For years Hintonburg and Mechanicsville have been working to shake their unwelcome and usually exaggerated association with drugs, prostitution and bikers. But with no grand scheme of “urban renewal” in place to appropriate whole blocks of aging housing stock — as was done just one neighbourhood over at Lebreton flats half a century ago — the transformation of the old west end is proceeding at a more human pace, one property at a time.
There are many advocates for the changing neighbourhood, but perhaps no one has done more to make positive change happen than the artists and entrepreneurs who invest their own money and time, transforming neglected properties into studios, galleries, performance spaces and innovative main street retail.
One of the most committed of Hintonburg’s new breed of creative business owners is Patrick John Mills of the eponymous gallery on Hinchey Avenue. A couple of years ago Patrick’s business outgrew even his double lot on Hinchey, and he found himself needing more space.
By coincidence a notorious “crack house” — boarded up, but still regularly broken into by addicts looking for a place to shoot up — was for sale just three short blocks away.
Patrick bought the house with the goal of transforming it into viable and well-looked after rental property, so that he could use its double garage as a “no-cost” storage and studio space. Along the way he documented the changes he and his contractors made to the eyesore, starting with these images of the interior rooms, freshly abandoned.
photo by Evan Thornton