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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Cariboo Avenue

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(Crossposted with Spacing Votes — a tour of Cariboo Avenue)
In a recent thread here on Spacing Votes, Danny Nardelli (the motorist responsible for the “Don’t Vote for Giambrone” Jeep Grand Cherokee you may have seen driving around as well as a “Don’t Vote for Adam Giambrone poster campaign) invited everybody to go for a drive and check out Cariboo Avenue for themselves (you can also check out the official response from Giamrbone’s campaign in an open letter to Spacing Votes). Yesterday was a beautiful day of driving, cold mist, so instead of driving (sorry Danny) I walked up to Cariboo, from Dupont and Dufferin, where the bus let me off.

Cariboo is near the end of Dupont, just before it goes under the tracks and becomes either Annette or Dundas, depending on which way you swing. There are no visible signs of gentrification here — except for a Cat Hotel — so it resembles the old semi-industrial/residential Dupont that Alfred Holden once wrote about so well in Taddle Creek magazine (as did Bert Archer in Eye).

Turning north onto Osler Street, this extremely sad and giant fish greets those heading to Cariboo. Osler itself is a mix of auto shops and houses. Cariboo is a block north on Osler.

At Cariboo, the first of the concrete barricades in question are visible. Those train tracks beyond become the line that runs just north of Dupont, eventually heading into Rosedale. To the west they intersect with the rail line that comes up from Parkdale. Cariboo, a dead-end, is wedged in between. It is an ugly street. If Raymond Chandler was a Torontonian and wrote about this city, he’d dump a few bodies here. It’s exactly the north west corner of Ward 18, just a few steps away from the free and easy territories of Wards 14 and 17.

In some places the barricades are 3 deep. There are indeed “No Stopping” signs posted on each side, but this plateless minivan, and some other cars without plates, were parked along it anyway.

At the end of the street are are series of chainlink fences with the rail lands beyond. No sign yet of any progress on the walking and biking pathways that are to be built, just these junk yard dogs behind this gate on the left side. Their horrible-angry Cujo snouts snarled at me from underneath the gate. They paced quicker and seemed more horrible the longer I lingered at the end. If you go, bring a slab or two of meat to throw over the gate and distract them.

This is the length of Cariboo. Coat was wet and fingers were frozen, so it was time to leave Ward 18 alone and head back East, where the dogs and concrete are less fierce. Sixty-three minutes later, on the corner of Alexander and Yonge, Cariboo felt like it was in another city, making Toronto seem even bigger because of the various worlds that exist within its borders.



  1. I know that area relatively weird, and it does feel weirdly disconnected with the rest of the city. The dogs guarding the complexes are pretty scary (especially at night), and it’s not exactly the safest place, either. It’s literally on the wrong side of the tracks.

  2. I would pass through this area when I lived in Brampton several times a week on the GO Train. I know the body shop you refer to. The area is very interesting – farther to the south is a scrap yard (though they make it clear they do not accept vehicles, and they will be towed), the Wallace Avenue footbridge (and the vanished Glidden Plants) and all sorts of marginal-looking industry hanging onin a deindustrialized landscape.

    The biggest change to the area will be when GO Transit starts work on the grade separation to put the CN tracks to Brampton under the CP tracks. Like Lansdowne Carhouse, the Glidden Plants, the CN and CP stations, the Junction trolley bus, the “Junction” will be soon no more, strictly speaking.

  3. Sean> Yeah, I though of that while there — that it feels so desolate, those lands, but thousands and thousands of people pass through them everyday on the GO. Trains always have unique and wonderful views of cities (and elsewhere).

    David> It seemed pretty safe while I was there. Unsafe only in the sense that nobody was around, but the surrounding neighbourhood was standard working-class Toronto which always includes lots of homes being reno’d and etc. People were out on the street, it had a lively feeling.

  4. “the “Junction” will be soon no more, strictly speaking”

    The Junction between the two lines will remain; trains will still be able to pass between the two corridors. If the community was named “The Diamond” then there might be something to say about its dissapearance.

  5. “The Junction between the two lines will remain; trains will still be able to pass between the two corridors.”

    I guess that’s true (now arguing semantics), but I was thinking about the flyunder, rather than the diamond, will remove most of what’s left of the character of the “Junction” – in my mind, it will look more like a freeway underpass than a railway junction. The area will change completely.

    I’m almost nostalgic for what the area used to look like – the more rickety Wallace footbridge, the trolley buses, the remnants of the Old Weston Road overpass (with the Bridge Out signs). The area will never look the same again.

    So whether it will still be a “junction” or not, it won’t feel like one, at least to me.

  6. Call me crazy, but it looks like there’s loads of room on that wide dead-end street to temporarily store a few junked cars without getting in anybody’s way. In any case, it’s a pity they couldn’t find a solution that didn’t inconvenience the neighbouring businesses. (Also a pity the business owners couldn’t voice their concerns without ranting about hookers and communist dictators and generally making themselves look like cranks!)

  7. Hey Shawn,

    I don’t mean to slag the neighbourhood; there’s a very real sense of community there, and everyone looks out for everyone else…but it does have a particularly high crime rate, especially up at around Symington, Wallace, that area there, and nighttime has a very different atmosphere than the day does.

    I’ve spent some time in the area – it’s not far from my neck of the woods, and a good friend of mine lived there – and there’s a drive-by or attempted drive-by about once every two weeks, I saw heroin addicts walking around regularly at night, and break-ins are pretty common. The guy who kidnapped Cecilia Zhang lived at Bloor & Symington, and the area has, according to my friend, the highest number of sex offenders in any given area of the city.

    Not that it’s an “unsafe” area, so to speak – nothing remotely bad has ever happened to me in the time I’ve been there, and if you stay out of people’s ways they stay out of yours – but it’s also not the safest.

  8. Cecilia Zhang? You mean Holly Jones, don’t you?

    Anyway, also remember that N of the tracks along Osler (and its tower is visible in the shot looking north from Cariboo) is a 60s public housing complex, Pelham Park Gardens. Which (speaking from a Docomomoish 60s-welfare-state-modern conoisseur’s perspective) is actually in pretty good physical shape–but demographically, hey, it’s public housing…

  9. I am sorry David but as a 6 year resident of the Perth and Wallace corner I have to say that have no idea what you are talking about.

    Street crime does exist but you paint a picture that is inaccurate and plain just not true. Believe me if there were weekly drive by shootings I would move and I have the money to do so if I wished but I like the are and see potential.

    The sex offender “statistic”you quote is a sad example of how a paper in a rush to sensaltionalize the Holly Jones case mis-reported sex offender stats. There is absolutley nothing that differentiates the area from any other area in terms of sex ofenders. The unbelievable lazy reporting that created a false impression has been investigated by the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. I suggest finding out facts before casually quoting (in what Wikipedia calls “weasel words”) something so potentially harmful to any community.

    And Shawn, so you see how easily impressions about communities are created and distored.

  10. I recently moved to the area right beside Yasi’s Place at Wallace and Campbell. I have to agree with Scott who I guess is my neighbour! No Drive-bys yet! Before moving to the neighbourhood I was very concerned about the crime and where the area was headed… Still I took a chance as I noticed others in the area were as well. I really like the area as it feels undiscovered and I’m very excited that the hockey rink is right down the street! The vacant lands will resolve themselves in time and I think thats one of the best parts about the area, the opportunity to change in a positive way. I have done extensive renovations since moving in and met so many neighbours in the process, some rich some poor but all happy to see a positive change in their community. Bottom line… get to know your neighbours, say hi, and make the community stronger. The truth is that I’m not blind I do see the crime but I’m also not afraid to walk the streets and cross the bridge at night. Drug Dealers and Prostitutes can’t stop me. I would also like to say that there is probabaly no where in the city that I feel good about my sisters or gf walking alone and is always a good idea for anyone to walk with someone. Question… Does anyone know what the plans are for any of the vacant lands in and around the neighbourhood?

  11. I’ve been living just north of Davenport and Osler for the last 18 months, and have covered many kilometres on foot with my dog and on my bike, so I’ve come to know the area very well. I was living in Riverdale but couldn’t afford the housing prices so took a chance and bought a house in the Junction. Bit of a culture shock, and yes, it’s very working class, but it also has a very strong sense of community.
    I am wondering how the GO Transit underpass is going work out, and also the much-touted Railpath.
    Right now I walk my dog along there. The big factory that is right next to the tracks at Dupont is intriguing as there are definitely covert signs of life yet I’ve never actually seen anyone exit or enter the building. As for safety, I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking around the area, day or night, then again my Aussie Shepherd would rip the face of anyone who might fancy their chances…LOL