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Thoughts on urban renewal and Geary Avenue

Photograph dupont survivor by Josemaria de Churtichaga on 500px

dupont survivor by Josemaria de Churtichaga on 500px

I was on CBC radio this morning talking about the revitalization of Dovercourt Village and Geary Avenue in Toronto. 

The funny thing about this topic is that it’s one I actually held off writing about. I’ve been thinking about this street and area for probably about 5 years now. However, I do have to keep some secrets to myself 🙂

But then I started feeling like the cat was already out of the bag. Everyone in my circle was talking about it. So I wrote a post calling Dovercourt Village the next Ossington. I had no idea it would get the traction that it has gotten, but in hindsight it makes total sense. It makes a great headline: “Toronto’s ugliest street to become the next Ossington.” Boom.

The tough question that Matt Galloway asked me this morning was: What happens to all the blue collar businesses when/if Geary Avenue and the area really takes off? My response – given that it was only a 5 minute radio piece – was that it comes down to preservation vs. progress. 

This is a topic that I’ve written about with respect to heritage buildings, but the same concept applies to communities as well. How do you allow neighborhoods to receive new investment while at the same time not erasing its past and the things that made it interesting in the first place?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.

I absolutely believe that there are things that developers can do to respect the neighborhoods in which they build in. But at the same time there are economics at play. In business school, they teach you this:

It’s the lifecycle of businesses and industries. 

The key takeaway here is that the rise and decline of businesses is actually quite healthy for markets. History is littered with examples. The word processor replaced the typewriter. The mobile phone replaced the landline. Air travel replaced rail travel. And the list goes on.

Today, I think we’re at a moment in time where our relationship to cars is changing dramatically. How we get around and how we own and operate them is being called into question. 

So just because there’s auto shops on Geary Avenue today, doesn’t mean they’ll be there tomorrow regardless of whether the area takes off or not.

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