Celebrate Yonge on the Street

Last year, we wrote about Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s vision for a pedestrian friendly Yonge St. Today, we are happy to report that her vision has become a (temporary) reality. Here’s the scoop:

As part of the Celebrate Yonge project, for the next month (until September 19th), the main stretch of Yonge St. will be transformed into an urban playground designed by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. To make room for this venture, vehicular traffic between Gerrard and Queen Streets has been reduced to one lane for each direction of travel.  

Yonge St. just got a whole lot brighter and more pedestrian friendly. Image c/o Urban Toronto.

Evan Weinberg, Planning and Development Manager for the Downtown Yonge BIA has said that in planning the event, the BIA tried to identify a number of event spaces along Yonge St. to help people appreciate what it has to offer. Each block will have its own branding to highlight its specific features. The ultimate goal of the Downtown BIA, Weinberg says, is to create more space for more people to experience everything Yonge has to offer.

So, what can visitors expect? The strip will be decked out with a green oasis of trees, boulders, logs, grass, and soil. It will also feature a 30-seat amphitheatre built into the dirt, 3 patios, and a cedar fort. Some of the seating will be set aside for general public use, while other seating has been taken for private use, mostly by the pubs and restaurants that line the strip. This new set-up gives the city the opportunity to try out new licenses which allow servers to cross the sidewalk to serve alcoholic beverages.

Part of the ING Urban Forest. Image c/o Urban Toronto.

The planters that line the streets are sponsored by the city’s carpenters’ union. They tell the story of who is building this city. Each box was planted by different landscapers, nurseries, and florists from around the city. There was a design competition for the planters, so expect some really high quality arrangements along the strip.

One of the many planters lining Yonge St. Image c/o blogTO.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Yonge St.has been taken over and made into a haven for pedestrians. In 1971, parts of Yonge St. were made completely car-free for weeks. This happened on several occasions during the summer in the 1970s. It meant an increase of visitors to the “street mall” of up to 50,000 people a day. However, merchant support for the malls waned when complaints of shoplifting and vagrancy arose.

One of the Yonge St. Malls, a fixture of the 1970s. Image c/o the Toronto Star.

On the project, Wong-Tam had this to say, “We’ve really been working with our stakeholders to create a whole new unique street experience that will open up the street for people and try to turn Yonge Street into a premier destination and enhance what we already have there.”

Wong-Tam believes that because Yonge is Toronto’s most recognized street, we really should be putting our best face forward where it’s concerned. She says this is especially important given the upcoming 2014 World Pride celebrations and the 2015 Pan Am Games. Weinberg also points out the fact that there is an economic value in investing in the public realm. He argues that this kind of revitalization of public space attracts people to eat out in restaurants more and also to enjoy shopping the area more.

You might be wondering, as you read about all these not-so-distant future events, what we can expect from Celebrate Yonge where this year’s edition of TIFF is concerned. Weinberg says that the Celebrate Yonge Project has been working closely with the people from TIFF and has opened a café in front of the Elgin Winter Garden theatre, which will be turned into a red carpet for the 11 days that TIFF will screen films there.

The cafe in front of the Elgin Winter Garden theatre for Celebrate Yonge will be turned into a red carpet for this year’s edition of TIFF. Image c/o Urban Toronto.

While there have been concerns that the project will cause vehicle congestion in the area, Wong-Tam doesn’t think it will be a serious issue because studies have shown that Yonge St. is actually under capacity in terms of the amount of vehicular traffic it can accommodate. In fact, the studies show that Yonge Street’s four lanes can accommodate 1,500 cars per hour, but typically see an average of 500-550 cars per hour (at peak hours!). Moreover, for the same strip, studies show that people outnumber cars by a stunning 200 to 1!

On speculation of the likelihood of Celebrate Yonge returning in the future, Wong-Tam said it would depend on the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area’s decision. However, the Communications Spokesperson for the BIA, Abigail Gamble, has said that the Celebrate Yonge festival will likely be a one-time event, as making it an annual thing with Rob Ford in office and his “war on the car” campaign promise still very much alive, would be nearly impossible.

An aerial view of the newly pedestrian-friendly strip. Image c/o blogTO.

Countering this position and perhaps supporting that of Wong-Tam, is this quote by Weinberg: “We’ll look at people’s reaction, we’ll get feedback from the businesses, we’ll look at the numbers: we have pedestrian and vehicle counters at five different intersections. It’s from all of that that we can see what the next stage should be.” The BIA has set up several mechanisms to track the success of this year’s festival, including: traffic monitoring, pedestrian counts, and sales and media monitoring. We’ll be better able to speculate on the success of this venture once these numbers are released, so stay tuned!

Do you have a comment about either the past or present pedestrianization of Yonge St.? We’d love to hear your stories, so please leave them below!







Toronto’s History Gets Sticky

Image c/o the Torontoist.

Due to its concrete jungle of skyscrapers and plethora of gentrified neighbourhoods, it is easy to forget that Toronto is actually a city rich in history. In an attempt to showcase these often forgotten events, enthusiast Adam Bunch has begun the “Toronto Dreams Project,” a project which has created quite a stir amongst tourists and Toronto residents alike.

The purpose of the project is to inform the public of significant events that occurred in particular spots in Toronto. To do this, Bunch has created what he calls “sticky plaques”- or, postcard-sized stickers containing QR codes which may be scanned using a smart phone device.

Once scanned, the codes forward readers to either blog sites such as the Torontoist or Bunch’s own site; both of which explain the significance of that particular spot in Toronto.

For example, if you scan the plaque posted across from Sidney Smith Hall at the University of Toronto campus, you will be led to an article about William Hincks- or, the “Adulterous fox”. The article explains that in 1853, when the University of Toronto was looking to hire the chair of their new natural history department, a brilliant scholar named T.H Huxley, who was second only to Darwin as the most influential scientists in history, became a front runner for the position.

That is, until William Hincks came along- a scientist whose questionable and often bizarre theories were “negligent at best and harmful at worst.” Despite his lack of scientific merit, Hincks apprehended the position. Why? Because his brother, Francis Hincks, was the Premier of Ontario at the time.

Many of the historical stories chosen by Bunch are similar to this in that they are full of irony, humour, and charm. Told in a sarcastic and casual tone, the tales are an easy and interesting read, appealing to Torontonians of all ages.

There are now about 24 different sticky plaques posted throughout Toronto, but Bunch hopes to increase this to 100 by the end of the summer. These plaques not only add a unique quirkiness to the city, but also pose as a reminder that Toronto was not always the dizzying corporate core that it is today.

Not sure where to find these plaques? The map below indicates where most of them are located:


For more information on the Toronto Dreams Project or the historical events themselves, visit Bunch’s website at http://torontodreamsproject.blogspot.ca/ or scan one of the QR codes themselves!

As always, if you would like more information about living in Toronto, feel free to contact us at (416) 929-1660 or email us at resupport@axoncapitalrealty.com.  




Toronto’s Latest Pop-Up Project

Chances are that unless you’ve been out of town or just haven’t left the house in the past week, you’ve probably noticed a brightly coloured piano or two on our city’s sidewalks. Perhaps you’ve even been fortunate enough to stumble upon an impromptu concert by one of Toronto’s hidden maestros. So, what’s the story behind one of Toronto’s latest pop-up projects? Read on to find out!

Play Me, I’m Yours

Outside Koerner Hall. Image c/o The Globe and Mail.

Touring internationally since 2008, the Play Me, I’m Yours project is an art installation curated by British artist Luke Jerram. Jerram is a multi-disciplinary artist who creates sculpture, installation art, and live art works. Jerram’s overarching goal with the Play Me project is to “provoke people into engaging, activating, and claiming ownership of their urban landscape.”

Since the commission of the exhibit by the French Minister of Culture in Paris and Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, the project has travelled to 26 countries across the globe. The Toronto edition of the project was launched with a free concert at David Pecaut Square on July 10th in anticipation of the three-year countdown to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, which Toronto will host in 2015.

The 41 pianos represent the 41 countries that will send athletes to the Games. Each country’s piano has been painted by an artist who calls the country home. While the artists were asked to reflect the culture and spirit of their home country, they were not given any overarching themes from which to work. The idea behind the Toronto exhibition is to celebrate the diversity of cultures within the Pan American sphere.

The pianos will be donated to local schools and community groups on July 31st, so consult the list of locations we recommend checking out before you miss your chance to play a tune for your city!

Some Prime Locations for Piano Scouting

At the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Image c/o The Globe and Mail.


Royal Ontario Museum
Condos Nearby: 1 Bedford, Exhibit, Museum House, the Prince Arthur

Yorkville Parkette on Cumberland
Condos Nearby: 18 Yorkville, 36 Hazelton, The Four Seasons, Yorkville Plaza


Maple Leaf Square
Condos Nearby: 300 Front, Infinity, Pinnacle, Maple Leaf Square

Toronto Music Garden
Condos Nearby: Cityplace, Pier27, Ten York, West Harbour City


Berczy Park
Condos Nearby: 25 The Esplanade, Backstage, The Berczy, L Tower

Distillery District
Condos Nearby: Clear Spirit, Glasshouse, Mozo, The St. James


TIFF Bell Lightbox
Condos Nearby: Charlie, Cinema Tower, Festival Tower, M5V

Trinity Bellwoods Park
Condos Nearby: Bohemian Embassy, DNA, Liberty Village, Minto 775 King West

After you’ve visited the pianos that appeal to you the most, we encourage you to leave your comments here, as we’d love to hear about your experience, but also to the visit the official website and leave your comments and media there as well.





Stroll City is Back

Image c/o spacingtoronto.ca

Stroll City is an interactive media-art project running from June 4th to June 24th, 2012. In charge of the project is Shawn Micallef, the author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto. He is known for being a wanderer and commentator on the city landscape, having studied Toronto’s streets for a decade.

So how does the project work? Just share your observations via twitter @StrollCity and watch it appear on TTC platform screens at over 60 subway stations throughout the city. Shawn Micallef will be tweeting his discoveries and insights, so those in the twittersphere can respond.

 ‘I hope people who read the tweets will simply get excited about the city and start paying attention to it in whatever way they want,’ said Micallef, ‘When we’re in our routines, especially on transit, where we’re often late for work or thinking about where we’re going, we tend not to pay attention to what’s around us. Hopefully this gets people looking and thinking.’

So, when wandering around the city these next few weeks, don’t forget to tweet about your adventures!

Looking to move to the city? There are lots of condominiums to choose from! For more information, feel free to contact us at (416) 929-1660 or email us at resupport@axoncapitalrealty.com. We would be happy to help you in your condo search!







Jane’s Walks 2012

Toronto is renowned for its diverse neighbourhoods. Even so, many of us have not taken the time to explore all that Toronto has to offer. Luckily, Jane’s Walks is coming up this weekend. Consisting of a series of walks, Jane’s Walks honors the ideas of Jane Jacobs, a famous urbanist, by getting people to explore their neighbourhoods and connect with neighbours.

These free walking tours are held on the first weekend of May. Originally started in 2007 in Toronto by a group of Jane Jacobs’ friends, the event now spans 75 cities in 15 different countries!

The walks are not meant to be for the tourist perspective. Instead, they involve touring one’s own neighbourhood to better connect with it. It’s a great for people who enjoy getting to know their city, people who want to participate in conversations about the future of the neighbourhoods and those who want to foster the community feel.

Walks usually last about 1.5 hours. Here is an overview of different walks around the city:

Annex ROM Walk
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 2:00pm

The ROM walk will take you through the beautiful tree-lined Annex. It is Toronto’s first planned middle, professional class suburb. It is full of interesting architecture; the Annex buildings include different residential architecture designed by prominent Toronto architects. Some of the buildings on the tour will include: the Medical Arts Building, First Church of Christ Scientist and York Club.

Starting Point: One Bedford Rd
End Point: Walmer Rd in Gwendolyn MacEwan Park (1 block from Spadina)
Condos you might see along the way: 1 Bedford, Exhibit Residences, Museum House

Billboards, Bobbers and the Big Red Canoe (Public Art at Concord CityPlace)
When: Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 10:30am.

CityPlace offers the largest concentration of new public art in Canada. Check it out for yourself with this Jane’s walk. Work by artists such as Douglas Coupland, Matt Mullican, Pierre Poussin and Jose Parla are featured.

Starting Point: Bus Parking area south of the Rogers Centre at Bremner Blvd. and Van Der Waters
End Point: Canoe Landing Park- south side of Fort York Boulevard, west of Spadina
Condos you might see along the way: Apex, The Gallery, Harbourview Estates, Luna, Matrix, Montage, Neo, Optima, Panorama, Parade…

Fort York and 200 Years of Development
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 1:00pm.

This tour will take visitors through the history of Fort York, the Garrison Common and the Battle of York during the infamous War of 1812. The tour will highlight the changes that have impacted the former town of York since the Battle of York.

Following the walk, visitors will be given free admission to Fort York. It will be led by René Malagón, who has worked at the Historic Fort York for many years.

Starting Point: Fort York National Historic Site
End Point: Inside Fort York
Condos you might see along the way: Tip Top, Waterpark City, Malibu, LTD, Library District Condos

King and Spadina: One of The Two Kings
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 12:00pm.

In 1996, new zoning changes brought what was once area filled with vacant warehouses and factory building and are now thriving condominium projects. These changes were in part established by Jane Jacobs (for which these walks are named).

This walk will include a discussion of Jacob’s idea in her “Death and Life of Great American Cities” and the need for historic buildings.

Starting Point: 401 Richmond St. W., at the Roastery Cafe on ground floor (east of Spadina Ave)
End Point: n/a.
Condos you might see along the way: Victory, Lofts 399, Charlie, Glas, M5V, The Morgan

Liberty Village – Change Is Good?
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 12:00pm.

Take a stroll in Liberty Village, led by Jaymz Bee (who has lived in the area for a decade). He will take you through the pros and cons of all the current changes going around, while also including some funny anecdotes.

Starting Point: 8 Pardee Avenue / Outside the Roastery Café.
End Point: The Academy of Spherical Arts on Snooker Street
Condos you might see along the way: Battery Park, Bliss, Liberty on the Park, Liberty Towers, Vibe, Toy Factory…

The Future Streetscape of Queen West
When: Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 2:00pm.

Queen Street West is one of Toronto’s most cherished neighbourhoods. This Jane’s walk allows you to talk to the BIA and designers developing the Streetscape Master Plan. The guides for this tour will include Chris Hardwiche, an urban designer and planning, Fung Lee, a landscape architect and Laura Schaefer, coordinator of the Queen Street West BIA.

The tour will explore Queen West by walking the street and sharing stories.

Starting Point: Campbell House Museum just beside Osgood Subway Station
End Point: Bathurst Street.
Condos you might see along the way: 9T6, Tableau, Studio

Toronto’s “Old Town:” Labour History Walking Tour
When: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 10:00 am.

This walk will explore the oldest section of Toronto, or “Old Town”. Learn about its vibrant and turbulent past, including how people lived in the 1830s and onward, as well as the impact labour workers had in the area starting in the 1830s. You’ll even learn about the large protests in 1870s in support of workers when unions were illegal.

Starting Point: St. Lawrence Hall at the corner of King and Jarvis
End Point: William Lyon MacKenzie House (82 Bond Street)
Condos you might see along the way: Glasshouse, King’s Court, Mozo, The Modern

Wellington Place: A Remarkable Neighbourhood Re-Emerges Over The Traces Of Two Centuries
When: Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 2:00pm.

Square. The town of York and Fort York were established in the late 18th century. In the 1830s, large plots of land were dedicated to attracting the wealthy upper class, in what was dubbed “Wellington Place”. This government-led development shaped the economic future of the region. This Jane’s walk will take you through the origins and evolution of Wellington Place, between Victoria Memorial Square and Clarence Square.

Starting Point: Victoria Memorial Square
End Point: Clarence Square (east side of Spadina at Wellington Street West)
Condos you might see along the way: 20 Stewart, 400 Wellington, 500 Wellington, Reve

Posted May 2, 2012.