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Tag Archives: downtown toronto

Lessons from crossing Toronto’s divides

North, south, east, west, urban, burbs: the more you cross barriers, the less you believe in them.

Marco Chown Oved – Toronto Star

Having grown up in Markham, Andrew Tumilty figured he knew what he was getting into when he decided to leave his downtown apartment for a house in Scarborough.

“I was familiar with the suburbs, but I think I underestimated the adjustment process,” said the commercial real estate researcher.

While his dog now has a yard to run around in, and there’s more space for his newborn baby, Tumilty and his wife are now more dependant on their cars than ever before.

“‘Just around the corner’ here is much further than it is downtown,” he said.

As someone who has crossed Toronto’s downtown/suburban divide, Tumilty thinks both sides have something to learn from the other.

“People who have only ever lived in the suburbs have an unrealistic view of what downtown living is like,” he said. “Likewise, downtowners overestimate the distance to the suburbs. Stereotypes come from people who only know one or the other.”

Toronto has long been considered a city of neighbourhoods, and the choice to live in one area over another colours residents’ view of the city as a whole. But when people pick up and move across the city, their perspective changes, and many of those seemingly insurmountable barriers that divided Toronto sometimes don’t seem so important anymore.

Comment: Nor should they. People get SO hung up on neighbourhoods and having to live in the “right” place. Lose the attachment and you can find nice houses for a lot less, if you in other spots. You can always go to Ossington on Saturday night, it will still be there!

Liberty Village
Like many of their friends in the hip west end, Adrian Belina and Ginger Jarvis saw a trip across the Don Valley as being like a drive out to the country. So when their real estate agent suggested that they look at lofts in the east end, the young couple was incredulous.

“There’s a lot of stigma of moving east,” said Jarvis, an art director and professor of graphic design. “We both had a lot of anxiety before we moved.”

But once they started checking out the bars and restaurants in Riverside, Jarvis and Belina started to come around.

“It’s really hard to tear yourself away from everything you know. We were really worried,” said Jarvis. “But since we’ve gotten here, we’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

Comment: I beat my head against the wall every day trying to convince people that the east end is a good place to live!

Familiar spots from the west end, like The County General, Dark Horse and Rock Lobster helped convince the young couple that the move from Liberty Village wouldn’t be such a big deal after all.

“It’s just like the west end. The big difference is that everyone has a baby strapped to their chest,” said Belina, a creative director at a downtown advertising firm.

“It’s like the hipsters grew up, had kids and moved to the east end,” added Jarvis.

Scaroborough RT
Toronto’s divides may seem stark, but those who’ve crossed them say the differences are often exaggerated by ignorance.

“Anywhere in the world, neighbourhoods have reputations, and people are opinionated about changes to them,” said Kristin Trethewey, a curator and web designer who has lived and worked in places as diverse as Berlin, New York, Banff and Toronto. “Bigger cities become localized – made up of enclaves – and people feel the need to be diplomats for their neighbourhood and defend it.”

Trethewey, who grew up on St. Clair Avenue West, went to university in Hamilton, where she got her first taste of the poorly informed stigmas that places can garner.

“I had a friend come out to visit and she was so condescending, I was embarrassed,” she said. “When people speak negatively about Hamilton, I feel like they just don’t know it.”

Before moving out of Toronto, Trethewey had only visited relatives in Oakville and thought the outer reaches of the GTA were just windy streets of identical houses. But she grew to love Hamilton during her time there, and to appreciate its grittiness and its down-to-earth, friendly atmosphere.

So when she moved back to Toronto and set up in what was then a yet-to-be-gentrified Leslieville, she was determined to form her own opinions of the east end, even while all her friends moved west.

“We tend to judge other neighbourhoods more harshly than our own. At Queen and Ossington, there are lots of drug addicts around CAMH. But we tend to see the east end as scarier,” she said. “The more you cross barriers, the less you believe in them.”

Tumilty still has trouble explaining each side of his life to friends that come from the other end. His Markham friends were surprised when he got a dog downtown, assuming you couldn’t keep a dog in an apartment. They also maintain that downtown is no place for kids. By focusing on their image of a dirty, crime-ridden place, they don’t realize how many great museums and parks there are, he said, nor how many different kinds of people kids are exposed to in the heart of the city.

Now that he’s living at Meadowvale and the 401, Tumilty’s downtown friends can’t understand why anyone would move out to the sticks.

“Sure, there’s not as much to do, but people like the quiet,” he said.

While there are lots of exciting restaurants downtown, there are also great little spots in the outer reaches of the city as well.

“Both sides assume that the other side lives there because they have to, not because they choose to. I don’t think either side respects that it’s a choice,” he said.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.