Neighbourhood Watch: Kingsview / Dixon
At a UN conference in Washington DC about five years ago, the delegate from Somalia came to me and asked, "you're from Toronto?" Assuring him that I did, indeed, call this great city my home, he went on to say that, "my whole family wants to move to Toronto. We want to move to a place called Kipling and Dixon. Do you know where that is?"
I chuckled when I told him that not only did I know where Kipling and Dixon (or what we locals affectionately just call 'Dixon') was, but that I lived there as well. Sure, it may not have the fashionable cultural cachet that places like Trinity Bellwoods, West Queen West, or Dufferin Grove may have, but I guarantee you that you'll never get bored.
The Dixon and Kingsview area is sandwiched between Kingsview Boulevard to the north, Islington to the east, Dixon Road to the south (sometimes taken to extend until The Westway), and Kipling to the West. Sitting just south of the border of the area known as Rexdale, Kingsview / Dixon serves as a gateway into North Etobicoke and is only minutes away from the airport — Dixon Road in fact turns into Airport Road about two kilometres west of the neighbourhood.
The proximity to the airport has meant that the neighbourhood has been populated predominantly by minority immigrants for the past two decades. Initially the hub of Somalian immigration into Toronto (a documentary once referred to the area as Canada's Mogadishu), the apartment buildings in the area have also served as home to several minority influxes, such as a wave of Pakistani immigration a few years ago, and a more recent wave of immigrants from Mauritius and other parts of Africa.
Major landmarks of the neighbourhood include the six "Dixon buildings" which surround Dixon Park, the focal point of the area. Kingsview Village Community School serves as the central junior school — with older children heading down Kipling Avenue to Dixon Grove Junior Middle School — as well as the main recreation and community hub for the neighbourhood. Across the street from the Dixon buildings is the locally-famous Westway Centre, a popular hangout for all ages.
The plaza features a Food Basics (everyone's favorite grocery store) as well as a McDonald's and Pizza Pizza, both of which not only employ several local youth, but also act as gathering places for young people in the area. The recent addition of a Country Style has also given rise to a meeting place for some of the elderly gentlemen in the neighbourhood.
Being in North Etobicoke, the name Dixon has been associated with crime and violence, though not to the same extent as some other parts of Rexdale. Of course, many of the good aspects of the neighbourhood have been ignored by local media, but are still celebrated by the local population.
Now Magazine last year named the basketball court in Dixon Park as the best outdoor court in the city, and certainly the court has become a great community unifier. Opened by Vince Carter in 2003 and maintained by Toronto Parks & Recreation, the court and the surrounding park host recreation events and tournaments throughout the summer.
The local Parks & Recreation community centre, Kingsview Village Community School, offers nightly programs throughout the year, including sports, martial arts, and skill development. Best of all, all the programs are offered for free. The yearly summer camps held at the recreation centre fill up within minutes on registration day, and KVCS also offers free drop-in programs at Dixon Park.
In addition, the neighbourhood high school, Kipling Collegiate Institute, was recently featured in Maclean's magazine as one of the best high schools in Canada.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I love living in Dixon. The community is vibrant, most people know each other — at least by face — and interact well, and quite frankly, everything is so nearby. I have a grocery store and a drug store across the street, two separate workout facilities, a post office, two banks, three two coffee stores, four gas stations, a full medical centre, and the best darn barber in the city (okay, maybe second best) all within a five-minute walk. There's always something going on, and the community is so diverse that I'm learning something new every day.
Kingsview / Dixon may not have the glamor or the prestige associated with other neighbourhoods in Toronto, but for me, it's home, and a quick bus ride from Kipling Station. Hop on the 45 North and take a ride sometime: you'll be surprised at what neat things you'll see.
(Images: Sameer Vasta and Guled Hussein)
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