Beer, yes. Wi-fi, not yet.

The Loblaws near Victoria Park and Gerrard East is the second one I’ve noticed that is selling craft beer, now.

more-beer

The beer-selling Loblaws at Lakeshore and Leslie offers wi-fi to customers, so I checked for a signal in the Vic Park store. Nope … but then, it’s not as fancy as the Lakeshore market. No coffee bar or eat-in deli tables.

East Danforth has potential

The bright poster is encouraging. OF COURSE that long boring wall should be brought to life! It’s a sidewall of the outdated Shopper’s World mall, interesting only because it holds Canada’s original Shopper’s Drug Mart store. The wall was briefly the Danforth side of a doomed Target store … a Zeller’s before that.

danforth-potential

Danforth Avenue, from Coxwell to the old city limits at Victoria Park has one beautiful advantage over much of the city. No ugly telephone poles and hydro wires. They were buried when the subway line went in. OK, that’s another beautiful advantage … the subway line.

Slowly, the Danforth is shaking off social problems of the recent past (and even present, let’s be frank). Drug dealing, prostitution, rowdy drinking and petty crime are giving way to accommodation for more peaceful residents.

I have shown a random section of the street, typical for small businesses in low rise buildings. There’s a small town feel. Recently widened sidewalks, tree plantings and new condos are creating opportunities for really interesting street life to develop.

By “interesting” I do not mean gentrified. We have enough Starbucks sameness developing around town. I see potential for the East Danforth to express Toronto’s much-touted diversity, not artificially, but actually, as merchants from around the world set up shop. There are already some good restaurants, carpet stores, halal grocers and South Asian clothing stores. There’s even an Icelandic bakery now.

A downtown Yonge Street asset

ryerson-on-yonge

Partly good planning, partly good luck, Toronto’s downtown core benefits from major areas devoted to higher education.

I looked into the big, new entrance to Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre on Yonge Street the other day. “Levels, Jerry … levels,” I thought, recalling the Seinfeld episode when Kramer was redesigning his apartment. The Ryerson lobby is a big gathering place lined with step-like rows of seating made of wood. Great for everyday hanging out … maybe for rallies and student protests, too, when needed. A Starbucks over on one side sells rocket fuel.

The new building adds life to Yonge Street … a worthy replacement for the venerable Sam the Record Man store.

Down on Queen’s Quay, a George Brown campus was deliberately located at the water’s edge, assuring human presence there throughout the blustery winter months. And of course, there’s the huge University of Toronto campus, right in the downtown core, offering not only its marvellous old stone buildings but lots of green space and big, shady trees.

These assets do as much to civilize our city centre as anything else. I’m very glad they are there.

Coming: Mid-rises made of wood

A city planner told Danica and me that “six on sticks” is her pet phrase for 6 storey, timber-framed buildings, now approved for construction in Toronto.

heartwood

“Heartwood” is marketing-speak for 2x4s. Well, not just 2x4s. Timber construction with engineered beams has advanced a lot. I like the idea and so do city planners and developers.

six-on-sticks

Timber is faster and cheaper than concrete construction, reducing not only costs to purchasers, but shortening lane closure times and traffic congestion.

Best of all, developers have an incentive to accept 6 storey restraints. Timber construction requires less capital and delivers profits sooner. They can stop pushing for high rises to maximize real estate potential.

no-retail

The shot above is a Gerrard St. East condo under construction. While it does depend on many 2×4 divider walls, it doesn’t really fit in the “six on sticks” category. It is unusual for the way its foundation was done but even more exceptional for its lack of sidewalk-level store fronts.

Will this become a trend? Many retail spaces have already been converted to residential space. There don’t seem to be enough store operators to fill them all. Plenty of stores just sit empty. As more and more shopping goes online and to big box chains, will  the need for small brick-and-mortar shops decline?

Almost every new condo on a main street comes with retail space on the bottom. Have the Gerrard builders read the tea leaves, seeing no need to build shops they won’t be able to rent out?

Roasted GarlicPotato Soup

Your first Royko Recipe for 2016.

Royko's-Recipes

Roasted GarlicPotato Soup

Here’s your opportunity to have a private subway car. Seriously though, roasted garlic has less aroma than raw or sautéed and has a light, nutty taste. You can also roast garlic in this way and use it as a spread on good French or Italian bread. Marvellous!

5 whole heads garlic
2 slices bacon diced
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups diced baking potatoes
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Remove white papery skin from each garlic head (do not peel or separate cloves). Wrap each head separately in aluminum foil. Bake at 350˚F for 1 hour; let cool for 10 minutes. Separate cloves and squeeze to extract 1/4 cup of garlic pulp; discard skins.

Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until crisp. Add onion, carrot and minced garlic; sauté for 5 minutes. Add potato, broth, salt, pepper and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender; remove bay leaf.

Combine garlic pulp and 2 cups potato mixture in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Return purée to pan; stir in milk and cook over low heat until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and stir in chopped parsley.