Danforth East: Smoothing out the rough edges

Three Saturdays ago The Globe and Mail ran a story titled 'The rougher end of the Danforth' in its Toronto section. Bert Archer reported on how Danforth East struggles to balance a rising violent crime rate with the potential to become Toronto's next burgeonng neighbourhood.

The picture he painted was pretty bleak using disgruntled residents as key sources but near the end of the piece he noted the area's business improvement association would host a "family day" on Sept. 17. I decided to go check it out.

The last time I walked east on Danforth Ave. towards Greenwood Station I passed an abandoned service station covered in dated promo posters and a burnt out KFC stripped of it's trademark bucket-shaped sign. Not a thing has changed.

Moving past those barren blocks things started looking better. I walked past a woman and her daughter whose face was painted in black and white zebra stripes. Another block later I kept pace with a mother and her two sons who were taking turns pushing a cart full of groceries. Archer is right, this is a neighbourhood of young families.

In the distance I spotted bright balloons tied to the fence of a local garage. In it's parking lot a makeshift stage was flanked by a few booths offering raffle prizes, free massages and cold drinks. Though the turnout was low, maybe 40 people during performances, the spirit of the volunteers was high. I took in a magic show and watched a dance performance by The School of Performing Arts for the Community of East York or SPACE for short. The kids who were watching were caught up in each segment and that's all that matters.

As I was leaving Patricia Silver, chair of the BIA, grabbed me and asked what I was doing there considering I didn't have any kids in tow. We talked about The Globe's article and she says it gave the wrong impression of her neighbourhood. She pointed out the low cost of living in an area not dominated by highrise buildings and the fact that everything anyone could need can be found within walking distance.

She went on to use the Beaches Jazz Festival as an example of how communities grow in the city. When the festival started it was just a few musicians playing on the sidewalk. Now, streets need to be closed to accomdate the traffic the event attracts. She thinks "family day" has the same potential.

This event won't rank with Toronto's larger neighbourhood celebrations but it's definitely the most ambitous. As young families grow so will Danforth East and in time that should help shed any negative image that's being cast today. Until then I'm willing to wait and see how the neighbourhood down the street pulls itself together.

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