Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kensington changes

I read an interesting article in the Saturday Globe and Mail by Christopher Shulgan, about gentrification creeping into Kensington Market.

Two quotes in particular interested me. The first is from City Councillor Adam Vaughan: "It's full of radicals who want nothing to change and conservatives who want to change everything. I understand the real-estate agent's job is to bring in tenants who can pay as high a rent as possible. But the market is one of those places where you have to immerse yourself before you can change it."

The other quote is from Danny Zimmerman, owner of Zimmermans, the discount food and clothing outfit: "You can't stop gentrification," Mr. Zimmerman says. "At the end of the day, it all blends in.... A lot of these people are holding onto a false charm. The market's been changing since the beginning. Whatever happens, the market will fall on its feet. It continues. It adapts."

What do you think about that? Kensington has certainly changed and adapted a lot over the years, but it has mostly resisted gentrification. I'm not quite sure I understand what factors contributed to that resistance. Sometimes we see a change that becomes like a symbol for the gentrification of a neighbourhood, like when The Sanctuary on Queen West became a Fivebucks. In fact, there were lots of other signs of the gentrification of Queen West before the Sanctuary closed, but they were perhaps less starkly obvious to the casual observer.

It could be argued that the Spadina TTC right-of-way was a precurser to development in Kensington, as if a rough protective skin on the outside of the Market had been stripped away, or at least polished up. I'm sure the collapse of the garment industry in Toronto was a precursor as well.

If Kensington is developed and becomes some cute pastiche of days past with condos, some inoffensive public scupture, some manicured little piece of greenspace and so on, I'll miss what what was there. It has been such an unusual place in our city, it would be a shame to lose it.


Stagg said...

If the market is as strong as some believe it to be it will sustain all change. HOWEVER- with all the newbeness brings nothing but the same in abundance. I suspect (but hope against) is new retailers will emerge but they will aaaall be selling the exact same things. Just look at their cars and condos.....etc.

Candy Minx said...

I remember when Kensington had rabbits and birds in tiny cages for sale. Things do change.

I think it's hilarious that a retailer there says there is a false charm. No it's a very real charm. He is kind of shooting himself in the foot with that misunderstanding. I almost laughed when I read his quote.

Keeping all kinds of people going into Kensignton helps. No anti-panhandling laws. No closing down the streets for cars.

Sheesh, I know you don't like the public transit having right of way...but those kinds of public transit innovations help keep gentrification away. So does keeping the car and other vehicle traffic moving. It's not good to close down the streets from cars and it's not good for organic growth and change to resist these public transit right aways. We need street cars and buses. I know they bug you..but they help with the health of the city. They make for awesome use of public transit for those of us who don't use cars.

One way streets, car culture blocking public transit right-of-ways and "pedestrian malls" are death to cities.

Working class people, artists, and a diversity of people and incomes use the TTC. And they use Kensignton Market.


mister anchovy said...

In fact, street cars and buses don't bug me. I support improved bus, street-car and subway service in Toronto.

I don't like what happened to Spadina Ave, though, and I don't support the right-of-way along St. Clair. That doesn't mean I'm against improving transit. It also doesn't mean I'm against transit right-of-ways in all contexts.