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The four corners of Bathurst and Bloor

October 28th, 2013 · No Comments

When a big store means more than just a place to shop: the future of Bathurst and Bloor

By Simone Blaiss

In any intersection in downtown Toronto, transformation is inevitable, but the changes occurring to the four corners of Bathurst and Bloor has that area’s diverse community particularly up in arms.  This summer’s announcement that Honest Ed’s was to be sold has many residents concerned for the future of the landmark discount store and, more importantly, the gentrification that it symbolizes.

“If we don’t look at [the four corners] together then we could end up with a patchwork… that doesn’t serve the community,” Mike Layton said at a city council meeting looking, for the first time, at the intersection as a whole.

The influx of newer bars attracting younger people has residents annoyed by the late night noise, and the speeding cars on Bathurst have many worried that it is no longer a safe street.  But above all, the biggest concern remains the potential loss of Honest Ed’s, the 65-year-old landmark. Residents’ recollections of the building are laced with nostalgia and many want the building to be protected as a heritage site.  The building itself may be preserved but if the actual business chooses to leave, that is beyond the city’s control.  Mike Layton points out that “If we protect the building, we’re essentially protecting a big box store because if the business chooses to leave, the only person who could fill it is a Walmart or another very large format retailer.”   The city will not push for the preservation of the building as a heritage site at this point.  The decision is solely up to the commercial operation.   If a large commercial store does move in, the preservation of ma-and-pa stores and of Mirvish village is at stake.  Although Honest Ed’s was technically a large commercial store, small retail has still been able to thrive despite its presence.  And on a more street level, “It wasn’t a faceless big box.  It had a face.  It had a very real face,” Layton points out.

Councillor Adam Vaughan tried to reassure the group of 100 or so residents and store owners by letting them know that “The individual who is looking at this site… has an interest in building for the future generation.”

What that future generation will encounter is far from finalized, but it is clear that whatever that might be it may be met with some community resistance.

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