www.whyville.net Jan 23, 2008 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

Sadly Not Static

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You know when you have something good and you feel like it's a big secret and only you know about it, how special that feels? You eventually find out everyone else knows about that something good, and suddenly it feels tainted. As if it can never be the same again. Whether it's a favorite hang out in the ravine or a favorite un-known band . . . who knows it could be anything, it always gets that feeling like it's been ruined.

What if that thing you had was a place you fit in and belonged. A place that was made by, and for, the people just like you. A place that was first ostracized and ignored, then positively explored and then eventually full-out supported by another section through the integration of places they came to because it was unique to one area and places that they liked from other areas. Slowly, tourism is introduced because someone wants to show off this amazing cultured area.

Like say, Queen Street West in Toronto. A bohemian collaboration of artists, musicians, poets and prophets and generally mish-mash of the "unusual" . . . I like to call them, the Beautiful People. This area was a complete dump in the 60's and even still about 20 years ago. My mother was shocked and appalled I would want to go shopping there. To her, it's still a seedy strip of smelly thrift shoppes and the Beautiful People back then are the wrong kind of people. So, obviously the year isn't 1965, 1970, or even 1987 anymore, nor any year that one could say Toronto was like New York . . . dangerous and dirty.

It's the happening two thousands. The street itself is beautiful, a bright collage of colors and styles piled into one place where the people who have no interest in Bloor or Yonge street can come together in a cultural cooking pot and play. It also helps having a massive art gallery and one of the leading art schools in the neighborhood. There are a couple big name things on Queen, like City Hall. Of course and Much Music and CityTV. It's punctuated with sushi bars, grill houses, pubs and crepe houses. Thrift shoppes, gothic couture basements, upstairs trendy boutiques, shoe stores, one of a kind dress shops, custom screen printing stores, and cosplay boutiques are all mixed in with the Aldos, Le Chateaus, Nikes, American Apparel, Boathouses and other name brand places. The renovation of the area has already begun.

What happens to real estate when you follow the artists is it generally goes up in value. Artists live for large cheap spaces with good light. A loft is the ideal place for an artist to live. Not only is there room to create their work, there is room enough for a private showing party or sale in their own living room. Where the artists are, so are the indie boho shops and galleries where you can buy hand-crafted things for a decent price and it is, one of a kind. At first the wealthy people will be wary of these areas, the Beautiful People can be frightening when you don't know anything about them expect their exterior . . . but one or two will brave in and buy something amazing. This is where rich people become like ants . . . they will tell their friends. Then the process gets underway.

Someone will get the good idea to build a familiar store in the area to draw more people down there. More and more of these big name places get built, and hotels too. To encourage commerce and tourism. The first Starbucks is the sign that it's time for the artists to leave. Already property taxes will have gone up, and the cost of living no longer the same. There was a gothic club, called the Sanctuary. It was a crazy place that my friends and I constantly were getting kicked out of for sneaking in, but it was the only place that we knew of with that atmosphere. It became a Starbucks a few years ago, and the outrage from the Goth community was such that this particular location has only alternative and gothic baristas. It is black and red on the inside, and quite different to the Starbucks on Bloor or the ones even just down the road. I think corporations that move into an area realize sometimes they have to cater to the people already there, and I find this to be an excellent example of it. But in the end, the transformation of the region will take hold and they can go back to being the cookie-cutter store that they are.

Also the area itself will be getting too expensive now for artists, and this is a reflection on the fact most artists don't get enough work to make real money do to the fact nobody wants to sell out. Regardless, soon enough contractors will come in and knock in the lofts and warehouse night clubs. The last of the Queen Street lofts came down this past November. Then next up go the 45 story condo buildings. I got an invitation to the showroom for some new condos in the mail last year randomly. I flipped through it and looked it over. On the first 20 floors there are four condos per floor. They start at $750,000 (like that's for the most basic of the small condos). The next ten floors are 1.5 million and there are three condos per floor. The next price level starts at 2 million dollars and are two per floor and the last five floors were penthouses starting at 2.7 million dollars. These buildings are the real eyesore, pure green glass glinting in the sun, despicable. No character at all.

And as for my loft? I don't have one . . . not yet. The one I wanted? It was never a Queen Street loft, oh no. Lakeshore. That is where I wanted my loft to be. In one of the old warehouses speckled with graffiti. I watched them blow up the last of those warehouses last October. I am currently a cheap apartment dweller . . . if you can even call $1,380 a month cheap.

So why do I care? This started happening long before I was here, and long before I decided I wanted a loft. The artists will move, there is already a new area underway somewhere else that just isn't widely known about. This will continue for years to come, it's the way it is. Look at Greenwich Village in New York City. But it still makes me sad, it's the close on an era and it feels like, when you are a kid, and you are playing with something nobody else wanted until they saw how much fun you were having with it.



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