way London's quirky Portobello Road market district became "super unaffordable" after being featured in the movie Notting Hill.

Change is inevitable, Mr. Alsop says. "Kensington could become a really interesting place." But then many would say it already is.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
Will Alsop's Kensington Market is a neighbourhood at risk

The Star
Jun 12, 2007 04:30 AM
Christopher Hume

If Will Alsop had done nothing in Toronto after the "flying tabletop" at OCAD, his contribution would be enshrined forever.

But the London-based architect/artist remains committed to this city. As well as opening an office here, he is working on several other projects and, last week, opened his first exhibition of artworks at the Olga Korper Gallery.

Though it may not be immediately apparent, the subject of these multi-layered, multimedia pieces is our very own Kensington Market, a neighbourhood Alsop loves but also one he worries about.

"What interests me," he explains, "is that Kensington's so lively. But it manages to be vibrant by anti-design. At the same time, you know that developers are assembling sites as we speak. It's going to change. That makes me nervous. There's also a strong community in Kensington that will resist change. That's not good either. We need to figure out what we can do to make it better."

Being as much an anarchist as an artist or architect, Alsop's ideas aren't likely to be embraced by all Torontonians. As he points out, this city's openness to projects such as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the Frank Gehry remake of the Art Gallery of Ontario and his own building on stilts at the Ontario College of Art and Design is a recent phenomenon.

"Toronto's still quite delicate in its newfound bravery," Alsop notes. "What I see here is a residue of colonialism."

The knee-jerk negativity of the reaction to Daniel Libeskind's Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum points to the provincialism Alsop sees.

"It's fantastic," he says. "You can tell it suffered through a few budget cuts, but it's clearly an important building."

Given that so much of the criticism comes from the local architectural community, Alsop's willingness to praise the Crystal puts him in a category of his own.

But, Alsop insists, "I like it here. I feel comfortable. Toronto is an international city and that's the measure of things."

Certainly, he seemed comfortable at the opening of his show last week, surrounded by dozens of admirers and his ever-present entourage. Judging from the number of pieces marked sold, those in attendance liked what they saw.

The works themselves are more whimsical than anything. Alsop works by adding layer upon layer, often starting with geometrical patterns vaguely reminiscent of architectural drawings. Above them float images and shapes intended to conjure up the experience of Kensington, which is messy, unplanned and full of variety.

The same could be said of Alsop's approach to architecture. His greatest strength is that he doesn't suffer from the fear of failure that hobbles most practitioners. It's no wonder the work of so many architects is conservative to the point of dullness; they are trained to follow their clients' bidding and are, therefore, unwilling to take risks.

Alsop is happiest when pushing boundaries and dispensing with expectations. Being essentially playful helps; this is one designer who manages to be outrageous and reassuring at the same time.

There's no better monument to these remarkable skills than the Ontario College of Art and Design building; if any other architect had proposed a similar scheme – a building on stilts – the neighbours would have screamed bloody murder. Instead, the residents were the first to take credit for the project. Now that's brilliant.

With this exhibition, provocatively titled "Cultural Fog," Alsop establishes himself as a Torontonian in spirit if not in law. This may not be home, but it feels like it

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score

Alsop’s Kensington stop
UK architect’s paintings honour one of his favourite Toronto spots

British architect Will Alsop, known for radically visionary buildings that could have been borrowed from the set of Pee-wee's Playhouse, has championed Toronto in the last decade.

Along with his whimsical tabletop building on multicoloured stilts (OCAD's Sharp Centre for Design), he has plans for a bright new, though hotly contested, condominium in the Queen West triangle and has set up an architectural office here.

A new show of paintings at Olga Korper Gallery, Cultural Fog, further cements this relationship. They all centre on his impressions of one of Toronto's most beloved neighbourhoods: Kensington Market.

Not to worry no one is planning a shopping mall or a multiplex. Alsop is drawn to Kensington precisely because it mirrors his urban thinking. Spontaneous, anarchic and largely improvised, it has the kind of unplanned and grubby vibrancy Alsop favours. His paintings are his way of thinking about Kensington and how cities can achieve a balance between the DIY elements favoured by ordinary citizens and the inevitable forces of urban planning and commercial development.

What jumps out first in this show is Alsop's almost manic vibrancy, spilling out in layers of colour, texture and form. As an architect he blurs the line between work and play; these paintings are part architectural doodle, part brainstorm and part intentional work of art.

At the deepest layer of each painting is a wash or rubbing of textured grey that recalls sidewalks or masonry. These are overlaid with his trademark amorphous blobs, collaged images, keywords, bright ribbons of primary colour and metallic paint.

Little details point at a theme: each painting has a small handwritten paragraph referencing the daily experiences of fictional citizens on their way through the city.

In fact, the idea of the city (as a marketplace, a locus of work and play, a vibrant centre where things happen) is seamlessly caught up in his architectural thinking. The city, Alsop might be saying, demands to be constantly, playfully reimagined and toyed with, a playground that doubles as a market and a school.

At this crucial juncture in Toronto's self-conscious development into a cosmopolitan mecca, this kind of thinking is indispensable.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score

Toronto as Muse
Will Alsop discusses his methodology for painting and urban planning.

By Leah Sandals
Posted August 8, 2007

While Will Alsop is a widely-known architect, he is perhaps one of the world’s lesser-known painters. But with Cultural Fog, his North American gallery debut at the Olga Korper Gallery in Toronto, Alsop could soon be known for both enterprises.

His paintings explore Kensington Market, a historic (and historically anti-development), inner-city Toronto neighborhood where Alsop is reported to be working on a new, and potentially sprawling, housing project. The paintings can be seen as professional blueprints for what could become a highly contested project. On the other hand, Alsop’s sketches can be read as a personal lament for the potential loss of a uniquely bohemian aesthetic.

At the gallery’s opening, Alsop explained how his art integrates and diverges from his architecture, how his images navigate between density and sprawl, and that he really doesn’t know what any given building will do, after all.

So here is a painting show by an architect—you—who has offices in five cities, worldwide commissions, and consequently is always on the go. How do you find the time to create your paintings?
Well, I always have painted. I’ve always been associated with art, either through friends or by going to art school. I suppose my real closest friends are artists rather than architects. So it’s always around me.

In terms of painting practice, I spend blocks of time in Norfolk, England with my good friend Bruce Maclean—we just paint away during vacations. It’s pure luxury. I also have a house by the sea in England and a studio at the end of the garden there. That’s where these paintings were made.

When you’re traveling, how do you gather material for paintings?
Well, in this particular case, I got the material just by hanging around, drinking, watching people and thinking about the place. And then I had a lot of photographs as well, which helped just to bring it back. I think it’s quite an interesting area.

How so?
A number of things really interested me. It’s an area that’s been messed around, but it’s been messed around by the people that live there. It’s clearly very scruffy, yet because of that it has a vibrancy. Obviously there is something about that market that people like. Otherwise they wouldn’t go. It’s a good place to hang out, buy cheese and meat, and do other things.

In a way it represents the opposite of what an area would look like if you gave a neighborhood to an urban designer and said “Do something with this.†That would actually just sanitize the whole thing, you just know that.

Also, the central business district is quite close to this area, close enough to see. So I started to wonder, “Hmmmm. How long will this stay like this? How long is it before someone starts to put their mucky fingers on this place?†Then I came to the conclusion that it’s inevitable.

Therefore I started to ask myself, how could you allow a place like this to evolve a bit more quickly? How could you increase the density? More people should live near the center of the city. In my view, it has nothing to do with community or anything else—you can’t take something that is quite a large area, right in the middle of the city, and leave it low-density due to nostalgia. That’s my starting point.

I really perceive a tension in these paintings between the kinds of buildings you make, represented by cubes and cleaner shapes in the background of the images, and the detritus of everyday life, like splashes of paint, squiggles of charcoal, or sketches of shoes and lampshades in the foreground. Did you feel some internal conflict while painting?

In a way, the simple answer is yes. But I’m pleased you see it. I mean, all of those objects are things that I saw in the Market. Some of them are very common garden objects, and some of them are extraordinary. There’s one jug that’s just beautiful. I’ve never seen a jug like that. Maybe it’s the only one in the world, who knows? But it reminded me of some of Picasso’s ceramics, which is probably why I was attracted to it.

I was interested in the relationship between those objects in the market and some of the objects on a much larger scale that that you might introduce: buildings or workshops or studios or whatever. For instance, the shoes [in the painting] have a certain symbolism for me. I was playing with the title Going for Gucci. Because do you want Gucci in that market? Probably. I’m not against that. But not all Gucci; there’s that mix of cheap and expensive that is interesting. Will it ever work? I don’t know the answer.

I’ve read that painting is often part of an architect’s sketching process for buildings. Is that true?
Yes, well, it’s not always about painting the form of a building; it might be the feel. I like painting because it’s very imprecise. In my studio in London I have a large wall with a huge piece of canvas on it. It’s like one page of a sketchbook. One canvas might hold ideas for two or three different projects which I’ve got in mind. When it’s full I take it down and put up another one. It’s like a giant page.

But one thing about painting, I find, is it’s extremely tiring. After three to four hours of solid working, you really feel you need a bit of rest.

You find architecture easier, then?
Oh, yeah. I think it’s dead easy. [Laughs.] The politics of it is something different, of course. But you can work all day on a computer, less so on a painting. Not so good for the eyes, but not as tiring. And it’s not as satisfying, actually. What I feel I’ve achieved is all locked up in this box. I have to print it up. And even then, it’s not quite the same.

It’s less tactile, perhaps?
Well, I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious, but when I’m painting I’m looking for something that’s behind the image. I want to see beyond what I know. And I haven’t reached any conclusion from them yet. Because they are done as works in themselves, they’re just posing questions.

In architecture you have to go on to answers. I don’t like the word solutions, because perhaps it was never a problem in the first place. But in architecture you do have to provide some recommendation as to how things might change and what they might be.

Now you seem to like art and artists, but some of your developments are not well received by them. The Westside Lofts, which you’re designing for another Toronto neighborhood, Queen West, have been protested by groups of artists who claim they are being displaced by such developments. Given this—and that you’re often quoted as encouraging integration of community feedback into architecture—what’s your response here?
Well, I think you have to talk. You have to talk rather than just work behind their backs. And at the same time, I think change is inevitable. It really is. And to be honest, that area is not very good. Kensington Market is grotty, but it’s interesting and lots of people go. But not lots of people go to Queen West.

I don’t think anyone has a right to stop things from happening. You have a right, though, to contribute to the debate of what else could go there. And I like working with people and knowing what they have to say. Sometimes they abuse the invitation when I try to draw them in. And some just worry about their taxes. I can’t do anything about that. But I can make a place which perhaps does reflect some of their dreams and wishes and desires. Sounds arrogant, but it’s not meant to be.

So neighborhoods can be made better if residents are willing to accept change, and participate in changing it.
If it’s going to change, and it will change, then how do you go about that? What’s the nature of the evolution? That building that many of the Queen West artists are in is actually in appalling condition. They live there and I assume it doesn’t cost them much. So okay, you need somewhere to live, somewhere to work, that’s not too expensive. What can you do about that?

Perhaps we could—and these are idiotic figures—we could build 150 floors on that flat share of land and then get that invested back to pay for better studios for you, and maybe there’s some affordable units in the tower and then you live and you work in the same area.

Height’s not the enemy. There is a responsibility that the whole city of oronto has—and indeed, many other cities—to increase density in the downtown areas. And Queen West is downtown. And you can’t just leave things–-because if that’s your attitude—“no changeâ€â€”it actually results in mile after mile of subdivisions as you drive north of this city. And that’s highly irresponsible.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
Kensington Market - Nightclub, Restaurant, and Bar Fallout

Nightclubs, restaurants, and bars
Bar wars heat up in city
Feb. 18, 2006. 09:58 AM

Chris DeVita is acting like it's his day in court.
"This is what it sounds like at 12:30 on a Tuesday night."
He hits a button and holds up his laptop. Silence. He pulls the computer back to his lap.
"And this is what it sounds like on a Thursday night."
Loud voices fill the room. There's some music, but it sounds more like a big crowd, laughing, chatting and sometimes yelling. He stops the recording after a few minutes. It's just a tiny piece of his prosecution, though this is hardly a courtroom.
It's early January and about 25 stakeholders have gathered at a community meeting to deal with Supermarket, Kensington Market's hottest nightspot. While many locals consider a new place to party good news, DeVita and his wife, Cara Valiquette, take an opposing view — one that stares directly from their bedroom to Supermarket's front door.
"Since Supermarket has gone in there, we haven't slept properly from Wednesday to Saturday nights. It's constantly waking up in the night. People have puked and urinated on our door. There have been lots of fights," DeVita tells the room.
He goes on. About the cabs idling. About the yelling and the noise violations. Today's meeting was supposed to help solve some of these problems, but it devolves into bickering.
Residents start fighting with one another over "who's lived here longer." By the end, nobody leaves happy. And no one is any closer to an answer.
A few weeks later, at their home, renovated from the "sh--hole" it once was, the couple is still frustrated.
"The city has bylaws on the books about noise, but they aren't enforcing them. If they want another entertainment district here, all they have to do is tell us, but by doing nothing, the situation just gets worse," DeVita says. "The question is, what kind of Kensington Market do they want?"
Skirmishes like this are happening all over the city. As Toronto's population grows, downtown becomes more concentrated, leaving an increasing number of new bars and restaurants bumping up against residential neighbours. It has long been an issue in the entertainment district — the area bounded by Spadina Ave., York St., Queen St. W. and Lake Shore Blvd. — but as businesses and condos proliferate in areas such as Kensington Market and King St. W., tensions increase between residents and bar owners.
When conflicts arise, both sides expect resolution to come from the city and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, but it's rarely an easy path.
A Friday night at Supermarket starts casually enough. The restaurant is half full at 8 p.m. Deejay music plays and it's relatively quiet.
Co-owner Greg Botrell has a mantra: "This is a restaurant."
Technically speaking, under its license Supermarket is a restaurant. This is supposed to limit the dance floor to no more than six per cent of total space.
But there's a grey area here. Early in the evening, there is no dance floor at Supermarket.
By midnight, it has transformed. Some tables are cleared away for dancing. It's a battle of elbows just to walk to the bathroom. Outside, a lineup is forming, and people are smoking on the patio.
This has been Botrell's formula for years. Get the early customers with food, then lure the clubbing crowd later. "You can't just do dinner," says Botrell. "I think in the past five to seven years, with all the development and big boom of construction and the changing crowd in the city, operators are doing more with restaurants, bars and supper clubs as opposed to big nightclubs."
But the city seems to see the restaurant-then-nightspot trend as a loophole.
"Yeah, it's war on the supper clubs," Botrell says. But the city has no designation for supper clubs — it's either a restaurant or a nightclub.
At the community meeting in January, Botrell was praised by authorities as a good operator who has acted quickly when told of problems. Despite that, he's wary of what's coming down.
"I can just tell that they are going to do something. I don't understand why the city doesn't want to sit down with operators that are not doing anything illegal," Botrell says.
"It seems like they want to change the rules because they've never had a good set of rules for nightclubs, restaurants and bars, as it never has been differentiated. We follow the rules ... but it sometimes feels like the city is looking at us for violations."
Since Supermarket has moved into the area, Kensington has experienced a renaissance. Other bars like the Embassy and Ronnie's Local have moved in. Galleries like X-Space and cool skate shop Adrift also host parties on a regular basis. Some residents see the revived Augusta Ave. as a good development for the market.
Lifetime resident Bert Rebelo, 46, says the new places are "a problem, but it's better than all the drug dens going down the street that it used to be." He's sympathetic to Supermarket, but is pretty pissed off at Neutral, another bar on Augusta that has kept him up nights.

Down on West Queen West, another battle has been settled. Sort of.
"A lot of people point at our case and say, `See, the system works.' But to my point of view, the system didn't work," says Misha Glouberman, who wound up the neighbourhood representative in a brawl over a bar's patio.
"We came to a happy conclusion and that's wonderful. But it's also fair to say it took like six to 12 months of work by about a half dozen neighbours who were working really intensely, the bar owners, and much more work from the city councillor's office than they should have done," he said."It should have taken an afternoon."
Glouberman's a man about town who hosts the lively Trampoline Hall debates and the Room 101 gaming night at the Drake Hotel, among other things. He lives next to The Beaconsfield, the hipper-than-thou pub across from the Drake. After The Beaconsfield moved in, neighbours were alarmed by a plan to open a 120-person patio.
Glouberman acted. He started the Queen-Beaconsfield residents association to organize the neighbourhood and contacted the city and Councillor Adam Giambrone. Eventually they struck a deal: There would still be a patio but smaller than planned and it would close nightly at 11 p.m.
"It's working well," says Beaconsfield manager Carlos Fernandes. "Since (Glouberman's) so close I'll call him on a Friday or Saturday night to make sure that things aren't too loud." Glouberman says compromise and communication are crucial. "There are still some conflicts, but both sides are in touch with each other. And that's the way I think the city should work."
`I've got 350,000 reasons to stay right here.'
Kensington resident Chris DeVita
It's easy to be sympathetic toward residents. They have roots in their areas, while bars attract a transitory clientele. But good bar owners are business people who have done a great deal to help revitalize the city.
"What's driving the residents downtown? What came first? When we first opened a club in the entertainment district it was a desolate area, all the warehouses had closed down, there was nobody there," says Nick Di Donato, owner of the Liberty Entertainment Group, which runs several bars across the city including The Phoenix, C Lounge and the Crystal Room.
"Clubs and restaurants bring a vibrancy to the city. Without those, nobody's going to live downtown and then the condos that the city loves will be worth even less."
Di Donato is one of the poster boy operators in town, often consulting on city committees and industry associations. He's not too concerned about some of the changes to licences, such as additional security, since "there's not one (change) that's new that we don't already do in our facilities."
He wants people to remember that bars are not necessarily an enemy.
"You can't say the bars are always the bad guy. We have requirements for intoxicated patrons. Now (the city has) implemented requirements for noise. There are requirements for security. We were doing these things already," Di Donato says.
He adds that it's hard to know where responsibility lies for any conflict: with the business, the city, the police department or the rowdy individuals.
"That's the biggest challenge. The people who are really causing the trouble aren't the ones who are being treated as guilty."
Di Donato understands the city's need to crack down, but worries that good operators will be driven out of business.
"Why don't you move?" is the top question asked of people who choose to live downtown and complain about living near bars. It usually elicits a strong response.
Kensington Market's Valiquette and DeVita have thought about moving, but say the options for selling are limited."As it stands, we can't sell this as residential or rent it out for that matter, because people won't be able to sleep here. So that pretty much only leaves the commercial listing service," says Valiquette.
"But I love this home. We've put a lot of work into it."
DeVita is more blunt: "I've got 350,000 reasons to stay right here."
Others are equally attached to their neighbourhoods.
Kate Sheppard is an artist who lives on the Toronto Islands, and is involved in a protracted battle between the community and the massive nightclub The Docks nearby on the mainlaind.
"My parents courted on these islands. It's in my roots. It's a safe place to raise my children. I did consider moving many times, and at times it felt like it may have been easier to move as opposed to take on this business. But this is my community and it's my home," says Sheppard. "I'm representing islanders who are 70 and 80 years old and going absolutely crazy because of the noise," she says. "There are certain rights that you have when you are a homeowner, and you can't be taken hostage by a big business."
Glouberman considers the question of moving.
"You should not expect (downtown) to be as quiet as the suburbs, or as the country," he says.
"But I think if you live downtown and you pay rent or own a house, you should be able to live in the reasonable expectation that somebody isn't going to play really loud music outside your window every night of the week until 2:30 in the morning."
Glouberman says regulating bars and nightclubs will help ensure balance. He points out the only area in town built without regulation is the entertainment district, which he says "looks more like Spring Break with guns" than a sophisticated, urban area.
"If I lived in a real big city, like New York or Berlin or Chicago, I'd live in a city with much stricter regulation on bars than Toronto does," Glouberman notes.
Sheppard also points to New York City, where within a few years police officers will be equipped with handheld noise detectors to deal with disputes immediately.
Though the city has been slow to enforce its bylaws and deal with complaints, there does seem to be new effort to cope with the escalating tension between bars and neighbours. The city has enacted moratoriums on busy strips, such as College St. W. Former councillor Olivia Chow called for another one, banning new club construction in the entertainment district.
And this week, the King/Spadina residents association won a decision through council banning any new nightclubs in the area west of Spadina.
The city now requires bars and nightclubs to pay more for insurance and provide one security guard for every 100 patrons. As well, the Ontario government now regulates private security guards, including bouncers, who require training and licensing.
All this recent momentum has some owners concerned.
"I'd definitely call it a crackdown," says one club owner who preferred not to give his name. "Some of the things make sense, but you can see it as just another means of trying to take control of something that they really haven't thought very much of."
Helen Kennedy, assistant to city Councillor Martin Silva — who took over when Olivia Chow became an M.P. last month — sympathizes with frustrated residents."It takes a long time from the time that you call in your first noise complaint to the time that anything is done to respond, to be accountable," Kennedy says.
As well, it seems that there are levels of bureaucratic wrangling. While the city and Ontario's alcohol and gaming commission have differing responsibilities (the commission grants liquor licences, the city deals with business licences), both can deal with these conflicts. However, according to spokesman Ab Campion, the alcohol and gaming commission is wary of wading into some of these issues.
"Basically our position is that we don't want to take on the role of becoming the planning authority for 600 municipalities in Ontario," Campion says. He says it should be up to the city, not the province, to take action in controlling the bars and dealing with these conflicts.
Glouberman sums it up rather simply.
"A big part of it is that the laws are incredibly poorly written, really badly enforced and incredibly unclear to everybody and that's true for the neighbours and the bars. It gives a false sense of civic involvement," he says. "So I have tremendous sympathy for the bars in this situation too. I don't think the bars are the villains here at all."
DeVita and his wife aren't sure what they're going to do next. Kennedy says Silva's office has decided to hold another community meeting in Kensington in March. But after feeling the last one was a waste of time, the couple don't know whether there's a point.
They have talked about getting a lawyer but hope things can be resolved peaceably.
Otherwise, DeVita may have his day in court after all.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
Same problem, different scenario...

Lessons from College St.'s conflict

When new residents move into bar areas, there's bound to be tension in the air

Jul 29, 2007 04:30 AM
Murray Whyte
staff reporter. The Star

Edney Hendrickson has close-cropped black hair, twin pierced ears, a boyish appearance, and a serious case of hot-under-the-collar.

"It's a witchhunt, pure and simple," he seethes. It's Thursday night at Octopus Lounge, a low-key hotspot off College St. W. that Hendrickson owns with partner Kirk Adore. (Here, in the ahead-of-the-curve world of College St., Wednesday is the new Friday, and Thursday has been Saturday for years.) And by Hendrickson's reckoning, things are not as they should be.

Three and a half years ago, when Octopus opened, it was a welcome addition to the area's bars and restaurants – a compact boîte where the later hours would often see the entire place on its feet, dancing.

Now? A different story. "I had a municipal enforcement officer drop by one night," Hendrickson says. "He basically laid it on the line: `We don't want you here. The residents don't want you here. And if we can find a way to get you out of here, we will.' It was so unprofessional, I was shocked."

Hendrickson isn't the only one who feels confused. A spate of liquor licence suspensions in the past year along the busy entertainment strip – more than a dozen, all told – and the constant attentions of either inspectors from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario or the city's noise bylaw officers have left bar and restaurant owners feeling unwelcome in their own neighbourhood.

And it has become their neighbourhood as much as anyone else's. Since the '50s, when the stretch of College St. bound by Bathurst St. and Ossington Ave. was colonized by recently arrived Italian immigrants, Little Italy has changed drastically, from working class ethnic enclave to, by the early '90s, an eclectic mix of bars and eateries. Ever-increasing property pressures have prompted what some have taken to calling a showdown between the area's most recently arrived residents, many of them in new condominiums right on the busy strip, and the bar and restaurant owners that were left to proliferate before their arrival. It leaves the neighbourhood in the awkward position of potentially uprooting the very character – vibrant, non-stop social activity – that drew people here in the first place.

"It really seemed like last year, they came out in full force," says Allan Thomson, who owns Sotto Voce, a stylish restaurant at Queen and Clinton Sts. Last summer, Thomson received a letter from Toronto Police Service's 14 Division, which sometimes works in concert with the AGCO and has enforcement authority. Thomson calls it a "friendly warning."

"It said they were going to crack down on College St., so behave yourself," Thomson recalls. "I thought, `That's fine; we're not doing anything wrong.'"

And then, Thomson got charged with overcrowding. The AGCO suspended his licence for 10 days, forcing him to close down in March. "We were maybe a few people over," Thomson shrugs. "In the past, the inspectors would come in and say, `You've got too many people on your patio,' and I'd fix it right away. No harm done. Now, they write you up on the spot. It's frustrating. We're trying to create something here that promotes the city, and this is how we're treated."

It's part of what lawyer David Winer, who represents clients dealing with liquor-licence issues, calls a rash of "very overzealous enforcement of the (liquor control) act by inspectors without any discretion. And," he continues, "they do have discretion."

Discretion, for example, to warn Thomson and not charge him outright. But it seems the days of discretion have passed, and no one can quite understand why. (When asked for comment, the on-duty officer at 14 Division said "there was no order to crack down on College Street.")

Some speculate that the recent horror show in the so-called Entertainment District, a cluster of nightclubs near Richmond and Peter Sts., with its fights, shootings and almost nightly disruptions, has made city and provincial officials wary of another hyper-social zone spiralling out of control.

"They nailed the club district hard," says the owner of a recently suspended College St. club who asked not to be named. "They can't just nail the club district."

Others point to the ongoing surge of property values here, as well as the expansion of residences from adjacent streets and onto College itself, with new condos either built or being planned on some of the street's hot zones.

Astra Burka, the chair of the Palmerston Area Residents Association, said the problem wasn't the influx of restaurants, but the changing character of College St. restaurants and cafés themselves. "We used to have a lot of restaurants. Now a lot of them are becoming lounges."

Particularly vexing, she says, is the elastic definition of a liquor licence is slack. "Everyone hands in applications – `Oh, we're just doing a restaurant.' And then it's lounge, lounge, lounge. There's something wrong with that picture."

Whatever the case, all establishments, from late-night bars to family-oriented bistros, are feeling the pinch. Winer, who represents Hendrickson and Wayne Parent, who owns Teatro, the restaurant next door to Octopus, cites another College St. establishment that he declines to name – "a nice, family restaurant" – where an employee took down the framed liquor licence to dust the shelves behind it. An inspector was watching, waiting. As soon as the licence was no longer visibly displayed, he served the restaurant with a violation.

The stories on College are numerous, and growing. Another family-oriented café was written up for its patio being over capacity. ("Maybe if you counted the three baby strollers, we were over capacity," scoffs the owner, who asked not to be named.) China Doll, an of-the-moment eatery and lounge, was hassled by AGCO inspectors to take down an Absolut Vodka sign, when a billboard across the street advertised Budweiser. (China Doll was later suspended for overcrowding.)

Ab Campion, the AGCO's spokesperson, says mercy isn't part of an inspector's job. "We expect licencees to run their businesses within the parameters of their licence, end of story."

At Teatro, those parameters have increasingly had little leeway. The establishment has been suspended twice in the past year, resulting in two separate three-week closures. Parent deals with 14 Division often, which he calls "lovely. `Keep an eye on it, keep it down' – that's their attitude. The AGCO inspectors? Relentless and unpleasant."

Many bar and restaurant owners are now walking on eggshells. At Octopus, Hendrickson regularly engages a sound engineer to check the decibel level on the sidewalk outside, to make sure it's well below prescribed limits.

In September, Octopus will be forced to close for 10 days, for overcrowding. "We were maybe three people over," Hendrickson shrugs. A sign on the wall reads capacity: 92. "That's the process. I get it. But we run a tight ship. There has never been one incident here – ever."

Speaking of process, Hendrickson produces a thick package, dropped off by a municipal licensing officer, which he slaps on the table in front of him. It outlines the process Octopus will have to undertake in two years, when it looks to renew its business licence. The package suggests it will need a nightclub permit to operate.

"They want us to have metal detectors, security guards," he laughs bitterly. But it's a moot point. The application would require the approval of local residents, who would surely vote it down – thus killing Octopus where it sits.

Hendrickson looks across the street, at a bank of new condominiums that opened in the past year. "We were here three years before they even broke ground," Hendrickson says. "Isn't this part of the reason you came here in the first place? You're moving to College St. – what do you expect?"


Member Bio
Apr 22, 2007
Reaction score
Nice start!

The idea -- for now at least -- is to try and keep one thread per neighbourhood to discuss intensely local issues affecting that nabe. That is why I've merged your two threads together.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
Pedestrian Sundays

I'm against Pedestrian Sundays because they accomplish nothing other than turning my neighbourhood into an event, and the only ones who benefit are restauranteurs and bar owners. Other merchants lose. Residents become unwillingly caged in a noisy CNE-like zoo.

Kensington Market is already one of the few urban areas in which pedestrians, bicycles, and motor vehicles blend seamlessly. It's always been a true neighbourhood, warts and all. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Anyway... here are some other considerations.

A pedestrian zone won't jell if people have no reason to be with each other.

Car-free streets may drive out the poor

Can we make streets safer and more pedestrian-friendly by simply doing away with signs, rules and curbs? It would be a huge step in the right direction.

The trip-up? We may encourage insidious gentrification in the process of making our neighbourhoods more pedestrian-friendly.

Dutch engineer Hans Monderman, one of dozens of experts at the international Walk21 conference held here October 1 to 4, argues that removing easy separations and directives from our roads forces people and cars to think as they negotiate their way through space. The more uncertain they feel in their environment, the less risky their behaviour.

Years of experimentation in the Netherlands show that Monderman's "shared streets- philosophy works, reducing speeds and accidents.

But can it work in car-centric T.O.?

City Hall has just embarked on an ambitious project to create a "walking strategy- for our city. Daniel Egan, manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, says the goal is to create "an action plan to make Toronto walkable.- T.O. hosted Walk21, he says, to learn from the best examples around the world.

City Hall also wants to hear from us, and released its Steps Towards A Walkable City discussion paper before the conference to prompt citizen input. A few preliminary proposals, including to study Monderman's shared streets idea, were adopted by the Works Committee.

Monderman's vision is compelling. But others at the conference raise practical questions.

Clive Wood of the UK's Guide Dogs for the Blind Association says the lack of definition in the shared streets model creates "no-go- areas for the visually impaired.

Other delegates wonder about the demand of North American fire services for wide, clear roads. And engineers often fear that deviating from accepted standards may open them up to liability. We don't have the luxury of the Netherlands' laws. There, drivers who hit pedestrians are assumed to be liable unless they can prove otherwise.

Thomas Schweizer of the Swiss Pedestrian Association presents a variation on shared streets that may be more easily adapted to Canada.

Like those in the Netherlands, Switzerland's "pedestrian priority zones,- in main shopping areas as well as residential neighbourhoods, remove the curbs that confine pedestrians to the margins, but keep the bollards and street furniture that keep cars at bay. But unlike shared streets, pedestrian priority zones are enforced by some regulations: cars are restricted to 20 kilometres per hour.

Chris Ouellette of the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation suggests that Cumberland Street in Yorkville would be an ideal place to put the theory to the test.

"It's already only a step away from a shared street,- he notes, "with such a lively pedestrian atmosphere that cars are reduced to a snail's pace and pedestrians have the effective right-of-way. It would be a quick win for the city.

Starting with posh Yorkville might also circumvent another concern expressed at the conference: pedestrian-oriented street projects promoting gentrification, a consequence of foot-friendly zones being almost too successful.

At a session about making the economic case for walking, Adrian Bell of England's Transport for London notes that pedestrian-friendly streets reliably increase property values and rents on shopping streets. The argument is an important one to make to property owners worried about change, but it's a problem for those concerned about maintaining affordable housing and preserving established communities.

Even Shamez Amlani, one of the organizers of Kensington Market's Pedestrian Sundays, admits at a pre-conference workshop that he no longer favours a permanent pedestrian-only zone in the Market, for fear that it would become no more than a hollow tourist attraction.

One solution offered at the conference is to distribute pedestrian projects across the whole city, both suburbs and downtown, rather than focusing on a small number of central showpiece destinations.

The city's Steps Towards A Walkable Toronto document makes a start in this direction by proposing to target the 13 suburban "priority neighbourhoods- identified as lacking in civic amenities. These areas are for the most part desperately unfriendly to walking, and yet a significant proportion of residents do not own cars.

Perhaps the innovative ideas presented at this conference can be adapted into made-in-Toronto solutions to improve the walkability of these communities.

NOW | OCTOBER 11 - 17, 2007 | VOL. 27 NO. 6

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
A Taste of Kensington Market

By Lindsay Sheehan in Suggested Itineraries

Toronto is known as a multi-cultural city, then Kensington Market is its microcosm. Rather than the sense of pride found in separate identity (denizens of a district who are a specific race, religion, or sexuality) this is a community in the truest sense; here is solace in difference.

Historically, it has been a place where immigrants have laid down roots, where entrepreneurs have set up first shop, and where burgeoning artisans have found a creative outlet. Weaving through the labyrinth of small-time commerce and restos located at the half number, it is clear that Kensington Market offers a unique glimpse into the heart of the city as a whole—a living cross-section of the greater ethos. Martiniboys went for a jaunt though the metropolis in miniature, and here are our finds.

Trekking southward along Augusta Avenue, Rice Bar stands out among its Asian counterparts by adding a new dimension to the staple cereal grain. Brock Shepherd, of Azul and Canteena, proffers a mix of ready-made and do-it-yourself dishes with a flair for the unfamiliar. Weighty selections of rice, proteins, sauces, vegetables, and garnishes await your perusal; some gratifyingly regular, others curiously unusual (like miso BBQ and pomegranate sauces).

Really a twofold dwelling, Wich? of the same address serves a motley of sandwiches that are anything but what Mom used to make. These ’wiches are named in homage to the twelve surrounding streets and avenues of Kensington, varying by their savoriness, sweetness, or cheesiness. Applying the same DIY philosophy, create your own 6-tiered gourmet-infused fist-full, and marvel at your culinary talents.

Across the street, the muted olive visage of Supermarket is, in fact, the reincarnation of lost loves. Owners Greg Bottrell and Rob Eklove combine the flavour of Tempo with the spirit of Lava Lounge (sadly, now defunct). Grieve not the loss of Mod Club Wednesdays, Reggae Tuesdays, and Singer / Songwriter Sundays; they are alive and well in the Market, and in a much improved, larger space. Reminiscent of the old Lava layout, the room is fitted with a retaining wall of booths that overlook an airy dance floor, adding this time around a solarium that adjoins the streetside patio. The open kitchen serves up Tempo’s blend of Asian fusion in the form of “izakaya”—small tapa-esque plates.

The neighbouring La Palette pertains to the refined tastes of a more subdued crowd. Intimate dining without the fancy-pants attitude, La Palette represents the Kensington brand of relaxed elegance. Its interior is cast in dark rose hues and warm candlelight, evoking an appreciation for the serene pleasures of food and drink. The menu is en francais (with explanations for the anglophones) covering an unusual range of exotic game. On one of my visits, the feature du jour was the Grillade—a selection of caribou, ostrich, horse, elk, wild boar, and Ontario lamb. Of course, terrine of fois gras is a classic choice, served with a cassis port jelly and challah toast points.

By contrast, the shanty housing Big Fat Burrito looks as if a strong wind could one day be its demise. The shack itself has been a Market mainstay, even though the eateries it once contained haven’t likewise withstood the test of time. The delicate frame is constructed of plywood about an inch thick, and raised seating clustered around the large open windows makes this place a highly coveted spot for people watching. As advertised, the burritos are genuinely big and fat—a crispy tortilla crammed with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, rice, beans, green peppers, sour cream, salsa, and augmented by a choice of breakfast-style, chicken, pulled pork, veggie, yam, or steak.

The local refuge for staunch vegans is none other than Urban Herbivore, the sister to Queen Street’s rather upscale Fressen. Primarily a take-away, seating is provided at the countertop that rims the exposed-brick interior, or at the more spacious island. Through the great wooden door with a porthole window, I’m met by a long display case of oversized muffins, fresh veggies, and homemade soups. The staff is attentive and considerate, grilling sandwiches and tossing salads according to individual diet and preference. Picky eaters are encouraged.

Onward down the Augusta strip, Jumbo Empanada is the neighbourhood darling for Chilean-style stuffed turnovers. And gargantuan they are; for a mere $4, a pino stuffed with red peppers, black olives, sliced hardboiled eggs, raisins, and a choice of chicken or beef filling certainly does live up to the name. The humitas is another Chilean treat, a steamed cornhusk stuffed with rich corn pudding, onion, and basil. Paired with homemade hot salsa, a glass of Chilean wine, and some Latin beats, you may forget you’re even in Kensington.

A marriage of opposites, Hungary Thai (196) daringly places side-by-side two very unlikely cuisines. The menu is all about contrasting tastes, and not fusion (can you imagine, mango schnitzel?). Nay, the plates are all respectfully divided between the east, and, er…further east. The Hungarian is laden with hearty breaded cutlets and fried cheese, while the Thai is rife with tofu and grilled shrimp. All served up in a darkened tavern festering in kitsch, Hungary Thai functions well as a tryst between polar traditions.

A bit of backtracking is required to visit to Ronnie's Local 069 where it’s all about the drink. Attracting the loud and rowdy, most nights of the week Ronnie’s patio is a sea of black t-shirts and zippered leather jackets. Raunchy rock and hardcore punk play out over the din in a pint-sized bar room with a few booths and through the back room styled with vintage armchairs and salon seats for that true grandma’s living room meets beauty parlour aesthetic. The vibe is laid-back, unpretentious, and refreshingly real. The barkeep is mostly friendly but with a slightly surly edge; he doesn’t upsell or feign an interest in my personal life—just pours me a pint of Saint Andre and off he goes.

A by-product of King Street’s Petite Dejeuner, Goed Eten is a testament to waffle worship. Armed with waffle iron, owner and chef Johan Maes cranks out the latticed cakes for those on-the-go. The Brussels-style batter is pressed to crispy perfection, topped with fresh fruit, whipped cream, chocolate, butterscotch caramel, or a piling of Temple’s Sugar Bush maple syrup. A heavier helping of the dough-based Liege offer subtle hints of honey, cinnamon, and pearl sugar with each bite. Above and beyond brunch fare, the waffle sandwiches are layered with peameal, pesto, and three cheeses.

When many places in the Market offer wi-fi free of charge, it would seem that Tam Tam Cyber Cafe is being redundant. But for those who find themselves lap topless and hankering for some soft porn, then Tam Tam is your answer. Operated by those enterprising non-profit folks at Centre Des Jeunes Francophones, it is a mecca for the French, and, incidentally, for travelers the world-over. It also happens to be one of the cheapest places around to get an Americano ($1.50). Dotted with PCs that go at the rate of $2.50 per hour, the menu is accompanied by pictographs—which do require a bit of deciphering.

Formerly of College and Bathurst, KOS has taken up a new abode where Bellevue Diner once loomed majestic. With the move comes a much-needed makeover; gone are the grungy crowd, sparse picnic tables, and spillover from Bistro 422. The space is partitioned by a pub at the entrance, a brighter diner at the rear, and one of the largest patios in Kensington at the side. Some things don’t change, however, like KOS’ greasy spoon credentials. Take the edge off with a beer-tomato juice hybrid, aptly entitled the Red Eye.

A safe haven for the herb-smoking hedonists of our fair city, Hot Box Cafe is Toronto’s one and only green zone. Somehow, the civil disobedience exercised here on a daily basis remains untouched by the long arm of the law (and rightly so). Retailing the requisite paraphernalia at Roach-o-Rama and serving up mouth-watering munchies and decadent smoothies in the Café, they’ve got all the bases covered. You just have to bring your own bag.

Trading in perkiness, Moonbean Coffee is always in high demand. Even with plenty of tables inside and out (they have two patios), I still had difficulty finding a seat. No small wonder, considering Moonbean carries a massive selection of single origin, premium exotics, flavoured decafs, fair-trade organics, and their own signature blends. Not to mention (but I will anyway) dozens upon dozens of loose-leaf teas. The “Hercu-Latte” delivers a serious jolt to the system, a giant caffe with a triple shot of espresso.

It would suitable to end this conspectus with Last Temptation, located on the fringe of the Market. The low-key vibe it exudes is like an oasis, especially after navigating through the mad flurry of Kensington’s exceptionally narrow streets. Slaking thirsty woes and appeasing ravenous hunger at a fraction of the standard price, Last Temptation grants us this extra respite. Sharing a pitcher of Upper Canada Lager and a plate of roasted garlic and warmed brie, there’s nothing left to do but kick my companion’s ass at foosball. Great success.

New additions to the neighbourhood are also in the works, with Waterfalls Indian Tapas Bar and Grill taking over the Nike Gallery - remember when the corporate kids tried to play "cool"? This new reno has everyone on Augusta (and in Kensington for that matter) a buzz, largely due to the mystery surrounding the owners. Rumours are also abound that the tiny Torito Tapas cantina will be getting a subterranean cocktail addition below the street-level restaurant.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
At the intersection of immigrant and hippie

At the intersection of immigrant and hippie
Dr. Florida delights in Kensington Market, with its old-world market and with seemingly incongruous groups living side by side. But he warns about pressure.
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
November 10, 2007 at 12:54 AM EST

This is the first in a series of articles in which The Globe and Mail visits an iconic Toronto neighbourhood or event with Richard Florida. Dr. Florida is a professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and academic director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School. He is the founder of the Creative Class Group ( in Washington, D.C., which develops strategies for business, government and community competitiveness, and author of the bestselling books "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "The Flight of the Creative Class.

This is the first in a series of articles in which The Globe and Mail visits an iconic Toronto neighbourhood or event with Richard Florida. Dr. Florida is a professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and academic director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School. He is the founder of the Creative Class Group ( in Washington, D.C., which develops strategies for business, government and community competitiveness, and author of the bestselling books "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "The Flight of the Creative Class. He also writes a new monthly column in the Focus section. The first one will be published Nov. 24.

Richard Florida parked his car in a lot on Dundas Street and walked north on Augusta to the corner of Baldwin. It was his first visit to Kensington Market, and within minutes he had figured out a scary home truth about Toronto's walled mini-city of anti-chic: It's a dying breed, especially in his own country.

“There's now a whole generation of Americans who've never seen a neighbourhood like this,†he said at the end of a half-hour walk through the area's narrow streets, which, even midday on a cold Tuesday, were busy and noisy.

“They're gone, so all they're used to now is the mall.â€

Dr. Florida, who moved here in September from Washington, D.C., took immediate delight in what he called the “gritty urbanism†of Kensington: “It sounds sort of trite, but it reminds me of the New York of my boyhood,†he said.

He also saw it as a contrarian experiment in urban theory that excited the academic in him. Dr. Florida's work focuses on new ways to measure the success and creativity of cities; some of his research shows that “where people were actively engaged, politically speaking, through protest activities, those were cities that were more innovative, more creative, more exciting. If you don't have activism in your city, you've killed its soul.â€

So, in simple terms, Kensington's continued existence has provided Toronto's soul with a place to reside. It's also a testament to two groups that tend to build a community spirit that can thwart the destructive urges brought about by juicy downtown real-estate opportunities. “If you look at the groups of people who are very committed to their place, one group that's obvious is immigrants. They come to a neighbourhood, they become part of a neighbourhood, because their culture is in that neighbourhood. And [the other is] artists and bohemians – whether that's a designer or a sculptor or a painter – who are somehow inspired, like the people who colonized SoHo.â€

But even as he marvelled at the place, he was quick to spot the signs of imminent change. While there are no official plans at City Hall for the neighbourhood's transition from gritty to mainstream, there are developers who see it as a gold mine, including some reportedly involved with Will Alsop, the British architect who designed the Ontario College of Art & Design's tabletop building on McCaul Street.

It took Dr. Florida all of one minute to point out that, if Toronto condo developers can now get $1,500 a square foot at the luxury end of the scale, some enterprising business person has already decided that he can get half that in a tower located in or beside a cool neighbourhood that serves some of the city's most creative people.
Dr. Florida doesn't see that as necessarily evil. Change will come; it's how it's managed that will make the difference. “Neighbourhoods like this survived because of the energy and collective force of its people. The bigger challenge now is how does a neighbourhood like this survive in the wake of the opposite force – central cities coming back. [Kensington is] in high demand, the ‘creative age' requires people to live closer to where they work, and this city is safe so you can have kids, so the pressure on this real estate is enormous.

“And therein is a big tension: How much do you let this neighbourhood evolve in light of market principles?â€

One way, he said, is to protect the scale of it. He marvelled at self-consciously hip stores, such as Bungalow on Augusta Avenue, crammed in beside lower-end storefronts. “You have this kind of ritzy shop next to the arts shop next to the taco shop, but they all work together because they're the same architectural scale, and they fit together on the street,†he said. “What really gets horrible is when you mess up the scale of the architecture.â€

The other factor working in its favour is that, to put it bluntly, it's not Yorkville. The mall aesthetic so ingrained in North American culture is at odds with the vibrant and diverse aesthetic of Kensington Market. North Americans associate malls with safety, he said, so many people will continue to see a neighbourhood like the Market as dangerous because it doesn't have what he calls “the signals of a mallâ€: upscale shops like Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, manicured streets and flower baskets.

“Its grit, its bohemian quotient, its kind of urban messiness could protect it,†Dr. Florida said. “Because people will say, ‘Oh that's not my aesthetic, I'd rather go to another neighbourhood.'â€

But with those caveats in place, Kensington needs to evolve. “Jane Jacobs always wrote about the heavy hand of government planners destroying neighbourhoods by clearing them,†he said. “The other way maybe to hurt a neighbourhood is to put in the heavy hand of government to unreasonably protect it. Finding that balance is really difficult. This neighbourhood would cease if it was a museum … like Williamsburg, you know, one of these colonial towns that's a replica village.

“What you need is the energy of new people, of new interests, of new clashes.â€

For more comment from Dr. Florida, please see his blog at


Member Bio
Apr 23, 2007
Reaction score
Hearts crack as store closes
Only the shell of the egg shop remains
Sarah Efron, National Post
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2007
After 47 years in business, during which three generations of egg vendors sold approximately 1.3 billion eggs, a Kensington Market institution is no more. Augusta Egg Market, established in 1960, shut its doors for the last time two weeks ago.

Founded by the Offman family, the small storefront on Augusta Avenue offered brown and white eggs of various sizes that were trucked in fresh from farms each day and sold to local residents and wholesale customers. The shop also stocked quail eggs (used in soups, salads and hors d'oeuvres), turkey eggs (for people allergic to chicken eggs) and double-yolked eggs (for those who enjoy hearty omelets and aren't scared of large doses of cholesterol).

"Anybody within two miles of our place knew where the egg store was," says owner Philip Offman, whose parents and grandparents founded the business. "For 40 years, it didn't even have sign at the front."

Historically, the business's main retail clients were the large Chinese and Portuguese families who lived around the market. Offman, 40, explains that as those groups moved to the suburbs and were replaced by students and single people, sales dropped. Another factor that pushed Offman to close the shop was his concern for his mother, Mary, known to locals as "the Egg Lady."

The 70-year-old was working six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, and her son wanted her to be able to relax and spend time with her grandchildren. When Offman got an opportunity to buy an egg wholesale operation in North York, he decided it was time to shut the shop and focus on the new project.

The egg shop's storefront is currently being renovated, but Offman says it's unlikely he will rent it out to the type of small grocer that has traditionally operated in Kensington. "The way the market is moving, it will probably be some kind of eatery or upscale service shop," he says. "We will always have fond memories and stories, but for everything, there's a time to move on."

© National Post 2007


recession proof
Member Bio
Apr 23, 2007
Reaction score
Richard Florida is just a rich hypocritical American suburbanite! Drives his (BMW?) car to the car park outside the hipster shopping mall (k-market) and goes for a walk. The fact he is pumped about $1500 psft 1 Bloor hype in relation to k-market proves how clueless the man is: he's no more aware of the history and culture of k-market than the 905 kids that keep the vintage clothing strip alive.

Rich man from Florida should be his real name!


Senior Member
Member Bio
Apr 23, 2007
Reaction score
New York
I'm really uncomfortable with these developers involved with Alsop. While I don't doubt his good intentions, I fear that the developers might just ditch him as soon as their project gets approved, like what happened in West Queen West.

Alley Kat

Active Member
Member Bio
Aug 11, 2007
Reaction score
I'm really uncomfortable with these developers involved with Alsop. While I don't doubt his good intentions, I fear that the developers might just ditch him as soon as their project gets approved, like what happened in West Queen West.

Me too. Does anyone know anything specific about their plans? Which lot(s)? Scope of project(s)? Apparently Adam Vaughan hosted an information meeting a month or so ago, at Kensington Lofts, I think. Anyone go?