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The 12 best design districts around the world

Architectural Digest has just published the perfect article for gratuitous self-promotion. It is a list of “the 12 best design districts around the world”, and it includes The Junction, here in Toronto:

Located in a tree-lined historic area of the city, The Junction gets its name for its past as the heart of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Mix with locals on the main drag of Dundas West at boutiques including the minimalist homeware store Mjolk and modern stationery shop Take Note. A short 20-minute walk from this charming retail center, the Museum of Contemporary Art is worthy of a stop in too. (Current exhibitions include a site-specific commission by artist Sarah Badr and Seeing the Invisible, an augmented reality experience in the museum’s Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.) Then take a tipple at The Junction Brewery, which serves local craft beers within an Art Deco building that offers a glimpse of the neighborhood’s rich history.

Early on in high school, I used to come downtown to primarily do two things: skateboard and walk Queen Street. This was the street. It was weird and artsy and we loved it. And so we would start at University Ave and walk west for as long as the street was interesting.

For a period of time, it felt like things kind of fell off after Spadina Ave. So we would often stop there. But then west of Spadina started getting cool and interesting too.

Years later in 2004, the Drake Hotel would open up on what felt like a far off location on Queen Street. And then seemingly overnight, all of Queen Street was cool. Parkdale had a taco place with absurdly long lines and loud hip-hop music, and cool started moving up Ossington Ave, presumably because Queen had run out of space.

Of course, neighborhoods have cycles. Before it was the Drake Hotel, it was Small’s Hotel. And when it opened in 1890, it was located in one of the wealthiest areas of Toronto. Then the area became a lot less wealthy, and eventually the hotel became a flophouse, before once again becoming cool again. These are the cycles.

There is no doubt that Queen Street remains one of the greatest streets in Toronto. But in my mind, 2018 was a turning point. This is when when the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) left Queen and moved to the Junction Triangle (or the Lower Junction, or just the Junction, depending on what you prefer to call it).

This to me didn’t signal that Queen had in any way peaked. Far from it. But I think it did solidify the Junction as one of Toronto’s next cool and artsy neighborhoods. And now here we are with Architectural Digest calling it one of the best in the world.

It would be hard for me to be more biased. But I’m a big fan of the Junction. And I am really looking forward to erecting our placemaking art later this year. It is one of the things that our team is most proud of, and we proposed it simply because we thought it would be cool and interesting. That’s important.


  1. Tarek Essam

    They must have been high while writing this! I worked in that neighborhood for a few months a couple of years ago, some of the worst memories in my life! The ugliness of the neighborhood and the buildings was soul-crushing. I’ve never been that depressed ever! Toronto is such an ugly city, but this neighborhood takes the crown of ugliness. To see selected as one of the “best design districts” is honestly laughable!


  2. Nick Iozzo

    Food/Beverage establishments really started to come to Ossington Street primarily because the City of Toronto slapped a moratorium on new liquor licences on Queen Street. So if you couldn’t open a bar or restaurant on the east-west Queen Street, the next best thing was to locate on the North-south Ossington Street..(which then subsequently got their own liquor licence restrictions when that strip became too popular. Licensing what-a-mole!)

    Liked by 1 person

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