Parkdale steps up protests against Vegandale rebranding

Veganism is at the heart of a dramatic feud in Toronto once again this week as Parkdale prepares for a massive block party — or lack thereof, as some locals hope — in the gentrifying neighbourhood.

Between Thursday and Sunday, the restaurant collective known as Vegandale is scheduled to celebrate grand openings, of sorts, for the stretch of Queen St. West it has claimed as a "mecca for the ethically-minded and hungry."

That stretch of Queen, between Dufferin and Brock, happens to be in the neighbourhood of Parkdale — and residents have been vocal in their opposition of anyone trying to "rebrand" the block since news of the project surfaced in March.

"Parkdale is a diverse neighbourhood whose marginalized communities are being evicted to make room for privileged, inaccessible veganism," wrote the developer of an anti-Vegandale browser app last month, summing up much the community's sentiment.

"Ok first of all, building fictional gentrified communities is what Sims is for," wrote the popular Instagram account Parkdale Life back in March when renderings of the veganized city block were released.

"Secondly, take some of that greasy soy protein money and invest in good design," the account continued. "Thirdly, to set the record straight there is nothing wrong with veganism or vegans."

"I take issue with the obnoxious tone-deaf branding that seems to erase a rich community of businesses and people and cultures by renaming and mocking up (poorly) an existing neighbourhood."

A post shared by Parkdale Life (@parkdalelife) on

As the August long weekend approaches, so too does Vegandale's "Toronto Vegan Block Party" — and nay-sayers are ready for a fight civilized discussion.

Parkdale Life, which has a considerable amount of influence in Toronto, is hosting a community forum this Saturday, August 4, in partnership with the The Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust.

Concerned citizens are welcome to come "discuss concerns and issues and ask questions about Vegandale" during the forum at Milky Way Garden from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Afterwards, a "community organize" event will be held at the Parkdale Library. Attendees are encouraged to make signs and bring donations for the Parkdale Community Food Bank.

"This is not a protest," reads a Facebook page for the event. "This is a chance for community members to get together and discuss issues with this rebranding of the neighborhood of Parkdale..."

"Hopefully some folks from Vegandale can come out as well to respond," the event description continues. "They have not thus [far] made any contact with any neighborhood group or given any response to criticisms. It's a chance to take this from online comments to a real-life conversation."

A post shared by Parkdale Life (@parkdalelife) on

Cara Galloway of The 5700 Inc. (the management group responsible for the expansion and branding of Vegandale) disputes some of Parkdale Life's claims.

"Firstly, we did reach out to the Parkdale land trust that is holding this forum and had the meeting set with them for about a week," she said by email on Wednesday. "The commentary that we have not made any contact with neighborhood groups is false. We've also been in touch with the BIA."

"In addition to this, the groups holding this forum in no way reached out to us formally to extend an invite," she continued. "We would gladly discuss in a forum with a moderator, just not on our grand opening weekend."

The people behind Vegandale also take up issue with the assertion that they're "erasing a rich community of businesses."

"All of these businesses either went under," said Galloway, "or put themselves up for sale."

Parkdale Life and supporters are demanding two things from The 5700 Inc. (the restaurant management group responsible for the fast expansion and branding of Vegandale.)

The first demand is that "Vegandale cancel their block party until further community consultations take place." The second is that they "remove and permanently stop Vegandale branding."

A quick search for the term "Vegandale" on Twitter right now shows they're far from alone in their criticism.

"Jesus, if you wanted Vegandale there was already Kensington," commented one local. "Go buy buildings in Yorkville ffs with your $20 mains."

"GTFO, Vegandale," wrote someone else on Twitter this week. "More room for real foods, please. Parkdale is diverse and most of the prominent food groups have multiple vegan options. Oh but wait, vegans can’t eat somewhere if it doesn’t have VEGAN plastered across it."

The conversation is certainly getting heated online, and it's an interesting one to watch evolve. I supposed we'll have to wait and see what happens in Parkdale on Saturday.

Lead photo by

Clint Tham

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