The Other Side Of The Tracks

There are many fantastic neighborhoods in the City of Toronto.

Then again, there are some terrible ghettos as well.

But I’ve always found it interesting how every good area is just a stone’s throw from a bad one…

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Let’s play word association.  What do you think of when you see this symbol:

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Okay, aside from thinking “coffee,” what else do you think?  How does this make you feel?  Do you think “upscale,” or “expensive”?  Perhaps you think “tasteful” or “sophisticated.”

Sure, it’s just a coffee chain, but I think we all associate this particular chain with a higher echelon; one that is above the Coffee Time’s of the world.

There is a Starbucks on the corner of King Street East and George Street near the St. Lawrence Market, and regardless of the time of day, there is always a homeless man pan-handling for change outside.

A friend of mine once remarked, “How the heck did he get by the invisible barrier on Queen Street?”  And you know what?  It’s true.

I consider the area in which I live to be very upscale and fashionable, and while not prohibitively expensive, it’s definitely a trendy neighborhood.  But just on the other side of Queen Street lays an absolute cesspool of vagrants, drugs, violence, and dilapidated buildings.

This phenomenon is not uncommon in our city.

Here are a few examples of upscale areas which are adjacent to less-than-desireable neighborhoods:

King Street East and Moss Park

As mentioned above, King Street East has become ever-so-trendy in the last five years as it now plays home to the “Furniture District” where you can buy a dresser made of driftwood for a mere $8,500.  Once the Starbucks was put in, we knew our neighborhood had reached the next level.  Condos such as King’s Court, King George Square, Mozo Lofts, Abbey Lane Lofts, and the new Rezen have all out-appreciated the Toronto market as a whole in the last half-decade as King East and the St. Lawrence Market area has become a desireable locale to call home.

But one city block from Adelaide & Sherbourne where Mozo & King’s Court are located lays Queen Street and all the trouble that comes with it.  If you’ve never heard of “Moss Park” then you probably don’t watch the news or read the papers.  Moss Park is a derelict’s dream where nobody judges except the people passing by in cars with the doors locked and the windows up.

There are two shelters on the east side of Sherbourne Street across from the park, and during the daytime while the homeless and vagrants are unable to take refuge inside, they simply line the streets outside.  Take a look at the park itself on a summer day and see a few dozen shirtless men laying on the grass doing drugs in full view of anybody who cared to see.

Ironic that only two city blocks away, somebody is drinking a $6.00 mocha-frappachino…

Cabbagetown and Regent Park

Another area of the city which has seen a dramatic rise in housing prices in the last few years is Cabbagetown.  This is one of the oldest areas in the city, dating back to the 1840’s and before our we had gained our independance and put meaning to the term “Canada.”

The geographic disparity with Cabbagetown and its surroundings is even more spectacular than other areas I’ll contrast, simply because Cabbagetown has “trouble” to the south and to the west.  And the only reason there is no trouble to the north and east is because there you’ll find a cemetery and a massive park adjacent to the busy Bayview Extension!

It’s not unusual to find houses above $1,000,000 on streets such as Amelia, Metcalfe, Sumach, Winchester and others, and the neighborhood has attracted many of Toronto’s most noteable musicians, artists, journalists, and writers.  Both the pride of ownership and pride of residence are quite apparent as you walk down the quaint streets of Cabbagetown and pass by the modest stone walkways and gardens in front of the classic Victorian houses.

Then, on the south side of Gerrard Street, you have the infamous Regent Park.  Call it “social housing” or “affordable housing,” but both terms have a certain connotation that isn’t exactly going to attract the likes of John & Jane Doe and their two perfect children.  On the west-most boundary of Cabbagetown you’ll find Parliament Street, where you’ll find a unique blend of discount stores and panhandlers mixed with gourmet shops and art festivals.

Over time, I wonder which side will win out…

Rosedale and St. James Town

Rosedale may not be the most exclusive and most expensive neighborhood in the city (I think the houses on Post Road and Bridle Path have that distinction), but it is sure thought to be!  Home to “old money,” Rosedale just sounds expensive, since it happens to hold the name of the most expensive flower you’ll ever buy for your girlfriend after you forgot her birthday…

Rosedale can be split into a “north and south,” since Glen Road essentially connects the two sections; with streets such as Edgar, Whitney, & Binscarth located on the north side and Elm, Maple, and Dunbar located to the south.

But on the other side of Bloor Street lays another one of Toronto’s seedy sections as Sherbourne Street will lead down to Wellesley Avenue and the St. James Town projects – another section of “social housing” that has attracted the city’s poor and/or “unfortunate souls.”

Trinity-Bellwoods and Queen/Bathurst AND Queen St. Mental Health Centre

Yesterday I wrote about the gorgeous parks in our city and how Trinity-Bellwoods was among my favorites.  The “West-Queen-West” area has become very gentrified in the last few years, just like my home in King-East, but the area is bordered by not one, but two shady sections of Toronto.

To the east you have the corner of Queen & Bathurst, where police installed closed-circuit digital video, aka “police cameras” back in June, citing “a higher incidence of violent crime.”

And to the west of Trinity Bellwoods and condominiums such as Trinity Park Lofts at 901 Queen Street West and the famous Chocolate Lofts and Candy Factory Lofts, you will find the Queen Street Mental Health Centre and the problems that come with it.  Now before you accuse me of being cold-hearted, I’m not saying that the Centre itself is a problem or that helping those in need is something I’m not in favor of – I’m mearly pointing out that the area around Queen & Ossington attracts the poor and the infrastructure around it has become run-down.

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Call it “night and day” or call it “the other side of the tracks,” but based on the four examples above and countless others, I’d say that in any “nice” area you could find to call home in our city, you’re just a block or two away from trouble…….and vice versa.

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  1. […] I’ve written in the past about how many hot neighborhoods in Toronto are only a stone’s throw from trouble, in fact, I think I wrote an entire post on this subject…..here. […]

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