To be honest, moving to Toronto has been a consistent, giant headache.
The housing situation, at least in the summer of 2008, is such that every attractive three bedroom Craigslist ad yields twelve or thirteen couples showing up for viewings. That kind of competition makes you feel like there’s not a lot of hope of finding a reasonable place, especially if you want to be anywhere near a subway station. Potential renters pull out all of the stops too: offer to pay more, bring co-signers, aren’t very tactful with follow-up calls, agree to legally troubling leases, and so on. I know that if I hadn’t been on the phone daily with my future landlord, we wouldn’t have the place we have now.
Lansdowne between Dupont and Bloor is our new home. $1100, two bedrooms, a parking spot, a ten minute walk to the subway. The neighbourhood feels real. Straight-up real. The day I showed up to view the place there were three little black kids and their Portugese friends playing some stick-ball hockey(?) in the middle of the street. One of their grandma’s was yelling in the background. A hot-boy has hanging out on the corner. Older mediterranean men in the hats and beige shirts sitting on steps, discussing. An old west-indian man gave me a smiling “waddup” nod as I pulled up on my motorcycle. Summer in the city; feels like a Joell Ortiz song. A pleasant, overweight, half-asleep Italian man showed me the apartment. Welcome to your new home, I thought.
There is lots of rental available in this neighbourhood. It’s considered part of Dovercourt, but has its own identity as Bloordale (closer to Lansdowne), and Bloorcourt (closer to Dufferin). On Lansdowne, closer to Dupont, there has obviously been a lot of development in the last ten years. Many lofts and townhouses stand in recovered TTC brownfields, all of it somewhat affordable (~$1200 for two bedrooms), quite new, and in good shape. Some of the nicer lofts are unfortunately seperated from the rest of the community. I have a feeling the appeal of a gated community exists initially, particularly if the surrounding neighbourhood is a bit rough. But with time, the gated community becomes the eye-sore – the un-cooperative neighbour.
I can’t speak much to the situation on Bloor Street. I’ve read some bad press about the Coffee Time by Lansdowne station. But I’ve also read about the community projects that emerged as a response to the communities struggles. An article in Eye Weekly proclaims that the hipsters are coming: and with them, art, coffee, and community events. That author of the article bemoans the appearance of the artsy, community types, and (ultimately) enthusiastic condo developers as they are contributors to gentrification ie. destruction of the real-ness. But apparently there is hope:
This isn’t Queen Street West — yet. And maybe it won’t be. Whatever befalls it, right now Bloorcourt Village is maximally compelling, fulfilling as it does a crucial promise of Toronto about how we can live together in great, varied neighbourhoods, without forcing the migration of the poorest people.
Sounds good. In the mean time, the websites of these community groups inspire positive feelings towards my new home:
- Bloor Improvement Group is a “dynamic volunteer coalition in Toronto, advancing the economic, physical, cultural and social life of the targeted local Bloor Street by creating opportunities and events that improve and celebrate the area.” The organise the “Big on Bloor” street festival that began in 2008.
- Dig In seems like a group I should get in touch with. Dig In “initiates inclusive community and cultural plans and actions that will contribute to sustaining a neighbourhood that is GREEN; CLEAN; SAFE; CIVIL by fostering improvements in the areas of its social, environment, cultural, economic and physical make up.” They have a blog; it’s not super-active, but it’s always nice to put some faces to a name.
- Michael’s Bloor-Lansdowne Blog – A wonderful neighbourhood-focused blog, fairly active, and a great place to get a taste of local community events, art, and the like.
I’m starting to look forward to all of this. As much as I love being in Guelph, I feel like I’ve outgrown my university community … time to move on.