Toronto Walk: Little Tehran

from with gratitude

Yonge and Finch (named for John Finch who operated a hotel on the corner) has evolved over the years from a farm, to a hotel (where the wood from the building would be reused to build the Bedford Park Hotel south of Fairlawn*), to a brewery, and a neighbourhood, to become another “little” in our series.

Yonge and Finch has been called “the other Koreatown” , TehranTo, or just plain ol’ Newtonbrook.

The population of the area is split between Chinese, Korean, Russian and Jewish and Iranian.

First settled in the early 19th century, Newtonbrook’s early industries were dominated by mills (saw and grist mills) on the east and west branches of the Don River. Later, the “Bird in the Hand” hotel and restaurant would serve the workers of the area. Newtonbrook, named for Reverend Robert Newton.

Streets we’re hoping to pay attention to:

  • Drewry Avenue also known as “Pope’s Lane” (to see the only original house of the times left)
  • 43 Drewry – the site of the Village of Newtonbrook’s fourth schoolhouse built in 1878 and demolished in 1997.
  • The Second Newtonbrook General Store, circa 1907, located on the north-west corner of Yonge Street and Drewry Avenue.
  • The manse in the intersection of Yonge Street and Hendon Avenue: birthplace and hometown of Nobel Prize winner and Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

For more information, check out the Toronto Neighbourhood Site

* research drawn from Toronto Neighbourhoods 7-Book Bundle:A City in the Making / Unbuilt Toronto By Mark Osbaldeston, F.R. (Hamish) Berchem, Frederick H. Armstrong, Scott Kennedy, Jane Pitfield

Toronto Walk: Little Jamaica

Courtesy of Nick’s Travel Bug Blog

Eglinton West, also known as “Little Jamaica”, is this week’s walk area. Eglinton and Oakwood is often a bustling neighborhood, punctuated by barbershops, restaurants, jerk chicken street BBQs, and cosmetics stores, but it wasn’t always this way. As a “Black Enclave”, the area gathered together the Caribbean/West Indian communities including TrinidadianBarbadian, and Guyanese immigrants, and the black identities of the community work together to strengthen themselves through supporting local business and entrepreneurs. You could say that Cultural Enclaves, whether voluntary or prescribed, are the hipsters of the “Shop Local” movement.

The businesses along Eglinton Avenue West are frequented by many in the Greater Toronto Area‘s 177,000-plus Jamaican community.[2]

Over the last decade, the area has gained a reputation for being riddled with crime; however, in the last three years the real estate development boom has looked upon Little Jamaica as an area ready for massive redevelopment and reconstruction. Another kind of development, transportation development, has also had a massive impact on the area; many businesses have been forced to shut down or relocate due to LRT development and concerns of increased rent. While the increased development will no doubt be evident today on our walk, I’m sure the changing face of Eglinton West will also be omnipresent; with little to no support for local residents and businesses in the area, the local community feels out of control of the future of a long-held stronghold of Caribbean and West African people.

Gentrification has been sweeping people out of their solidly working-class neighbourhoods for more than a decade, from Parkdale to Regent Park to Lawrence Heights. Without a strong sense of unity amongst the existing working class residents in these neighbourhoods, the roots of these communities will be as wiped out as they have been in Queen Street West and Liberty Village. 

For a look at the neighborhood from a local’s perspective, check out Pretty Hype TO.

Toronto Walk: Little India

Today we’re headed to Little India, or the India Bazaar, in Toronto.

Fueled by South Asian entrepreneurs immigrating to Toronto and settling around the beacon of the Naaz Theatre, Little India has been a vibrant community in Toronto since the 1960’s. The sights, sounds, and smells of the strip of Gerrard has been a siren call to many, leaving friends who have lived in the area earning Pavlovian reactions to cardamom and curry.  The street, lined with the eateries, grocers, jewelry shops, travel agencies, and sari shops, has collectively earned the name India Bazaar, (even though the area has it’s own little Pakistani, Little Bangladeshi, Little Afghan and Little Sri Lankan segments) and over the years the local BIA (the Gerrard India Bazaar Business Improvement Area) has spent it’s effort and resources making drastic improvements and focusing on cultural street festivals.

Toronto’s personal Delhi of downtown is chock-full of history, including the Naaz Theatre

Over time, the Bazaar has changed, with many South Asian settlers choosing to move to the suburbs where property prices are cheaper, changing the face of Etobicoke, Scarborough, Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, and Vaughan and sparking the creation of Little India’s across the GTHA. Still, the India Bazaar calls many back to the six blocks between Coxwell and Greenwood Ave which supports 200+ shops. 

In the last two years, a growing concern is that the Little Indias across the GTHA have been “sucking up business” in the off season, today we’ll see what the impact has been on the Original Little India, one of North America’s largest South Asian Bazaars. 

Toronto Walk: Pacific Mall

the pacific mall floor area.

the pacific mall floor area.

Located at the corner of Kennedy Road and Steeles Avenue in the Greater Toronto Area, two shopping complexes next door to each other, the Pacific Mall and the Market Village in Markham offer visitors a grand Asian shopping experience.

That is what Guiding Star describes as the largest indoor Asian Mall in Canada. With 500+ stores selling everything under the sun (including, notoriously, knock off designer wares) Pacific Mall is a one stop shop for all the things you’ll ever need. What’s interesting though is rising past the main floor, away from the rush of the crowd, you can see the true architectural style of the place. Among the food court, karaoke rooms, and video arcade you can see architect Wallman Clews Bergman’s work. 

Pacific Mall was constructed around the same time as the  establishment of ethnic malls and plazas in the late 1980’s in and around Scarborough (what what). Based off of the rising development of Cuban, Jamaican, Asian, and South Asian malls, in Scarborough (nearly 60 were developed) Pacific Mall responded to an increase in immigration and an uptick in international investment in entreprenurialism. 

The architectural design of the mall is a mix of red bricks, steel beams, and glass, creating a “fabulous transparent building as different as possible from its surrounding” . Not quite of Hong Kong or of Toronto,  but a little of both, the mall both distinguishes itself from, and invests itself in, its surroundings. 

Inside, the streets are numbered and named to correspond to both affluent or lucky numbers or famous streets in Hong Kong.

As an official Canadian Tourist Attraction, the mall is exempt from the Retail Business Holiday Act and is open year-round including statutory holidays. Pacific Mall also hosts festivals and celebrations for the community.[1][2]

Maybe we’ll catch one today!