I’ve been spending a bit of time in Corktown lately and I must say I’m becoming a bit obsessed with this neighbourhood. Bordering from Berkeley Street going east to River Street, and Front Street north to Shuter Street, this small pocket of the city is one of the more affordable neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto today. And as it’s conveniently located to business and entertainment district, it has recently become popular with young professionals.
What used to be the “don’t walk there at night” zone is being reinvented into a booming neighbourhood. New and more relaxed zoning bylaws in the Corktown district have resulted in the speedy conversion of many of Corktown’s commercial buildings into work/live studios, condominium lofts and professional offices, all of which has helped to revitalize the entire neighbourhood.
Deemed by the Globe and Mail as one of Toronto’s five neighbourhoods to watch, Corktown is re-emerging as a neighbourhood and becoming a hot spot for affordable ($550 per square foot) loft spaces for the more discerning buyer. These include: the Queen City Vinegar Co. Lofts, the four-building Corktown District Lofts and Trinity Lofts, an eight-storey, curvy construction that bridges the gap between the Distillery and King Street.
With nine-foot-high exposed concrete ceilings and polished concrete floors, 10-minute walk to Leslieville and 20-minute walk to Bay Street, these spaces appeal to designers who work in the area’s studios as well as professionals working downtown.
As for Corktown’s megaprojects, the vacant land west and south of the neighbourhood is undergoing massive change with River City, part of the Pan Am Village, an 80-acre planned community under construction in the West Don Lands taking shape for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
It includes condos, townhouses, restaurants, new parks and even an elementary school. Factor in the Regent Park revitalization to the north changing the Corktown sky almost daily and Corktown is ready to pop.
But as much as there is new in Corktown, the thing I like most is the respect for the old. Corktown was originally settled by working class immigrants in the early 1800’s. Many of these families came from the County of Cork in Ireland, which explains how this neighbourhood became known as Corktown. As a result of that past, Corktown is still largely filled with old row houses and small cottages built in the late 19th century.
Other signs of times past still visible include Little Trinity Church, Inglenook Community High School, St. Paul’s Basilica and the picturesque Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, which opened in 1849. Another huge Corktown landmark is the Dominion Brewery Building, built in 1889 on the north side of Queen, west of Sumach. The building serves as offices now. Beside it is the Dominion on Queen and behind it are the Brewery Lofts on Sumach Street, an old CBC warehouse that in the 90s became one of the city’s original loft conversion projects.
The potential of all the new development around Corktown and laid-back vibe of the neighbourhood keeps me intrigued. Close enough to downtown, without the noise and traffic. And although the shopping and restaurant scene is not quite there yet, there are a few great neighbourhood spots like Jamie Kennedy’s Gilead, Morning Glory is great for breakfast or brunch, not to mention Weezie’s. But if that’s not enough, Corktown is walking distance to Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market.
Aside from the megaprojects, the neighbourhood has numerous infill spots also ready for renewal. Recently the Sing Tao Daily newspaper building at Trinity and Adelaide Streets was sold to Great Gulf, and although plans for the building haven’t been announced as yet, it will no doubt be another interesting conversion. This “coming soon” theme is something we’re going to see for a while in Corktown. And as the changes of this neighbourhood to date will pale compared with what is to come, I will be definitely watching.
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