Welcome to Alexandra Park
They say everybody knows your name in Alexandra Park, a tight-knit neighbourhood that has long welcomed immigrants from around the world. The predominantly working-class area is currently undergoing an extraordinary new revitalization plan, which will see hundreds of old homes demolished to make way for mixed-income condominiums and supported housing, along with vibrant new community facilities, parks and streetscapes. The first of these townhomes opened in the fall of 2016, and by the mid-2020s this revitalization will be complete.
What you'll fall in love with
Alexandra Park is, arguably, one of the last not-yet-gentrified neighbourhoods in the heart of Toronto. It gives forward-looking buyers an opportunity to purchase more affordable property a heartbeat away from ultra-cool (and ultra-expensive) neighbourhoods like West Queen West and Kensington Market. The 15-year master plan to remake the community is just getting started in earnest, and patient homeowners could witness – and be part of – a remarkable transformation in the coming years. Optimism reigns in this diverse, transitional neighbourhood.
Alexandra Park runs from Bathurst Street on the west to Spadina Avenue on the east, and from Dundas Street West up north to Queen Street West down south. More than 60 percent of the folks who live here are immigrants, and the proximity to Toronto’s Chinatown means many of your neighbours will speak Cantonese and Mandarin. The average after-tax income here is just shy of $49,000 per year, below the $71,000 average city-wide. Most people live in condominiums and apartment buildings, but there are row houses and older single-family detached homes on offer, too.
Alexandra Park is right downtown, and you can drive or cycle to Union Station in under 15 minutes. The TTC will get you there in about 20 minutes, or you can enjoy a nice 30 minute walk to work. A trip to Yonge and Bloor will take about the same amount of time by car, bike or transit, but walking takes about 40 minutes.
The soul of this gritty urban neighbourhood is Alexandra Park, nearly seven acres of green space in the northwest corner of the community, which includes a playground and wading pool for kids, a volleyball court, a baseball diamond and a picnic area. In the winter, the Harry Gairey Outdoor Rink hosts neighbourhood hockey games and skating parties, while in the summer, the Alexandra Park Outdoor Pool gives local folks a place to cool off.
The park is also home to the Dunbat Skatepark, so named because it sits at the corner of Dundas and Bathurst Streets. Funded by local skaters, the spacious park offers smooth concrete and wood elements designed and built by those who use the park. It draws a crowd all summer, and is open until 11pm.
The Scadding Court Community Centre in the middle of the park has become an integral part of the community, running everything from kids’ day camps and athletic programs to tai chi and weightlifting programs for adults. The organization also helps new immigrants get settled in Canada, and provides recreational activities for people with disabilities.
The neighbourhood community garden offers residents 50 square feet of organic gardening space for just $20 per growing season, along with access to a community greenhouse where they can start seeds for their plots. The initiative gives back to the community as well: the garden donates over 1,500 pounds of produce to a local food bank each year. A community kitchen operates in tandem with the garden, offering an opportunity for residents to cook together and share food.
A little bit of History
The area now known as Alexandra Park was undeveloped until the mid-1800s, when Polish immigrant Sir Casimir Gzowski purchased it and built a home in 1858. He called his home “The Hall” – a rambling Victorian Gothic mansion that once stood near where the Scadding Court Community Centre now stands. A noted engineer, Gzowski helped found the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers and Canada’s first rifle association. He was a personal friend of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and he was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1890. The Hall was later sold and demolished, but the Gzowski clan continued to have great influence in Canada: His great-grandson, Peter, was the beloved host of CBC’s Morningside for 15 years, and was often affectionately called Captain Canada.
The Alexandra Park neighbourhood was home to Polish and Ukrainian immigrants for much of the early 20th century, later joined by new Canadians from Hungary, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Germany. In the 1960s, much of the community was razed to make room for a massive social housing project, drawing still more immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The community struggled with poverty, and in the early 1990s local activists worked to transform the government-run social housing projects into Canada’s first self-governing co-operative housing community. The area is now benefitting from a sweeping revitalization plan that will replace more than 300 old townhomes with brand new row houses and refurbish nearly 500 more. The plan also calls for a new public park with basketball courts, new retail spaces and a larger community centre.
Alexandra Park on a map
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