If there were a scene in which the line “forget it, Jake, it’s Leslieville” were uttered, it would take place in front of a cupcake bakery, with a smokestack in the far background. We moved here five years ago when we bought our house, when it was one of two reasonably walkable neighbourhoods in Toronto that first-time buyers could afford (now, there are none). Originally one of Toronto’s streetcar suburbs, at the time we moved in, Leslieville had a lot of hype (NY Times article comparing it to Brooklyn and shit!), that left this city kid a little disappointed.
I grew up around Bathurst and Bloor, and post-college lived in apartments a little west of there. That area has plenty of bars and restaurants but also markets, supermarkets, flower stores and stationery stores. It’s dense, and there’s a mix of uses (jobs as well as houses). In short, it’s a well-functioning, diverse urban environment. Leslieville five years ago seemed a little short of that. It had lots of pricey restaurants, mid-century modern antique stores, and cupcake bakeries, but no markets to speak of save for the massive, car-centered Loblaws along Lakeshore. Stores tended to be closed at odd hours. Weekday nights were deadsville. It was cupcake urbanism, more of a recreational destination for nearby neighbourhoods (I’m convinced half the patrons in Leslieville restos are actually from the Beach) than a functioning liveable hood.
That’s changed for the better since then. Condos have sprung up along Carlaw and elsewhere, and rental prices further west have gotten out of hand. The net result is more millenials moving in, which has helped the neighbourhood get denser and more lively. There are more options for smaller walkable markets now (and there not even all super-expensive!). Leslieville still doesn’t have enough jobs, which means fewer people here during the day, which makes it harder for local businesses to sustain themselves. But the studios along Eastern have been busier with the slide of the Canadian peso.
And there’s something nice about the concept of the streetcar suburb, a walkable area that is nonetheless less dense than the city core. There are several parks within walking distance of my house, and the beach a quick bike ride away. During these cold winter days I think longingly of the cycle tracks along Lakeshore.
Editor’s note: I hummed and hawwed about this post because I don’t love it. It’s true, what it says, but it leaves too much out. Leslieville has a lot of interesting history, for example! Also, shitty ending. But, I’m doing a post a day, so gotta ship it out anyway! Sorry