The 2006 Urban Trail
The Purpose of the Trail
Geography is supposed to deal with the real world. You will encounter various theories, various ideas, and interpretations in the course. Then there is reality. The theories and interpretation are useless unless they actually connect with reality. They need to be about reality, and we need to be able to see them at work in real life. On this urban trail you will walk through and explore a real landscape. You will see places and spaces created by economic activity. You will see landscapes shaped by ethnicity and other forms of social identity. You will see social contrasts in housing, in neighbourhood, in landscaping. In the discussion phase of the activity (Workshops 2A and 2B) you get to talk about what you saw, and you have the responsibility for interpreting it. How does ethnicity express itself in the landscape along the trail? What impact is the streetcar reconstruction having on local businesses? You are there to find out.
The Route of the Trail
The trail begins outside the St Clair West TTC subway station. Parking is restricted in this congested part of town and we suggest you reach the area by public transit. If you are driving in from the suburbs you might consider parking at Yorkdale, and taking the subway from there.
The trail takes you along
The St Clair streetcar line is under heavy reconstruction. At present the streetcars are not running, but a temporary bus service is in operation. You may find that streetcar reconstruction interferes with the instructions in this trail booklet. In this case, please use common sense and work around the problem.
The trail ends at Dufferin & St Clair. You can either walk back to the subway station or catch a bus.
The trail is intended to be undertaken in daylight, but it does not matter which day you choose.
Dress appropriately for the weather. We recommend you walk the trail with a friend.
Your TA will want to see your complete trail booklet just to verify that you did the trail. It is OK if the booklet looks like you completed it in the field. Don't waste time copying it all out again neatly. Authentic fieldwork chicken scratch is OK as long as it is reasonably legible.
The questions and exercises of the trail have been designed to raise a number of issues and themes for later discussion. Expect to find these themes coming up in the class discussion (Workshop 2A) and becoming questions for the times in-class essay (Workshop 2B).
St Clair is a classic example of an important urban street which functions as a major route way or corridor. It functions as an important artery for motor traffic, pedestrians and transit vehicles. There are sewer, water and utility lines which run along it. The traffic and accessibility have attracted commercial storefronts, and apartment buildings. It is expected to become a focus for intensified housing, enhanced transit improvements and the beautification of public space. Most of the planning issues which arise from St Clair are derived from its importance and popularity as a route way.
Conflict and Competition
St Clair is a busy street, with lots of traffic, lots of pedestrians and major transformations in progress. In this vibrant urban landscape money is being made, power is being exercised, decisions are being taken. Pedestrians want wide sidewalks for social activity, walking and sitting, merchants want to use the sidewalks for patios and the display of merchandise, motorists want parking and so on. These are all potential sources of conflict. Major projects are underway to reconstruct the streetcar line, to shoehorn in housing for another 10,000 people, to create parks and community facilities. The conflicts range in size from multi-million dollar schemes to funky sidewalk cafes being required to install wheelchair-accessible washrooms. Not every interest can be accommodated, and not everyone has an equal voice. The rich and powerful, the politically-well connected and well-organized tend to prevail.
St Clair Streetcar Right-of-Way Reconstruction.
The St Clair streetcar line was established in 1911-12 as
the civic car line, with car barns at
The city has other plans for St Clair which a streetcar right-of-way will enhance. There are plans to add a lot more housing to the low-rise commercial streetscape of St Clair. The city plans to add housing for 10,000 people along the route, a process known as intensification.
Ironically, the quality of streetcar service was degraded by the city in the 1990s when the Stockyards were redeveloped in the St Clair/Keele area. The big-box retailers who moved into that district have greatly increased road traffic and thus degraded streetcar service. The right of way scheme would not reverse the degradation, as opponents have noted.
The opponents have suggested that most of the benefits of a dedicated streetcar right-of-way could be had by modifying short sections of the route, where delays presently occur, while allowing other sections to remain as at present.
The new right-of-way will eliminate many of the streetcar
stops in an effort to speed-up service.
During the period in which you will be walking the urban trail the streetcar reconstruction will be disrupting the street, the transit system and pedestrian access. It may well interfere with your ability to execute details of the trail. Please be careful around the construction and modify your route if required.
Building a city involves the transformation of its physical
environment. Buildings and roads replace
natural vegetation, farmland and natural features. Creeks, ponds and ravines get filled in and
paved over. There are a number of places
where creeks crossed the line of
Ethnicity and Landscape
The trail takes you into three contrasting residential areas. The Wells Hill area, the Wychwood area and the Earlscourt area. These residential areas differ somewhat by ethnicity, but especially by income and social class. More importantly, we need to be able to read the signs of social difference in neighbourhood. Look at the size and state of repair of the homes. Look at how they decorate, how they do their landscaping, the kinds of cars parked outside, the colours, and if you are lucky, the quality of garbage and recycling that they generate.
In field observations we need to be able to collect evidence and form appropriate conclusions. In some parts of the trail you will be asked to make some generalizations about housing, land use or ethnicity. There is no point in recording everything, just valid generalizations, with appropriate evidence.
Begin the urban trail at the St Clair West subway station.
If you arrive by
subway, you will note that the St Clair West station has two exits, one at the
This should put you on
the south side of St Clair at the subway entrance from the St Clair West
station, just a little east of
A lost ravine
On the SE corner of
Look to the north side of St Clair. The deep Castle Frank Brook ravine once crossed St Clair and continued on the north side. Now you see the Loblaw's store and other structures built on it. What has happened to the ravine?
Housing in the Wells Hill area
Turn west, and follow
What sort of housing can you see in this district? Note down any observations about the kinds of people who appear to live here.
Before you leave the park behind, note that there is a mural painting on the side of the park washrooms. The presence of a distinct social group is implied. Which social group?
Follow the curves of
Wells Hill Ave until you get to a stop sign, turn sharp right (west) and head
west along Melgund Road. Stop when you
reach the intersection with
What recreational activity takes place on the NW corner of Hilton and Melgund?
Turn left and proceed
Record some comments on the kind of housing you find on Hilton, and what sorts of people seem to live here. What evidence is there in the landscape about the people who occupy these homes?
Bathurst St Streetscape
Follow Hilton south
until you reach
There are buildings on the west side of
Bathurst-Vaughan Ethnicity & Social Groups
A little to the south of the intersection of
Cross to the west side
Continue north on the
west side of
Look eastwards across
Proceed north on the west side of Bathurst St to its intersection with St Clair Ave W.
The streetcar line on St Clair is currently under
reconstruction, along with related streetcar lines on
Bathurst-St Clair: Planning Conflict
On the NW corner of Bathurst & St Clair a structure is in the process of construction on the site of a former TD bank building. What is being built here?
Could the streetcar line have anything to do with it?
The projected new building is controversial. Suggest why.
Bathurst-St Clair Ethnicity & Streetscape
As you go along, comment on the presence of any ethnic groups suggested by the stores.
Halt at the intersection
of St Clair and
On the SE corner of this diagonal intersection, note a branch of Hakim Optical. What was the likely function of the building before Hakim?
Vaughan & St Clair: Ethnicity & Social Groups
The next store is iconic and very colourfully decorated. Identify it and its ethnic background.
A couple of buildings north of the iconic store with the cows you come to a building with a decorative arch over the entrance to its parking lot. Another building to the north, painted in distinctive colours (with oxblood and saffron accents) is part of the same cluster. What community occupies these buildings?
Vaughan Rd north of St Clair: Land Use
Look further north up
Turn south and follow
along the south side of
In general terms, describe the land uses of St Clair west of
Walk westwards along
St Clair until you reach the intersection with
Housing in the Wychwood-St Clair Area
As you move south down Wychwood, how does the land use change from what you see on St Clair? What sorts of housing do you see on Wychwood and adjoining streets?
Wychwood Car Barns Planning Issues
Where Wychwood intersects with Benson, and extending SW from there, you encounter a block of land once used as the Wychwood car barns for the civic streetcar line. It is now in the process of conversion into other purposes. There are signs posted describing this project and evidence of work in progress. What is the site intended to become?
The Wychwood car barns conversion was not without some controversy, and some of the local residents opposed the scheme. Can you suggest what objections they might make?
Remember the new construction which is happening at the NW
Return northwards up Wychwood and back to St Clair. Proceed west on the south side of St Clair. As you proceed westwards, make some general observations about the land use and ethnicity of St Clair Ave W.
St Clair-Christie Streetscape
At St Clair and Christie, note two well-known coffee chains. What use was made of the building which Starbucks now occupies?
Who now provides financial services at this intersection?
Proceed westwards and stop opposite the McDonalds, located on the north side of St Clair.
McDonalds Planning Conflict
In 2000-02 this McDonalds proposed to rebuild and renovate to include a drive-through counter. There was widespread criticism from the local community, who staged street protests outside. Councillor Joe Mihevc supported the residents and McDonalds was prevented from building its drive-through. Suggest why the residents might oppose the scheme.
Proceed westwards on St Clair as far as
Rushton-Winona Ethnicity & Streetscape
Between Rushton and Winona, along St Clair, the street is used for the annual "Salsa on St Clair" festival, in July. In this section of the St Clair, is there any evidence for the ethnic groups which might sponsor this?
On the north side of St Clair at this point is the large yellow-brick building of the Hungarian Canadian Centre. This was built in the 1940s as a synagogue. Is there any sign of a large Jewish presence in the neighbourhood today?
At St Clair and
Winona, cross to the north side of St Clair and proceed northwards on
Which ethnic group is associated with it?
Return to St Clair and proceed westwards on the north side of the street.
A lost river crossed St Clair at about this point. Read the clues in the landscape to name the creek.
Roseneath Parkette Planning Conflict
At St Clair and
Is there any evidence that you are standing in the ravine of a lost creek?
Proceed northwards into the small parkette (Roseneath Parkette) at the north end of the parking lot.
The No Frills parking lot was built on the course of
St Clair-Lauder Streetscape
Return to St Clair Ave and continue westwards about 500 metres until you reach Lauder Ave.
Another branch of a lost river crossed St Clair at this point. Identify the lost creek.
On the NE corner of Lauder & St Clair is a commercial
block, built in the 1910s. On the
The reconstruction of the streetcar route is going to bring more housing into the area along St Clair. It will also add to the demand for small businesses, such as coffee shops. There is a developing cluster of them here (and opposite at the Regal heights Café). It is one way in which the streetcar may change the economic activity on St Clair. On the other hand, there are issues (such as the small size of the business premises, the lack of parking, and the difficulty of meeting license requirements in old buildings (of which disabled washrooms are just one issue). Would it make sense to tear down the old buildings and accommodate the increased population in new ones?
What would be the arguments in favour of keeping the older structures?
Proceed W on St
St Anthony of Padua parade, 2005
Proceed west on the north side of St Clair and stop outside St Clare's Roman Catholic church, on St Clair east of Dufferin.
St Clare's Catholic Church was constructed in the early
twentieth century, in connection with the residential suburbs which were then
developing along the street car line. By
the 1960 it had developed a large Italian congregation, and became a focus for
the developing Italian community in the area.
A parish priest established Mass in Italian, and helped set up other
Italian-speaking Catholic congregations in the city, notably St Nicola di Bari,
farther west on St Clair and St Wilfrid's near
Proceed west on St Clair and cross Dufferin. Carefully.
This brings you into the heart of St Clair-Dufferin, the
district so often associated with Italian settlement. In 1982 and again in 2006 Italian world cup
victories were marked by mass celebrations on the local streets. In recent years, however, much of the younger
generation has moved away, to
What evidence is there of a continuing Italian presence? Are the Italians locals or commuters? What ranges of businesses? Is it just Italian or is it mixed in ethnicity? How do the businesses use space?
Proceed westwards on
the north side of St Clair to St
Housing in the Earlscourt Area
St Clair Gardens is one of the streets of the Earlscourt district. It was built originally by British immigrants and has been heavily modified since. Comment on the character of the housing you find in this residential street.
Turn south on Nairn and walk south to St Clair.
If you fancy a gelato at this point, you might want to walk westwards to La Paloma at St Clair & Lansdowne. They aren't cheap.
Otherwise, turn eastwards and return to Dufferin & St Clair completing any notes you want to make about the ethnic landscape and businesses of St Clair west of Dufferin.
The trail terminates at this point. You can return to St Clair West subway station by catching a bus eastwards.