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TIFF: Getting ready for guests on King Street

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Right now the Toronto International Film Festival is going on in the city. It’s actually one of my favorite times in Toronto. There’s so much going on and the city generally does things that it doesn’t normally allow, but that it should do all throughout the year, such as extending last call at bars and closing down streets to cars.

This year, King Street between University Avenue and Peter Street has been made pedestrian-only. It encompasses an area known as the Entertainment District and includes the Bell Lightbox, which is the TIFF HQ. The street was closed last Thursday and will reopen this Monday. So it’s a 4 day thing, that TIFF is calling “Festival Street.”

Some people – like me – are really excited about this. Here’s s picture I tweeted out on Thursday night. Given the engagement (retweets/favorites), I think there are others who feel the same way I do:

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But there are others who are furious that their commute was disrupted last week and that we’re inconveniencing locals for the sake of hosting one of the top film festivals in the world. (King Street typically moves about 60,000 people per day on the streetcar and 20,000 vehicles.)

But when I walked the entire 650 meter stretch on Thursday night, it was completely full of people. There were people playing large-scale chess. There were people eating at picnic benches. And there were lots of people just enjoying a wonderful summer stroll in the city.

And all I could think about is that this is an unmet need in the city. King Street is a wonderful place to be right now and we don’t have an equivalent during the other 361 days of the year here in Toronto. So rather than be upset that we’ve closed down 6 blocks of downtown, I’m only upset that we don’t do more of this and make it permanent during the rest of the year. 

I’m not necessarily saying that King Street is the best place to do this. Yonge Street initially strikes me as being a better place to start. But I am saying that if we have to reconfigure things to make our city more awesome for when guests come over, that maybe we should think about how to make it more awesome all the time.

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