In local vernacular, this neighbourhood is known as the “Gaybourhood.” No wonder, as this vital and booming city-centre community houses one of the largest gay and gay-positive populations in North America. This large area also known as “The Garden District” is bordered by the streets Bloor, Yonge, Jarvis and Carlton, and is flanked by the upscale fashion district, the University of Toronto, Cabbagetown and the theatre district. There are many trendy little eateries with patios along the strip. Not many Americans know that the television series Queer As Folk was filmed here; Church Street is where many of the external shots for QAF came from.
While the internationally known neighbourhood is home to parks, bars, community centres, restaurants, and stores catering to the LGBT community (particularly along Church Street), it is also a historic community with beautiful Victorian houses and apartments dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century; the mansions on Jarvis and Sherbourne streets set the tone for the lovely architecture of the period. More recently, new condominium developments have been erected.
22 Wellesley Street East
Completed just over a year ago, 22 Condominiums is 23 storeys of glass overlooking the downtown skyline and literally next door to the Wellesley subway, making it a convenient choice for urbanites. Its 161 Suites range in square footage from the 400’s to over 1300 sq. ft. – given the location, prices remain modest, ranging from the $250’s to over $400,000. What makes the design special is the low number of units per floor – just 4 to 8 – which ensures more corner units and hence more light and better views. Building amenities include exercise facilities, steam room, 24 hr concierge, business boardroom, and rooftop lounge with gorgeous hot tub.
Busy professionals have the city centre at their feet here. The Yonge/Wellesley intersection boasts all the world class amenities: bank at Scotia, satisfy the morning caffeine craving at Starbucks or Lettieri and get fabulous hair at Jazma. For guests’ convenience, the Green P is right across the street, as is a convivial English-style pub. The convenience store a few doors down makes it easy to pick up last-minute items. Throwing a party? The Wine Rack and the Beer Store are both mere blocks away, and entertaining is a breeze with scrumptious prepared dishes at Reither’s Fine Foods, fresh produce from Pusateri’s and free range meats at Cumbrae’s.
Busy professionals enjoy proximity to restaurants ranging from fine dining, to exotic fare, to the kind of cheap eats Toronto is famous for. Ginger (authentic Thai/Pan Asian fusion – satays, noodles and pad thai; $), Il Fornello (modern Italian cuisine, wood burning pizza oven; $$), Zelda’s (homestyle favourites dressed up with modern flair, waitstaff who dress in drag for the restaurant’s many theme nights; $), and Café California (California fusion, interesting salads; $) are all in the heart of the Village, within two blocks of the building.
Fabulous shopping continues with College Park’s luxury shops to the south and the Bay as well as upscale shopping to the north, near the Yonge/Bloor intersection. In between is everything from little specialty boutiques to coffee shops to the many Pan-Asian-influenced restaurants along this strip, as well as professional/medical services and so much more.
For a quiet moment away from the hustle & bustle of city life, visit the Paul Kane Park and House a 30-second walk from the building, where behind a low stone wall, beautifully maintained flower beds jostle the quiet lawn and one can sit and take a breather.
120/130 Carlton Street
This Tridel constructed building houses 120 generously sized luxury suites. Buyers may choose from a two or three bedroom suite, some with park views, all with balconies. The building can claim bragging rights to conveniences including a computer room, meeting and party rooms, a fully equipped exercise room, squash and racquetball courts, and an indoor pool. Carlton on the Park is, of course, directly across the street from the 13-acre Allan Gardens Park and historical botanical conservatory – a beautiful sprawling greenhouse featuring exotic plants and ponds in several climate-controlled environments, making it a popular spot for wedding photos. Dog owners appreciate the off-leash areas in the Park and everyone can enjoy the huge mature trees, strolling paths and benches, adjacent to the gay-positive St. Luke’s United Church.
Urbanites wishing to raise children in the vibrant downtown core make good use of the Church Street Public School and Daycare just a couple of blocks from the building, as well as the College Francais a block away.The streetcar stops right at the front entrance to 120 Carlton, ferrying the business crowd to the College subway (only three blocks away, it is a pleasant walk year-round).
Next door to the complex, the dry cleaners and the Little Bee Supermarket with its surprising array of fresh foods and quick conveniences are well patronized by the locals.
Shopping continues with the landmark Eaton Centre to the South and the popular Cabbagetown neighbourhood to the east, where residents enjoy big box shopping at the Home Hardware, Pet Valu, No Frills and Shoppers Drug Mart. Iconic bars and pubs such as The Brass Taps and the Ben Wicks Pub, serve the area.
Up and Coming
If you love the neighbourhood but can’t seem to get in, rest assured that more condominium units will soon be available!
The Steam Plant Lofts represent the third phase of the Earl Street project that included townhomes and new lofts. The conversion of the 1953 Wellesley Hospital steam generation power plant into 29 true, hard lofts by Aykler Real Estate is now 60% sold and will offer a garden rooftop terrace, at 10 Wellesley Place (at Jarvis).
Plazacorp in concert with Quadrangle Architects will be constructing a new high-rise tower with 227 suites at 46 Wellesley Street East, just steps from Church Street.
The area was originally settled by some of early Toronto’s most prominent families – some of the street names even offer clues to its rich history. For instance, Jarvis Street is named after the family of William Jarvis, a former provincial secretary of Upper Canada. Homewood Avenue is named after the now-subdivided estate of George Allan, a former mayor of Toronto. The entire Village is located on land once owned by Alexander Wood, a philanthropic Scottish immigrant who arrived in Canada in the late 1800’s. Rumours persist to this day that Wood was driven into exile to his native Scotland because of his sexual orientation; in our City of York, however, he rose to prominence as a public servant and benefactor.
Inside The Village
Often the neighbourhood is referenced for its Pride Parade festivities now in their 29th year; every June, a million people descend on the area for a week of celebration and awareness. Local residents don’t seem to mind, and indeed welcome the people and revelry. However, there is a lot more to the neighbourhood than this annual event!
- The 519 Church Street Community Centre is the meeting place for numerous social and political groups has recently undergone an extensive renovation, including expansion of the building and upgrades to the existing spaces.
- “The Steps” in front of the Second Cup coffee shop on the south-west corner of Church and Wellesley, was an infamous set of stairs that had often been packed with people chatting, flirting, and drinking coffee. When the property owner expanded the retail space of the shops to the street front in 2004, the “communal stoop” area moved two blocks south to the corner of Church and Alexander, near Timothy’s and the statue of Alexander Wood.
The Future of the Neighbourhood
As times have changed and Canadian society has become more gay-positive, Church Street is no longer viewed as an essential destination, particularly by gay youth. Many bars and clubs throughout Toronto are now popular destinations for young gay and lesbian clubgoers. As well, rental rates for both commercial and residential property have risen significantly, causing many privately owned businesses to close down or move to other areas, and much larger corporations – such as major banks, coffee chains and Baskin Robbins – have settled on the street.
Because many gays no longer feel it necessary to live near the Village as they can be open about their sexuality without fear of backlash, some feel that in the near future Church Street may no longer be the “heart” of the gay community. The area is already changing, with upwardly mobile business folk choosing more exclusive addresses and an influx of young professionals being drawn to the neighbourhood. Some have speculated that within ten years, Parliament and Wellesley may become Toronto’s new gay village; others refer to the Queen West area which has become a popular destination for gays, even earning the nickname of “Queer West Village” in recent years.
Ultimately, The Village welcomes visitors from all walks of life to enjoy this energetic, dazzling neighbourhood.