This is part of a series of posts by students in OCAD’s Cities for People summer workshop (click the link to read a bit about what the class was about). This post was researched, photographed and written by Mary-Ellen Simko. More information on the psychogeographic map above at the end of the article.
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History of the Area
Both Alderwood and Long Branch, adjacent neighbourhoods in the southwest corner of Etobicoke, were a part of Colonel Samuel Smith’s land and many of the streets in Alderwood are named after the farmers in the area. The Alderwood name became official in 1933 and was derived from the First nations word “Etobicoke,” meaning “the place were the alders grow.” Long Branch was named after a resort in New Jersey and ferry boats brought thousands of Toronto vacationers each summer to use the cottages, hotels, the boardwalk and amusement rides including a Coney Island Carousel. It became a more accessible community in 1916 when Lake Shore Boulevard was paved and turned Long Branch into a year-round community.
Stats for Ward 6
Alderwood and Long Branch are home to 56,620 people that comprise 26,240 households located in an area approximately 18 square kilometres in size. In 2006 56% of the occupied private dwellings (31% were single-detached houses) were owned while 44% were rented spaces. 72% of these south Etobicoke residents drive to their jobs while 79% took non-work related trips by car. Most of the new immigration to the area has been from Eastern Europe (primarily Poland) with the highest percentage arriving between 1991 – 2000. Ward 6 has an average household income of 69,500 which is lower than the city of Toronto however 20% report having an income over 100,000. The population demographic has increased between the ages 45-64 but decreased for the age group 5-9 however 60% of households have children. (more info here – pdf)
Transit and how to get there
Both communities are serviced by the Lakeshore east/west Go transit line that stops at Long Branch Go Station while north/south Browns Line has an off-ramp from the QEW and 427 highways. TTC tracks have existed along this southern edge of the city since 1912 and the all-night 501 Streetcar connects the western Long Branch loop to the eastern edge of Toronto at the Neville Park loop. Bus routes on Browns Line and Kipling join the neighbourhoods with the Kipling Subway station.
Where people live
Alderwood is comprised mainly of bungalows and storey-and-a-half houses built after WW2, however during 2001 – 2006 the rate of new construction was 9.1%, the highest since the 1960’s. Most older homes are only separated by a single-car driveway but have large front and backyards so adding a floor or extending backwards are popular methods for increasing square footage. All too often those large front lawns are reduced to allow for more paved driveway as homeowners become multiple car households.
Where people live 2
Years ago any new homes resembled most suburban neighbourhoods with the prominent double-garage, front porch and red brick. In the last ten years builders are offering more options for buyers and replacing houses on prime ravine lots for homes on a much larger scale. In Long Branch, Lake Promenade has million dollar lake front homes not far away from lower income housing.
The rapid physical changes on the residential side streets off Browns Line and Lake Shore Blvd. are very similar however maintaining the commercial businesses on these main arteries remains a struggle. Some reasons for this include high rents, a low population density, unreliable transit and many people opting to drive to malls or big box stores rather than shop local. Recently Burrito Boyz and the Freshwood Grill (both have locations elsewhere in the city) opened their doors on Lake Shore Blvd., offering some casual food options for the south Etobicoke folks.
The Alderwood Centre was completed in 1999 and includes the new library, public school and child care centre built around the renovated pool. Other changes in Alderwood include the closing of Alderwood Collegiate (Father John Redmond used the site until the new school at Kipling and Lake Shore was built), closing Franklin Horner middle school (which has become a community centre) and using the old library building as a seniors centre.
Industry & Nature
Alderwood and Long Branch are separated by an area of light industry and some manufacturing. The city has planted trees, added crosswalk islands and a new public space on the south side of the Browns Line bridge facing Lake Shore Blvd. Both neighbourhoods have nature reserves close by: the Etobicoke Creek ravine and Valley Parks run along the western border and Marie Curtis Park and Lake Ontario are located to the south.
People and some things they do
The Waterfront Trail extends along Lake Promenade and bike lanes are painted on Lake Shore Blvd. encouraging residents and outsiders to ride or rollerblade through the neighbourhoods.
Other transitions of change
While condos are erected on the site of an old burger place, the legion has been a part of the Long Branch community since 1927. This mixing of old and new buildings is prevalent throughout Toronto and is slowly advancing into the outer suburbs. As manufacturing has been replaced by housing further east along the Lake Shore in New Toronto and a No Frills occupies the old Pittsburgh Paints space, it is difficult not to imagine a rezoning of the industrial lands.
Some residents I spoke to felt it was important to bring outsiders into the area as there isn’t enough capital to sustain a viable commercial strip along either Lake Shore Blvd. or Browns Line. Others question the fact that there is only one grocery store in the area and therefore a lack of competition or choice. Although Marie Curtis Park is enjoyed by many people some residents felt it was an underutilized public space. There is frustration around the TTC services available in this southwestern part of the city; there has been some discussion regarding the LRT along Lake Shore Blvd. however the street isn’t wide enough farther east and it would require the removal of a lot of commercial property to accommodate the necessary infrastructure. Providing an extension from Kipling station either west to Sherway Gardens or south to the Humber College site would be beneficial but highly unlikely.
Long Branch has a BIA and a few other groups such as the Lakeshore Planning Council and “Its our Lakeshore” that are involved in various issues concerning the area. Alderwood does not have a BIA and is currently forming a group called the South Alderwood Residents Association or SARA. These community associations are a vital component as southern Etobicoke continues to grow over the next couple of years.
Visual Identity Map for west Alderwood & west Long Branch
These digital images were taken on four trips to the area between May & June 2009. They illustrate what exists within the boundaries of the streets however they are not an exact representation of what that particular street looks like.
Click on map to see larger version.