People in this town keep talking about gentrification.
The tendency is to automatically decry it as a very bad thing.
Of course it’s not exactly all that bad. It can actually be a very good thing. There are many areas that could use a little gentrifying here and there. I don’t see what could possibly be wrong with taking a dangerous, decrepit neighborhood and turning it on it’s head. What’s so bad about taking something that’s broken, and fixing it?
That was why, when we moved back to Toronto 3 years ago, we moved to the edge of Parkdale.
It was an up and comer, a place that had potential, but was still rough around the edges.
Artists lived there, it was cheap, it was cool, it was filled with young people, there was lots to see and do – there was always something interesting going on.
Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who noticed something interesting going on there.
In the two years we lived there, we saw that neighborhood turned on it’s head – and the problem was, it was already gentrified enough when we got there. There was already a Starbucks. There was already some fancy lofts. There was already a Drake hotel. Realtors were just beginning to snap up empty lots to develop into boutique condos.
I think the thing is, there’s a possibility for a neighborhood to go beyond just being gentrified. There’s a possibility for it to just turn into a different version of what it was in the first place – a dangerous place, where you don’t want hang around – let alone live.
Which is why I sighed when I read this article about my old digs – complete with a picture of the nice lady with the cute dog (a fox terrier, just like Asa from the Thin man movies) who ran the vintage furniture store down the street. It pretty much sums up all the reasons we moved away from Parkdale (or Queen West West or as they’re calling it now “Beaconsfield Village” – not that I ever heard it called that when I lived there 9 short months ago – which makes me pretty sure it’s solely a Realtor invention for marketing purposes, just like nearby “Liberty Village”).
We saw it happen. We saw the suburban twits drive down from the suburbs in their SUVs every weekend and turn a friendly, bohemian community into a coked-out, drunken orgy (and I do mean that literally, as there’s now a swingers club on the block). Now that it’s started, there’s pretty much no way of stopping it.
I guess the only hope is that once the condos are built and filled with people, some actual infrastructure starts being developed to prevent the place from going to blight (although I’ve seen brand new condos go to blight before, on the cusp of the last economic downturn).
But, for the moment, it’s a bad scene. The neighborhood has become, once again, a place that’s not very livable.
And even if we occasionally miss some of the vibrancy (and the Black Dog video store) we’re pretty glad we got the hell out of there.
The complete opposite side of town is seeming like a pretty nice place to be, at the moment.