Monday, October 28, 2013

Toronto is losing it's identity to Greedy Condo Developers - what does the Sam's sign, Honest Ed's and the Cookbook store have in common.

I feel compelled to write this RANT about the goings on in the city that affect foodies like me and people that live in Toronto or want to visit Toronto.

What Honest Ed's, The Cookbook Store and the Princess of Wales Theatre have in common are the fact that David Mirvish and the owner of the Cookbook Stores building have decided to sell off their properties to developers who will most likely just build massive money grubbing, infrastructure sucking condo developments that suck out all the character that was once alive in the City of Toronto.

What good is it to have 50 story condos plunked in every square foot of the downtown area if there isn't anywhere to shop, eat or go for entertainment. Developers in Toronto are developing a boring glass tower city and taking away the Iconic, historic and huge landmark businesses. I have a personal connection to all three of these Iconic locations and I am deeply saddened at the fact that they will disappear into history in the near future.

I recently visited the Cookbook Store for their 30th Anniversary Open House Celebration in their tiny but mighty little store.  I was so happy to see the respect that they received from the best chefs in the city for their longevity and dedication to all things food and cookbooks.  They don't just sell books but they create a great chef, foodie and food blogger community in the city with book signings, demonstrations in the Kitchen Studio and at locations like George Brown College.  I have attended many Cookbook store events in the past and one of my fellow Food Revolution Ambassadors hosts her Food Revolution Day event at the Kitchen Studio.  Anyone that knows anything about cooking and good food knows about this store.  It is very easy to get to and one of the Owners Alison Fryer can be found at many cookbook authors events interviewing some of the best Celebrity Chefs we have in the city and even visiting Food Related Book Authors like Michael Pollan.

Honest Ed's is a huge part of my childhood.  It's where my father frequented when he would get dolls for my Birthday, Halloween costumes, and all things related to our home and especially our kitchen.  He spent so much time there over my childhood that he would probably feel like his second home is being sold if he was still alive today.  I feel very sad about it and I think both my dad and Ed Mirvish are rolling over in their graves at the fact that it might just all vanish like it was never there.

What I think a Developer should do with the property is to keep the facade and build up a small amount of condos above the store and keep the interior as an artist community centre.  With a Restaurant, small events and film theatre and interesting independent artist shopping stalls.  Thing an early vision of the Grange but in a bigger scale.  Maybe a suggestion is to have the Cookbook Store take up a small corner of the building and have a cooking studio and a space for a weekly farmers market with a space for musicians, artists and filmmakers to showcase their work.   It's easily accessible by TTC and would be a great community location for people that live in the city as well as tourists looking to go to one area to do many things.  A good example of something that was successful in the alleyway space at Honest Ed's was the the Stop's Night Market that was held a few months ago.  They sold tickets for $50 and attendees were able to sample all kinds of food from small food vendors and food trucks.  It was sold out so fast that I couldn't even get a ticket.  I know from a few people that it was a huge success and it had proceeds that served the charity Food Share.  It was a win win event for everyone.  This could be a monthly or seasonal event if the right person develops this.  It's the kind of event that tourists would be thrilled to attend I am sure.

As for the Princess of Wales Theatre goes my connection to it was just recently when I volunteered for the Toronto International Film Festival.  It was the first time my team had volunteer shifts at the Princess of Wales Theatre for the Festival.   It's a beautiful theatre in a style that doesn't get built anymore because of the ornate details and the construction costs and time restraints.  It has beautiful Red Seats that many producers attending TIFF prefer to have at their Premiere screenings like the Gravity screening.  I was lucky enough to see both Gravity and the Dallas Buyers Club in the theatre this past September.  This theatre to me symbolizes the Theatre District charm that was brought from London to Toronto and people made a night out of going to the theatre and out to dinner.  Another sad fact that it might just end up as a Condo with generic businesses attached to it.

How this relates to my food blog is the connection they all have to food and entertainment.  Everyone of these location has a direct connection to restaurants or chefs or tourists who visit these locations and then visit local restaurants or attend related food events.

Tourists don't dream of cities of cookie cutter monster condominiums.  Do people go to Paris to see condos?  No, they go to see beautiful structures like the Eiffel Tower and beautiful architecture and great restaurants.  Even people that go to NYC don't go to see the huge boring towers but they go for the great restaurants, the diverse neighbourhoods and the great shopping and tourist attractions and endless entertainment.

In Toronto we are losing our unique landmarks and our personality.  What's the point of having all of these huge condos where nobody can go anywhere because there is constant construction and cranes and road blocks all over the city and where public transit can accommodate the influx of people trying to get around from those massive condos to their work or other destinations.   If the people that live in the condo spend more time getting around the city than they do actually living their lives with friends and family then what's the point of building all of these monster condos?

I was just thinking while on my way to the Delicious Food Show at Exhibition Place this past weekend while driving on the Gardiner Expressway how the city skyline is now flooded with glass structures back to back and how about 10 years ago I would drive on the Gardiner and think how beautiful it was to see the CN Tower and a few distinct buildings.  Now you can't even tell what most of the buildings are anymore.   I live in a condo area and I live in a highrise but I am still able to walk around my area to restaurants around the corner if I choose to.  If you are just stuck in a big building with nowhere to go and nothing to do then life isn't really much of a life is it?

What's next?
Are they going to sell the CN Tower because it takes up prime condo space?   And look at what's happening with Exhibition Place and Ontario Place.

I wish someone in city planning would finally get that the people that live here have had enough already.   Stop building these condos until you can build a community around them.

Unfortunately we only find out about these things after the deal has been done.  If you have some sort of influence and a voice please make noise and tell the people at City Hall that there needs to be restrictions on developers or pretty soon their will be foreign owned condos that sit empty waiting for overseas owners trying to flip them for profit.

Revised:  And I forgot another Iconic Landmark that is now closed and the great sign is now held hostage by Ryerson University.  The Great Sam the Record Man Sign.   When I was in my teen years the thing to do in Toronto if you had nothing to do and only a little bit of money, was to go down to Yonge Street downtown and browse around the bins at Sam the Record Man and hope that something you wanted was on sale or some band you liked were doing an in store record signing.  It was exciting in those days and the place to find rare or new and upcoming music and it supported many local musicians as well.

This photo was taken during Nuit Blanche just before the store was closed down permanently.  I am glad I have this photo at least and the memories of going there.

Please try and help Ryerson keep their promise to keep the Sam's sign alive and well and keep it around Yonge and Dundas where it belongs.

Yup I am annoyed and don't have much power besides writing about it here and have people read this and try and gather a bunch of people to voice their opinions.


  1. I have such fond memories of going to Honest Ed's as a kid and playing in the clothing racks while my mom shopped. I'm going to miss seeing it on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor. It will feel so strange once it's gone and they build a condo in it's place. How predictable.

  2. Blame the greedy developers greedy government and greedy municipallpality. We have to stop it
    Look at king street west ow. Is itentertainment district or condo city ifthey fill the area with condos. There's no entertainment left. Except dark windy side walks


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