An article in the Globe and Mail by Marcus Gee proclaiming Toronto as finally cool hit the newstands recently. It made me smile. Right click here to read it.
Being a denizen of this City for twenty-five years, I’ve always felt the groovin’ pulse of Toronto. It’s just back in my day the underbelly of cooldom couldn’t be found cycling merrily on the streets like you can today. You had to look a little harder.
Without question I adore the abundance of hip ‘n cool style permeating the city core through and through. In fact, it’s made this city the progressive and liberated bastion of Canada that it is. But it’s also coincided with the decline in all those original immigrant residents who made Toronto the cultural ‘City of Neighbourhoods’ it’s renown for. Back in my day going to Ossington Avenue meant stepping into ‘Little Portugal’ where the only language being spoken was Portuguese. And College Street was Little Italy in the truest sense, where row up row of stores sold nothing but black Italian loafers and confirmation dresses, with the occasional espresso bar and pool hall (In fact, here’s a past blog called Where Art Thou Pool Hall that might give you a giggle). Back then, if I wanted to experience ‘cultural cool’ these were some of the places I went, and if I wanted ‘Canadian cool’ I went to Queen Street West where punk, fringe and edge all lived amidst weathered tenements, dowdy stores and Speak Easies. Today, most of these types of cool have vanished, being replaced with a more palatable cool that’s easy on the eyes and not in the least bit frightening.
Why? Over the past two decades a lot of original immigrants have sold their properties and moved out of the city to achieve the Canadian Dream so many of them coveted… namely to own a big detached newer house in the burbs. As they exited we first generation Canadian kids bought their old Victorian and Edwardian homes and renovated them. In some instances we dislocated the former tenants that rented a portion who, not finding any suitable rentals, took the leap into purchasing an entry-level condominium market constructed specifically for them. Even I spearheaded my expertise in the adaptive reuse of former factories and cultivated the growth of the loft lifestyle, which bred a whole new housing form of domestic cool. As Toronto’s original Innovative Space Specialist, doesn’t that makes me Old School Cool?
Just as Marcus Gee attests, Toronto is a testament that urban life harbors the hip and cool. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s always been here.