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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Dundas and Roncevalles

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Facing south on Dundas Street West just below Bloor Street, you're looking at a choice out of The Wizard of Oz. The place where Dundas West and Roncesvalles meet is more a fork in the road than an intersection. From this perspective, there doesn't seem to be a big difference between the two routes — each is lined with brick buildings — but choose the Roncesvalles path and you'll find yourself on a street that feels like a small town in the middle of a big city; choose Dundas West and you'll wind up on a largely deserted stretch of road scattered with car garages, dollar stores, and storefronts that look like the window displays haven't changed since the 1970s.

This V is a just a pause for Dundas on its long path to the Junction from Chinatown, but for Roncesvalles it's the beginning of its journey. Going south from this starting point, you get a mixture of brick homes, bakeries, fruit markets, and cafés. Though the Polish demographic of this neighbourhood is still felt (especially if you happen to be there during the Polish Festival in September, when the street is closed down for a weekend celebration), the community feel of this area extends beyond any particular demographic. Walking along this avenue, it feels a little like what you would get if Queen Street West were a small town.

When the Revue Theatre on Roncesvalles closed down in June 2006, some people in the neighbourhood pooled together to create the Revue Film Society, with the intention of buying the theatre and turning it into a community-run cinema. The group reports a collection of $30,000 in donations, but so far they've been unsuccessful in leasing or buying the property, though they are still trying. They were also behind the successful push for the Revue to be designated a heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The area where Dundas passes through the Junction has been prophesised to be one of the next hot neighbourhoods, according to a September 2005 article in Toronto Life, but where it forks south of Bloor, the street lives a double life. It tries to deliver modern, trendy fare with places like a yoga studio, a goth clothing boutique, and a hemp store, servicing the gentrifying areas north in the Junction and west in High Park. As it stretches further east, the storefronts become more and more vacant. In the spring of 2006, the area was used to film Hairspray and some of the fa