The Canary District, east of the Distillery along Front Street, is Toronto’s latest urban village of brand new condos, townhouses, and rental housing by Dundee Kilmer Developments. This neighbourhood within Corktown gets its name after an iconic diner on Cherry Street, The Canary Restaurant, which ironically had to close in 2007 because of the new development. The building itself had a history of its own and was once Palace Street School in the 1859 and in the late 1800s became a hotel. In the 1960s, it opened as a diner-style restaurant for local factory workers and by the 1980s was popular with the film community for it kitschy vibe and greasy hangover cure breakfasts. The delicious BLT’s alone were reason enough to name an entire neighbourhood after the place.
For many years Waterfront Toronto had its eye to develop West Don Lands as a community and in 2009 the city asked the agency to build the Pan Am Village in 2015. The agency carefully planned the over $500 million project for the games with a future community in mind. In 2013, they opened Corktown Common, a $135 million award winning park in the far east end. Modern urban parks are not just a patch of grass with some picnic tables, this park is imaginatively created out of the city’s scars, incorporating marshes and boardwalks out of the wasteland. The concept is that rather than being a far away escape from the city, a natural park space is an integral part of the urban landscape, in this case with the added bonus of dumping 400,000 cubic meters of clean soil to protect the city in case the Don River floods.
The developer’s approach to building the athlete’s Canary Park Building was learning from the mistake of Vancouver’s overly ambitious Olympic Village where they built the area initially as though it were ready for final occupancy. The sales were slow and the community eventually became a success but not before the developers went bankrupt. The athlete’s residence here is basic dormitory-style with unfinished rooms and cheap broadloom. After the games, the final renovations will be installing kitchens, wood floors and upgrading the finishings. There will be over 6,000 new homes available. The six buildings in the area are rental buildings, student housing for George Brown College, a school and a YMCA. With new transit lines and walking distance to the Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market, this neighbourhood is a perfect downtown haven.
The Canary District takes its cue from the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood to the west, mixing community housing, townhouses, commercial properties, stores and restaurants to build a harmonious community. Surrounded by solid and established neighbourhoods, particularly with the great new developments in the rest of Corktown, the Corktown Common Park and with the advertising hype of the Pan Am Games, the Canary District has a promising future to be a great neighbourhood for everyone.