Yonge and St. Clair is "making a comeback" with Mazzone mosaic and BIA plans

The collage from the Toronto-based artist is just one of many changes coming to the midtown neighbourhood


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A crew works to put up Daniel Mazzone’s art at 2 St. Clair Ave. W. in January

At the young age of 15, Daniel Mazzone had hardly a penny to his name, homeless on the streets of Toronto. Now, the emerging artist’s work can be seen up high at the corner of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. 

The display, commissioned by Slate Asset Management, which owns all four corners of the intersection, represents Mazzone’s first crack at street art. Charlie Chaplin, James Dean and Michael Jackson are but a few of the icons depicted in the collage mosaic that spans approximately 250 feet of the building at 2 St. Clair Avenue West. It was put up in late January. 

“I lived on the street for about five years. I finished high school when I was 22 and I decided to go to university for business,” said Mazzone, adding that he then pursued a career as a mortgage broker, which was short-lived. 

“I just found that I wasn’t very happy. So I started doing artwork, just for fun, just as an outlet. I had some newspapers and magazines and so I thought whatever, I started messing around,” he said. 

He quit his job when his first painting sold for $14,000 in 2014, right off the wall of the restaurant he used to work at near Yonge and Eglinton. Since then, the 37-year-old has earned a name for himself as a successful artist. Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista has purchased nine of his paintings, and Marcus Stroman recently bought one of Jackie Robinson. 

The collage is just one of many changes coming to the midtown neighbourhood. Toronto City Council will also vote on Jan. 31 to approve a business improvement area (BIA) for the intersection.

Councillor Josh Matlow, of Ward 22, St. Paul’s, said this opportunity will allow businesses to lead the effort in creating a vibrant main street.

“This is a really special moment in time where we can actually start looking at what kind of streetscape improvements we want,” he said. 

Matlow noted that although some funds will come from the businesses themselves, the BIA will also be eligible for matching grants from the City of Toronto, which will help improve the retail environment in the area. 

Ben Rafael, owner of Kiva’s Bagels, said he is generally supportive of the BIA but noted the intersection still needs a larger venue to anchor the area. 

“Yonge and St. Clair, as many know, was a hub, there were a lot of things to do here, and then it kind of fizzled away. But I think it is definitely making a comeback,” he said. 

However, not everyone was in favour of the BIA. Matlow noted 43 of the businesses that were polled were supportive, and 10 were opposed.

“There are those that are feeling that they’re paying enough in the world, and they don’t want to pay anymore, and I empathize with that. But you get what you pay for,” said Matlow. 

Rafael admitted it’s a difficult thing to ask of small businesses, in addition to the charges the “government has already placed on us.”

Matlow said the BIA’s first official meeting will be held on Feb. 13.

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