Urban Revitalization: The rise of the Creative Class and the Loss of Art and Heart in downtown Toronto

A Photo Essay by Dorrie Mack

Audio Transcription

The Creative Class Take-Over


Toronto used to be a city of artists and their political relationship with the ruling class has always been a push-and-pull. Art is mired in the political atmosphere in which it was contrived. To approach politics as fundamentally based on elections is reductionist—politics inform every aspect of our daily lives: how we move about in the city, the mode of transportation we take, the amount of graffiti we see on the street corners, and even the air we breathe. Art reflects politics and politics informs art. In the past decade, the "creative voice" has become louder. Creative sounds softer, more passive, less political than artistic practice and institutional critiques. And that’s because it is.

The creative class may work as a collective but are individualists at heart—convinced that, despite the economical challenges of the day, it is possible to find success through hard work, dedication, and drive. They often are coming from comfortable upper-middle-class backgrounds and enjoy privileges, regardless of what field they stumbled into. They hold sentiments akin to Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Margaret Thatcher. This is a dangerous economic individualism that shouldn't have a place in Canada's social fabric. This group espouses understanding for mental health issues, racism, sexism, traumas, but they are people who move forward from things. Money buys happiness. Societal diseases rarely, if at all, affect the creative class. 


This group masks its self-serving individualism by pushing for causes that benefit them as a unified group. These are the people who work to change the name “homeless” to “unhoused” and take umbrage when the wrong term is used in conversation. As if by making the name more palatable, the lack of permanent shelter becomes more palatable, too—at the very least, it sounds more pleasant. This type of fight also happens to be easier and cheaper than affecting actual economic change. By virtue of the upward mobility of this class, none of the causes they take on tackle any of the systemic power imbalances between the upper and lower classes—likely because this class plans to climb to the top someday soon. 


Midtown Toronto.

The creative class has more earning power and influence than their artist counterparts and they want more space in the downtown core. Toronto is still a political city, the divide between rich and poor grows more evident by the day and with that comes an increase in support for a new kind of urban growth: a gentrification process masked as affordable housing and revitalization.


I’m sure I’m not the only Torontonian looking up in despair and confusion as yet another condo pops up, overshadowing the features of this beautiful city like a zit. What is causing these growths, sprouting throughout neighbourhoods, seemingly at random? What is the cause of this cultural takeover that reimagines beloved music venues, historic homes, and entire neighbourhoods in socially alienating ways, while pushing for a more corporate Toronto? As the "affordable" condo-culture reigns supreme, it becomes apparent that nothing in city planning is ever as random as it first appears on street level. 


Toronto mayor David Miller initiated the current force of globalized gentrification in 2006. He was joined by other mayors from prominent Canadian cities and PM Paul Martin who felt that metropolitan cities should take on the role of mini-provinces. Since they have status on the world stage, these cities needed to make an impression—after all, how the tourist views the city informs how they view the country. By 2006, due to population growth, Martin felt the cities handled the socio-economic roles of a province without the benefits of receiving the taxes to manage these problems.

Midtown Condo.

With help from his colleagues, Martin drafted the “New Deal” and delivered it at the Mayor’s Summit in Toronto in 2006, presenting a unified vision of Canada to the world. In the same way every white-bread family loves to see a Kelsey’s on the 401 every 100 km or so, Martin and the mayors were shaping policy to ensure their cities became the Kelsey’s of the Canadian city tour. They proposed to achieve this by accelerating urban growth and infrastructure. These policies are the very ones that set in motion plans to predetermine the shape and culture—or lack thereof—in the current Toronto fabric. 


"It [was] always clear to me when I was in business that while we talked about the competition between countries, essentially the competition was between cities. […] If the competition is between Toronto and New York or Toronto and Shanghai, then the more you can make Toronto a vibrant place, an attractive place for people to live, then Canada is going to be the beneficiary."
1
- Martin

In 2002 the city pledged to increase upkeep for older apartment buildings, so as to prevent fires, mold, and improve living conditions for Toronto citizens, going so far as to write by-laws to make demolition and rezoning difficult for landlords. However, in 2006, Toronto City Council decided to push for accelerated investment in urban infrastructure. This led to developing a plan for the future with one clear goal: emphasize the need for condos and have an action plan for condo development in the downtown core. Bylaw clauses and amendments were added to the 2002 bylaw to enable landlords to make their case before City Council to turn their apartment buildings into condos rather than financing routine maintenance and repairs for existing buildings.2

Construction Zone.
Parliament Street on a Grey Day During the Pandemic.

Toronto’s downtown core is made up of a diverse mix of classes and cultures, which drive attention to the city as a multi-cultural metropolis and help Miller gain relevance on the world stage. These buildings and areas—the cultural and tourist highlights of the city—were what developers wanted to get their greedy hands on the most. These locations housed resident artists. In turn, the proposed developments strangle the art scene: small gallery spaces struggle to survive, rising rents for music venues necessitate their closure, and individuals lose their jobs. There is an exodus of artists in Toronto, leaving for more art-friendly cities.
3,4

Neoliberal governments are very good at obfuscating terminology and this has shown up routinely in the handling of the pandemic. Strategies often involve a tidal wave of different terms, none of which actually mean what they are supposed to describe. This is not a new practice. It is part of the neoliberal agenda: when the public is confused by the meaning of language, it becomes extremely easy to take control of the narrative. It can be challenging to sound like a socially conscious person if you oppose "affordable" housing developments5 and urban growth. But these developments all come at a cost: they displace predominantly marginalized communities to make way for new, user-friendly, pipelined, "affordable" projects. But if low-income families already reside in these buildings, why are we destroying them? Where are they meant to relocate? And just who are these new "affordable" housing developments for? They are for young professionals, part of the creative class; the new bourgeoisie.


In 2007, David Miller invited David Florida to a conference in Toronto. This is where the cultural shift accelerated. David Florida coined the term that I've been using in this essay: “the creative class." What do they do? You name it. They work in all sectors, but are idea creators: "they are people whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new content; and they are people in science, engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and the entertainment industry.”6 Richard Florida believes that the creative class is the one to rise to power in the coming decade(s), and with the help of the governing bodies of each major city he spoke in, this theory took root. He posited that the creative class would be the propellant force for the economy and that cities needed to support this group in order to become the urbane city and march forward into the new technocrat era:


"Florida’s idea of the creative class is a destruction of industrial forms of labour production with the creative forms of labour innovation and ideas. The rise and growth of the creative class is a result of the decline and decay of the service and industrial labour force. In Florida’s words, 'the distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to create meaningful new forms.'”6 

The emphasis on the creative class as desirable ensures their unification. It provides this group with a lens, through which they can to observe each other as equals. In turn, this dynamic propels the creative class to single out the Other(s) within the social fabric of Toronto—those who do not carry the characteristics of this class are outside of it and, therefore, lesser than. 


"The broad scope of the creator class (genderless, raceless, jobless) allows for a new found false 'equality,' provided that you fall into the right education and income bracket. The key is that this group (comprised of academics, students, graphic designers, promoters, instagram creators, agents, art appreciators, etc.) all desire society to be safe, stable, reliable, nice. For, as Florida puts it: Building cohesive, affordable, multi-cultural and inclusive communities is critical in incubating 'creativity and the exchange of ideas that drive economic success.' Florida’s brand of neoliberal progressive finds enemy with urban sprawl and renegotiates 'transit, density, and {engender[s] a} tolerant urban environment.'" 7

This paradigm shift, even in the name of socioeconomic bonhomie, did not sit well with a core group of voters, who were not ready to see the city reimagined with such fervent disregard for the people and cultures existing within it. As such, Miller was promptly voted out in a landslide the following election. 


Rob Ford entered Toronto’s political sphere and progress marched forward faster than ever. Richard Florida saw Rob Ford’s time in office as a setback. Ford “damaged Toronto’s brand as a progressive, cutting edge, open-minded, modern urban center. He has made it harder for every single one of its great organizations to attract and recruit global talent.” But they needn’t have worried: as a neoconservative, his policies largely aided the plans Miller had laid in place. Ford never removed the Pipeline plan for Urban Growth and Development. He even deregulated construction zoning permits, making it easier for developers to infiltrate the downtown core and access buildings and areas that were previously untouchable for redevelopment.8 This by-law is still in place today.9


The White-Painting Phenomenon & St. James Town



Affordable housing is a nice term to throw around, but that’s all it is. It’s a safe, comfortable word for safe, comfortable people. Affordable housing, and even inclusionary zoning for housing, is not the same thing as community or subsidized housing.10,11 The people who live in the rent controlled communities are being removed from their homes so their buildings can make way for condos with affordable housing units intended to provide spaces for the creative class. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but makes up a large part of the city’s culture and history, especially since the rise of free market capitalism in the 1970s. These complex issues of downtown gentrification were referred to as “white painting” in 1974 by Stephen Dyne:

“[White painting is a phenomenon], where neighbourhoods and individuals in downtown areas, once occupied by lower and middle income groups, are extensively renovated and subsequently occupied by middle to upper class households.[The term itself originated from the new resident's] penchant for painting [the exterior of] their households white [but] more recently the term has shifted towards sandblasting the exterior of the houses.”
12

The new cultural trend has shifted toward “facading,” where the incoming community guts the houses' interiors, but retains the exteriors to preserve the original charm of the facades, which are often what drew attention to the neighbourhood in the first place. 
This spin-off practice is an extension of "white painting" and one can argue it is even more sinister in its blatant attempt at cultural preservation. A cooption or appropriation occurs as the citizens who have built and maintained the cultural character of the neighbourhood are excluded. Parkdale and Mirvish Village come to mind as examples-in-progress,13 along with The Selby Hotel in St. James Town and The Waverly/Silver Dollar at the Spadina and College intersection. Further renovation plans throughout St. James Town incorporate this method, as well. The heritage houses14 that line the streets become the lobbies and front facing entrances to the towering condos that block light and change the entire dynamic of the neighbourhood. 



Parliament Street, facing more development.

St. James Town lies in the northeast corner of Toronto’s downtown, a no-mans-land left largely to itself, lost amid the loud vibrancy of Rosedale (home to Richard Florida), Yorkville, The Gay Village, and Cabbage Town. It is the “most densely populated community in all of Canada, as well as one of the poorest.”15 St. James Town is home to 25,000 citizens, "with a high proportion of newcomers, low-income families, young families, youth, seniors living alone and people facing complex health issues.”16 This neighbourhood comprises the city's most diverse and impoverished population in the downtown core.17 To address the largely underserved community in St. James Town, the City is planning to “establish a model of integrated, collaborative care [and provide] inter-sectoral service coordination, service enhancement and community development.”16 To me, this echoes as neoliberal speak for increasing the value of condos in the area. Although making it more attractive to potential new inhabitants and tourists, these plans may have an adverse effect on current residents with drastic rent increases and higher cost of living. Are they being consulted about the needs of the community? Wouldn't this integration push the occupying class out as such projects have before?

The Final Report for St James Town Connect Framework, notes that in the 1960s and 1970s, when Toronto first began its mission for improving St James Town, the redevelopment was targeted toward “younger, professional singles” and that “the population later shifted to lower-income residents, new immigrants and families with young children and through the 1980s there was an increase in population without any new development.” St James Town currently boasts an ethnically diverse population. It is home to the largest immigrant population in downtown Toronto, and provides housing with some of the last actually affordable rental prices in the downtown core for part-time workers and has the largest demographic of single-parent households. There are numerous parks, sidewalks, and green spaces available, both public and situated on the grounds of apartment buildings. These are the very spaces that have become the target of the current plan.



Revitalize!


The language used by the Toronto City Council in development proposals implies that St James Town, and indeed, any lower-income neighbourhood that is not brimming with condos, is not a community. There is a dangerous narrative that lower-income neighbourhoods require a complete overhaul to benefit the community. Reclamation, restoration, and revitalization will bring it back into the folds of the city:


""[St. James Town Connects] has built on concepts and directions from other studies and previous consultations to help identify and refine the community's priorities.""



Community leaders may be involved in the St. James Town Connects plan to a degree, however, the larger body of residents themselves largely don't figure in plans, either through omission or misrepresentation. And to suggest that a community needs ‘refining’ is archaic. The language suggesting the community is made up of low-class people, thugs and miscreants. Not humans whose daily needs and desires might differ from the people doing the refining.



Interior Glen Road Mural.
The Glen Road Exit Mural—as Reclaimed by the Neighborhood.

In 2013, city-run art initiatives started subtly "renewing" the urban landscape, making it more attractive. An affiliate program to Street ART Toronto cleaned up the graffiti in St James Town. Sherbourne Station’s Glen Road exit was covered with a government-commissioned mural Jim Barvo, replacing the decades-worth of community graffiti that was considered off-putting by some sectors of society.19 It has since been reclaimed by community graffiti, making for a powerful statement. 

The commissioned murals on Glen Road and the Mount Pleasant underpass were the first steps to gentrifying the area. Developers encroached on the area. Signs for community meetings to discuss the imminent arrival of Hotel Selby showed up a year or so after.

More Notices—at the Handy Variety.
The view from Linden Street, no high rises, sky in sight. Businesses,all closed.
Development Signs.


Notices regarding the latest condo redevelopment in the area were posted two days prior to the meeting, which was held online. The location in question is an entire block, consisting of a red brick building (circa 1900s) that houses a few Mom'n'Pop businesses and apartments on the second and third stories; the Saxony, a dubious dive-bar, long-gone; a shuttered three story apartment complex; the building that housed a closed convenience store; and the neighbourhood park, which is always busting with life.

Howard Street, 2021.


Following the meeting, and seemingly overnight, several more signs popped up advising of the meeting, time, and date in more prominent locations—on each building that was to be affected by the proposed growth. It felt almost teasing, an “I told you so," a “Didn’t you know? There were notices all over! Should have said something if you didn’t want it to happen.” There was no widespread attempt at including the neighbourhood. There is a misconception that people at large are uninvolved and uninterested, but the notices were absent (unless you count a small flyer on a pole). Certainly, there was no canvassing of the neighbourhood, or telephoning or flyers in the mail. There was a predetermined disinterest for this community, the one that is to be most impacted by the new building. It is difficult for low-income households to attend meetings outside of their regularly scheduled days. Life and survival get in the way. This neighbourhood has one of the highest demographic of single-parent households in the downtown core—attending a meeting that is not in the usual routine, and especially one at dinner time, is just not feasible.

Most people take the politics of their landscape for granted. The landscape is something that exists, when in actuality—it is something that political exchanges influence. If the residents of this area were asked directly about future plans for the local park, there would have been lots to say. These revitalization plans are often as useful to residents as throwing new wallpaper up on houses that need water and hydro.20,21

Fires & Solutions


Base of the Phoenix mural and more construction at Wellesley and Sherbourne.

The building on 200 Wellesley Street E, directly across from the local park, has dealt with numerous fires over the years, even though it routinely passes its fire inspections.22 One of the most recent incidents, caused by a cigarette tossed over a balcony, resulted in significant financial losses to residents due to smoke damage and temporary relocation. The city stepped in with more street art to offset devastation due to smoke damage and impact on the residents. The mural was "uplifting" but ironic—a phoenix rising from the ashes on the charred outer wall of the apartment building. While the interior damage remained, the mural successfully covered up outer signs of distress.21

Rental Office at Sherbourne St. and Isabella.

Residents were bemused— many were under the impression the funds collected were for residents who had to replace clothing and other lost possessions, instead of a mural. Offering financial support in such situations is essential for low-income families to have a chance of surviving in Toronto. This is a matter of being born into poverty and indentured servitude to the state. Any slip-up, whether by personal misadventure or act of God, has destructive connotations. 


It is another sign of how out of touch our politicians are from select sectors of society. There is no talk in the St. James Town Final Report of addressing the systemic issues that affect the impoverished residents. The Community Improvement Plan is to fund art and urban growth, as well as other development initiatives that improve the exterior of the neighbourhood to make it less of an eyesore for passers-by and to potentially increase property values for landowners and prospective investors.

The Phoenix commissioned mural at 260 Wellesley St. E.

Living in St. James Town


When I first moved to the little bachelor apartment on Bloor and Sherbourne in 2014, it was still on the cusp of a rough neighbourhood. Friends and family worried about the location, there were transients, intimidating men (who, to me, looked more hungry and desperate than dangerous), and the occasional shooting at the plaza across the street.

City commissioned mural, the name of a condo developer in the foreground.
Other side of the city-commissioned mural at the Mount Pleasant underpass; the City and the condo developer have the same size emblem...curious.

The building was a cute brownstone from the twenties, with weekly cleaning of the main areas, but the tenants in it were low-income (as were we). All our friends couldn’t believe we’d chosen a neighbourhood in the city's East-end and it was a nuisance explaining to those living in Parkdale that even though we were not on the Danforth, the area itself was actually pretty great: full of dive bars, family-run dollar stores, Mom'n' Pop grocery stores, Portuguese bakeries, and houses that harkened back to an older Toronto. The neighbours had a small-town friendliness about them. On a weekday, this neighbourhood was alive and bustling; on Sundays, it had the feel of a small town and the near-silent streets felt respectful of the church service that many attended. The little dollar store at the intersection of Bloor and Sherbourne, owned by an immigrant couple, was my favourite place to shop. I bought all my art supplies there and it made art school affordable for me. There was a family-run convenience store, The Handy Variety, on the corner of Sherbourne and Linden. The family worked twenty-four-hour days, traded off shifts to one another, and calmly engaged with the clientele who came through their door. The store proffered cigarettes, lottery tickets, milk, juice, chips, and a random assortment of cleaning supplies and food. It was simple but nice. There was always cardboard lying on the floor by the door to catch the slush from boots in the winter. One summer there was a brown-out and I walked over to the store to buy cigarettes. Ilesh Patel, the owner, had propped the door open and was sitting outside, conversing with a neighbour from one of the nearby tenements. We sat and smoked and the weather was so calm but it felt like the eye of a hurricane or some great storm was upon us.

The Eye of the Storm



In 2015, the boards started going up around the beautiful red brick house on the corner of Selby and Sherbourne. This was to become the “centre to the storm of construction and development that’s poised over the neighbourhood of [the] Bloor and Sherbourne [intersection].”23 A house on the west side of Sherbourne and two large red brick houses on the east side of at Linden awaited development, envelopment into the face of some new, otherwise colourless condominium.24 The construction started and with it, the ads—cool and sleek, but lacking enough polish to provide the stylized 'hipster look' that was popular at the time, in my opinion. They promised housing for the up-and-coming Toronto scene—youthful, hip, with an affluent and carefree lifestyle. The ads covered the now empty storefronts that catered to the St. James Town Projects and the surrounding neighbourhood:

"The east side of Sherbourne Street, south of Bloor, has been virtually demolished […] twenty years from now, the whole Sherbourne corridor will be condos, perhaps like Bay Street has become. Sherbourne is filled with little two-storey commercial and residential buildings, and even some vacant lots–all of which are ripe for development."25
Graffitti on a boarded-up business on Parliament Street.

Following a development blitz in 2018, the dollar store and the rest of the shops along the south-west side of Bloor, excluding the Tim Hortons’s and a select few others at the very top of Sherbourne, shuttered their doors for good, in line to become the next condo in the area. Hotel Selby, the gorgeous red brick mansion, was slated to become the soulless face of a 30+ story condo and restaurant combo. Ironically, within a year of tenants moving in, the Handy Variety and the Saxony (the dive bar next door) closed up for good. There were relocation plans, but nothing was available in the area they’d called home for years. The Handy Variety owners understood their customers and represented the neighbourhood. It showed in every difficult business transaction they made. Following the robbery in 2014, Ilesh Patel said to me that he held no malice towards the man, and that life goes on.

Looking South Down Sherbourne at Linden Street.


When our local No Frills added an Organic section, it was obvious that there was an ulterior motive as it was hardly affordable to long-time patrons of the grocery store. Self-checkouts arrived, ostensibly to cut down on long wait times; Maryian Fatima was hired on as a cashier at No Frills. While she assured me her husband and she were still planning to reopen a dollar store nearby and that her No Frills job was temporary, she also worried that new increases in rent would likely force her to apply for public housing. She’s still my favourite cashier. 


Looking up Sherbourne St. towards Bloor from between Wellesley and Earl St.

And suddenly, the public spaces felt less public. A FreshCo opened up south on Sherbourne street, closer to the tenements. The prices and quality of food made it clear which grocery store was intended for which class of patron. Grocery store trips began to feel hurried and rushed; always too crowded and overpriced, no matter the purchase. The neighbourhood shifted and lost its small town feel. Our building still has the mainstay tenants: Jane on the second floor, who has lived here for almost fifteen years, and another tenant directly below, following closely behind in seniority. My partner, Liam, and I met Jane on our first week in the building, she was struggling to get a shopping cart full of groceries up two flights of stairs, hindered by chronic pain. We helped her, without thinking twice, and have been friendly with her ever since. Jane lives on a pension and pays a low-for-Toronto monthly rent for her street-view apartment. Seeing her on the street is like catching up with a favourite aunt: she always offers new-age health advice, followed up with information on the latest tenant to move in. She and so many others, Liam and myself included, have found shelter in this little brown brick domicile, and are watching our neighbourhood change to become just like so many neighbourhoods in the city. The condos arrive. The small stores and apartments close for good, engulfed within this new wave of gentrification. Grocery store prices increase to reflect the new influx of high-paying tenants. Instead of the usual thirty-dollar grocery bill, we need to cough up fifty, or even more. This might not mean much to some, but for those on ODSP or welfare, the price increase is monumental. Some of this is due to inflation and the cost of living through a pandemic, but much of it reflects a neighbourhood with a shifting consumer base—the creative class.



The top of Bloor and Mount Pleasant Streets—Looking East to Sherbourne Street.

Living in St. James Town, I have never once felt that this neighbourhood was not part of the city. It is part of the beautiful mosaic that makes up the patchwork quilt that is Toronto. Our neighbourhoods are unique spatial narratives, are multiple cultural and spatial narratives of this city, each with its own beautiful culture, sights, smells, sounds, and stories. It is integral to the city’s history and future, that these spaces are preserved.


"[I]n Toronto—as in many cities throughout the world—the "geography of urban landscapes is also becoming increasingly stratified," Florida notes. Citing David Hulchanski's landmark Three Cities Report, Florida notes that the recent intensification of "a long-term trend towards a prosperous urban core, surrounded by an eroding middle-class, which is itself bordered by increasingly impoverished outer areas.7 This is being achieved through street art, green food boxes and bylaw clauses. But what is the framework for systemic change that addresses the needs of the impoverished denizens who are the heart of St. James Town?

Rosedale.
Rosedale.


And so, the push for progress continues here and throughout the city. St. James Town faces a complete overhaul, with incessant and seemingly never-ending construction. In Chinatown, the demolition of the Silver Dollar and the Hotel Weverly were a bad omen for the future of the neighbourhood. The Value Village near Bloor and Landsdowne are threatened. Mirvish Village is gone already. These neighbourhoods all housed independent retailers, artists, deviators from the new way of life—a beautiful chaos that made Toronto a city worth experiencing and living in. It is this the very unpredictable nature of the streets that neoliberal ideologues want to do away with for good. It’s too chaotic, uncontrolled, untidy. It’s not safe for the stock market, or real estate market, or any other market. And therein lies the problem. The creative class desires stability. They are reliant on computers and technology; they are innovators and prime movers in the tech boom. They are able to create an insular network, but they fail to use technology as a way to improve infrastructure or public works. And so Florida’s creative city fails, at least low-income classes. Aesthetically, urban growth and development is destroying the landscape of the old Toronto and leaving it sterilized and devoid of anything worth looking twice at.

The view from here—cross the Glen road bridge and enter Rosedale.


As the neoliberal market booms, the artists and true creative weirdos are pushed out of the city, unable to keep up with the ever inflating rental prices.26 These artists and freaks and wild children were the ones who cried out about the state of the developing Toronto through their music, art, theatre, and writing. Those voices have been silenced, drowned out by the white noise of consumerism. 


A homeless encampment in the woods, near the "up-and-coming" St. James Town.
Discarded clothes close to a homeless encampment near Bloor and Sherbourne.
Graffiti behind the buildings at Mt. Pleasant and Bloor.

The Years to Come



Trudeau has announced his budget for the coming years and promised more money towards urban renewal projects, infrastructure, revitalization, and expansion: the way to increase value is to revitalize abandoned stores and locations; to reimagine them as affordable housing. These "abandoned" locations are the ones owned by those forced to move out. The global pandemic enforces these decisions—in times of shock, communities are less resistant to ideas and proposals. When the public doesn’t pay attention (perhaps too busy trying to survive due to job instability and housing crises), it is the cue for those with ulterior motives to act. Amid a storm, it is impossible to pay attention to the connotations of everything. "Affordable" housing might be taken at face value but the questions of what this "affordability" entails and who does it serve becoming louder. Where will residents go when rent increases happen? How are the scarce natural ecosystems affected by the condos or pathways? A city, a province, a country is only as good and healthy as its weakest part.



Graffiti at the Mt. Pleasant St. Bridge.
Huntley Street, looking up to the left at Bloor.
The Roger building at Mount Pleasant, viewed from the Underpass.

St. James Town is just one example of this collision course, impoverished by lack of social programs and damaged infrastructure, alienated by threatening new developments. The citizens here feel the tension and strain, and have been for years. Art is used to cover the fault lines but it does not fix the divide between classes. Unrest will only grow as the city's only solution is painting her face with lipstick to show off to incoming dignitaries, rather than getting the serious help she so desperately needs. 


Making Way for More Progress, the Reimagined Don Trail.

Works Cited

1Campion-Smith, Bruce. “Canadian Cities Mark ‘New Deal’ Milestone.” Thestar.com, The Toronto Star, 24 May 2010,
2“TORONTO MUNICIPAL CODE CHAPTER 667, RESIDENTIAL AND RENTAL PROPERTY DEMOLITION AND CONVERSION CONTROL.” City of Toronto, 25 Aug. 2020.
3Edwards, Samantha. “Squeezed out? Six Musicians on Why They Left Toronto.” NOW Magazine, 3 July 2020.
4Kennedy, Andrew. “Time for Toronto to Decide Whether It Wants to Keep Its Artists.” Thestar.com, 2 Jan. 2020.
5Gibson, Victoria. “Rosedale and Chinatown Picked as Sites for 334 New Affordable Housing Units.” Thestar.com, The Toronto Star, 15 Apr. 2021.
6Umpherson, James. “Richard Florida's Creative Class: Why Creativity Is the New Economy and What It Means for YOUR Community.” Economicdeveloment.org, Economic Development News & Insight, 23 Oct. 2015.
7Novakovic, Stefan. “The Interview: Richard Florida and the Future of Toronto.” Urban Toronto, Urbantoronto.ca, 7 Dec. 2015.
8City of Toronto Enacts New Harmonized Zoning By-Law 569-2013, Wood Bull LLP Barristers and Solicitors, 15 May 2013.
9“City Planning Zoning BY-LAW NO. 569-2013.” City of Toronto, 1 May 2020.
10City of Toronto. “Inclusionary Zoning Policy.” City of Toronto,, 4 Dec. 2020.
11 City of Toronto. “Updating the Definitions of Affordable Housing.” City of Toronto, 23 Mar. 2021.
12 Dynes, Stephen W. The Spatial and Social Implications of Whitepainting. University of Toronto, 1974.
13CBC Docs: Point of View: "Housing for all in Toronto is possible say urban planning experts." Interview with Cheryll Case and David Hulchanski. Nov. 12, 2020.
14Howe, Davies. “Listing Multiple Properties on Toronto's Heritage Register Using Historic Context Statements.” Davies Howe LLP, Davies Howe LLP Land Development Advocacy and Litigation, 7 Jan. 2021.
15“The Neighbourhood.” St. James Town, The Corner, 29 Mar. 2020, www.stjamestown.org/the-neighbourhood/.

16“A World Within A Block.” St. James Town, The Corner, 4 May 2021, www.stjamestown.org/.
17“St. James Town Connects Framework- St. James Town Public Realm and Open Space Plan - Final Report.” City of Toronto, Acting Director Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York District, 26 June 2018.
18“St. James Town Connects Framework- St. James Town Public Realm and Open Space Plan - Final Report.” City of Toronto, Acting Director Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York District, 26 June 2018. [emphasis added]
19StreetARToronto—The Map, City of Toronto, 2019, streetart.to/.
20Pereira, Eileen. “History of OASIS.” St. James Town Community Co-Op, 28 Jan. 2021.
21Skinner, Justin. “32-Storey Mural a Symbol for the St. James Town Community.” Toronto.com, Toronto.com, 8 Aug. 2013.
22Alozzi, Raneem, and Jason Miller. “Two Hospitalized in Blaze at TCHC Highrise in St. James Town.” Thestar.com, The Toronto Star, 8 Nov. 2019.
23National Post. “'This Street Will Totally Transform': New Frontier of Development Underway on Bloor Street East.” Nationalpost, National Post, 23 July 2016.
24Gamble, Adrian. “The Crane Also Rises: A Tale of Three Toronto Mansions.” Urbantoronto.ca, Urban Toronto, 8 Sept. 2015.
25“How Long Does It Take For A Neighbourhood To ‘Change?".” Toronto Realty Blog, 16 Jan. 2015.
26Hulchanski, J David. “Three Cities Within Toronto 2010 Final.” Cities Centre Press, University of Toronto, 2010. .
27 Zochodne, Geoff. “Trudeau Government's Federal Budget Enters Housing Fray with Tax on Foreign Owners.” Financialpost, Financial Post, 19 Apr. 2021.

Dorrie Mackintosh was a professional art model for 13+ years. She is on a forced hiatus from her chosen career due to unforeseen worldwide circumstances. It has given her time to think and study the world at large and focus on other things including photography and music.


You can find Dorrie on Instagram @dorrie.mack and @dorriemackart
 or you can check out her music here and her band, with her partner Liam, here.