Read “this place sucks” written in the dust that’s settled on an empty storefront window in the lower level of an ugly condo development on Queen Street West. See our sticker on the left.
This past weekend, Caroline and I rolled out our first phase of our Queen Street West sticker campaign, which was sparked by the recent openings of both Loblaws and CB2 on Queen Street, west of Spadina. The gentrification of the once bohemian strip is certainly not a new phenomenon; but as the big-box stores encroach further and further west, and as small storefronts like Comrags jump ship, we can’t help but feel that all is almost lost. Of course, we can’t stop ugly, cold condo developments from moving ahead, and we can’t dissuade tourists and neighbours alike from frequenting Teaopia; but we can speak out against the changes that we were too young to fight against at their beginnings.
I’ve been working my way through The Life and Death of American Cities by local legend Jane Jacobs, and the chapter on the self-destruction of diversity rings so true to me after considering the decline of Queen Street West. The chapter meditates on the fragility of areas that realize success for being mixed use. We all love those neighbourhoods that incorporate different types of people and business, because they feel safe, inclusive, fun and interesting. Of course, any area that becomes marked as a hot spot and begins to attract outsiders is widely acknowledged to be on the brink of collapse as rents are bound to rise and corporate tenants are sure to push out the independents that gave the area its winning character in the first place.
And so, it seems, we’re witnessing a suicide. Queen Street became too hip for its own good; and without the protections and regulations appealed for by its longtime residents and championed by thinkers like Jacob herself, Queen West, like Yorkville and Yonge Street before it, is sure to become a memory.
Queen West, you died too soon; and we’ll never forget you.