Parkdale Needs A Plan

Parkdale residents and politicos assembled last night to debate the question "Where Goes The Neighborhood?" The idea was to tackle the hot topic of gentrification. I'd attended hoping that, somehow, we could all band together to create a vision for the wayward community, but hope was not to be found. With widely respected panelists such as Spacing's Matthew Blackett and the brain behind 401 Richmond, Margaret Zeidler, I'd hoped we'd do more than establish affordable housing as a priority and bash the former Harris government. Area MPP Cheri DiNovo stood up for comment too, saying she's asked for 20,000 units of affordable housing to be built in this part of TO. I'm not sure where she intends to put it though, maybe that should have been on the debate agenda instead.

As it stands amongst other Toronto communities, Parkdale currently has a large percentage of renters and, Councilor Gord Perks pointed out, is one of only a few communities that still has legal rooming houses. Perhaps Parkdale is already doing its fair share to support those in the city with lower incomes and it may not have the infrastructure in place to help the resource dependant community. Parkdale is like Kensington was years ago, a place where newcomers to Toronto settle and try to build a future. Many young families are moving in as well, renovating homes and taking pride in their new neighborhood. No one wants any displacement of current residents however, so what it needs is a plan for growth and a way to ensure that rent and property taxes don't skyrocket.

Businesses in the area are also seeing a shift. There is a much smaller percentage of variety and grocery stores, while home decor and reno stores are gaining popularity. However, commercial vacancy currently sits at 13%, making me think that gentrification isn't the real problem. I can think of a few new cafes and bars in Parkdale too but nothing too chichi or chic that it's going to get condo-dwellers buying into the "dream" of living right in the middle of the action. Ultimately it's the high-rise condos that will anchor Queen Street West, in Parkdale's neighboring ward just east of the tracks, that frighten Parkdale residents. Though, it could bring more focus westward and Parkdale could begin to see some necessary improvements. Perhaps it'll start with a few new facades, some new parks, a community centre, then a renovated building or two. There's so much promise in Parkdale, all that's needed is a plan and a way to ensure it includes all kinds of people. That's the only way Parkdale will retain its unique charm and character.

image: Kevin Steele

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