Nearly four years ago pre-parent Chris and Sara were house hunting. One evening while we were about to view a house on the border of Dundas Street West and Roncesvalles Village a man, in his early to mid thirties pushing a stroller stopped and got our attention. "You should buy this house and help gentrify our neighborhood." he said and then continued on walking. Chris and I turned to each other, our real estate agent, commented about the oddity of the situation and continued into view that house. We didn't end up buying that house, but now that I have children I finally get what that guy was saying, although I don't know what he thought we were going to do to help change his neighborhood. Based on the definition of gentrification* it seems he was hoping for more of a Bruce Wayne than a Batman. I think I just implied that I'm more like Batman than Bruce Wayne and I'm good with that.
We moved into our house, in the Junction, in December 2008 and were thrilled with the small town feel in a big city with ready access to public transit (including the shortest bus route in the city - the 40 Junction), a plethora of used bookstores, a great video store with a lot of rare indie flicks and documentaries, coffee houses, furniture restoration and antique shops as well as the promise for more bars, shops and restaurants opening soon. We gave very minimal thought to our neighborhood in relation to our future children (sorry guys). We noted that there were some decent schools in the area and that this seemed to be a child friendly area with many parks, child focused stores and strollers to boot.
When the Starbucks moved into the Junction I had mixed feelings of pride in what the area was becoming and fear that it would get boring and all sorts of big box stores would move in. Don't get me wrong, I am happy that the Starbucks is here, but 9 out of 10 times I'd rather support the little guy.
Source: flickr.com via falsepositives on creativecommons.org
We both still have our warm fuzzy feelings for our neighborhood, but unfortunately some of that has been peppered with not so great situations that have our stomachs lurching about our children in this area as they grow older and roam the area on their own. This is a great community that has been faced with some awful situations as of late, perhaps this is just a part of the process of a neighborhood changing, I don't know, but it's been in the news A LOT.** It also doesn't help that a prostitute approached my car on the way back from driving one of our sitters home a couple of months ago. I almost understand why people move to the suburbs when they have kids.*** We're hoping that part of the "big city experience"**** gives our kids great opportunities for culture, public transit and everything Toronto has to offer, I also hope it teaches lessons that get our kids street smart, savvy, but not afraid.
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*Based on the definition of gentrification - the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.
***I said almost, I grew up in the suburbs, I know bad things can happen there too.
****My husband is from a small town in Southwestern Ontario called Chatham, that features gorgeous houses, a lovely picturesque river and park life, along with a somewhat seedy underbelly that resembles something out of a Stephen King novel. Toronto isn't looking so bad in comparison.