What happened to Yorkville?
After a $20 mil transformation, the ousting of Holt Renfrew’s doorman and street vendors, and more condos than you can count, we ask if T.O.’s chicest neighbourhood has traded in culture & couture for commerce
SCRAP THE SHRINK WRAP
Yorkville traded in its hip credentials before I was born when they replaced the coffee houses with high-end furriers and cosmetic surgery practices. Now it’s Toronto’s mink mile — a soulless cross- section of big name designer boutiques and overpriced martini bars traversed by high-end call girls and tourists with more money than taste. As for Holt’s, I’m surprised they fired that doorman. When I interviewed the new president, Mark Derbyshire, last year, he was very big on customer service. I’m not sure about you, but I’d much rather have a friendly hello from a seasoned professional than 20 shrink- wrapped girls in pink pillbox hats.
Leah McLaren, columnist, The Globe and Mail
ARTS ERA ENDED, THIS TOO MAY PASS
A wise old sage I met once in India told me that “Everything in life is in a process of becoming.” Guess that applies to Yorkville. Those of us who are old enough to remember it as a hippie hangout and rundown neighbourhood full of interesting emerging artists, singers and cool nightclubs in the 1960s now walk around in a daze, trying to identify it with that Toronto we once knew and loved. But hey, what has currently been transformed into superchic neutralized glimmer/glamour/gloss could well become passé. You never know...
Charles Pachter, contemporary artist
TRY SATISFACTORY KILOMETRE
Never mind culture: It’s everyday life that’s ebbing out of Yorkville. There used to be a mix of swanky and affordable establishments, but today, fewer and fewer are truly useful day-to-day, unless you like to pop in at Swarovski after your morning jog. Rather than welcoming Torontonians back in, the recent redo is gloomy and posh, leaving cyclists nowhere to ride and hardly anywhere to park. The result is a stretch that’s deadly dull. Instead of the Magnificent Mile, we’ve got the Satisfactory Kilometre.
Ivor Tossell is an urban affairs and culture columnist
Except for a brief moment in the 1960s when it was poor, Yorkville has always been more about commerce than culture. Even the condos that now define the neighbourhood are for the most part kitschy and crass. Though Yorkville has more than its share of art galleries, they seem more dedicated to merchandise than meaning. The one unqualified success is Cumberland Park, among the most exquisite additions to Toronto’s public realm in years.
Christopher Hume, columnist, Toronto Star
FROM GRAND TO BLAND
Yorkville BIA has beiged the neighbourhood with little foresight and consciously plotted the elimination of 12 vending families by redesigning them out of the streetscape. Once a fascinating historical and cultural oasis, Yorkville has now been sterilized, cold granite sidewalks, no place to sit, eat and converse while secretly people-watching. Even- tually, there will be no interesting people to watch.
Marianne Moroney, executive director, Street Food Vendors Association