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Challenge: What’s better than a parking lot?

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My gut reaction to the question “What’s better than a parking lot?” is naturally, “Anything.” But let’s get a little more specific now that the Toronto Parking Authority is trying to convert a cultural landmark into 20 parking spots.

Shawn Micallef wrote a great post about why ripping down the Matador — a local icon with a great deal history inside it — for the express purpose of a parking lot is, to paraphrase, a completely loony idea. More than 20 people (myself included) responded in kind, agreeing that there couldn’t be a worse decision than to exchange the storied club for a slab of pavement. But instead of just nodding our heads collectively, I’m challenging you, Spacing Toronto readers, to come up with the best use possible for the Matador, given that its owners are intent on selling it.

Here’s my idea: Since some prime real estate could be had for approximately $800,000, I think snapping up this property is a sound financial decision for the City (assuming that there aren’t any catastrophic issues with the structure or something of that nature). However, instead of ripping down the building, I propose turning it over to Artscape. Artscape could manage an art gallery at street-level and turn the four apartments that currently exist on the second and third floors into affordable live/work space for artists, while maintaining the historical elements of the building.

Now it’s your turn!

Photo courtesy Irina/Riri.



  1. Adam, your idea is pretty hard to beat. If they have to tear down the building then I suggest making it into a parquet inspired by the music garden with a nice small cozy outdoor amphitheatre. The city could do this eying the ugly building on College to eventually purchase it and demolish it (where the Verde Minho is) and spill the garden into the corner of Dovercourt and College. Maybe a nice garden/piazza where people could hang out listening to musicians or watching outdoor art exhibits, but trying to keep the latin flavour of the neighbourhood. (I am such a dumb dreamer).

  2. The thing is, the property *cannot* be had for $800K. That’s the city offer the owners turned down.

    If the property is expropriated, the cost will likely be exponentially higher, because nobody (especially lawyers – who’s fees are guaranteed by the expropriation process) goes broke during an expropriation.

  3. A friend and I recently talked about The Matador and how it seemed to have fallen on harder than usual times. We wondered aloud if it might be the perfect place to open Toronto’s first 24hr bar. “The Matty” certainly has the pedigree and although 24hr establishments are yet legal, they seem to be having success with the idea in Australia, England and other parts of Europe.

    I’d be surprised if there wasn’t anyone out there that saw the brand as being viable. It’s certainly recognizable and should someone find it viable, then the current owners should have the ability to turn a venue they’ve maintained for decades around for a decent return. Expropriation is one of the dirtiest terms used at any level of politics. Readers of the recent article on this website regarding the Pickering Airport will have seem some terrible examples of what happens when a government starts acting for the “greater good” at the expense of what’s right.

    The real insult, as Mr. Hume put it, is that this is happening for a PARKING LOT. I live in Parkdale and when we were trying to fight the Palais Royale parking lot, I found myself regularly asking “How many times do a group people have to band together against a parking lot before our councillors get the fuckin’ point?” It’s such an old story that doing something as simple as signing a petition against a parking lot feels anachronistic.

    I’ve been kicking around the idea of running for city council, but I live in Parkdale and I like Gord Perks. Perhaps I should move to Davenport and take on Adam Giambrone. With the TTC cuts, Lansdowne work and support of parking he’s not looking so good.

    Save the Matador. If there isn’t a Facebook group…I think I’ll start one.


  4. How about selling it to a developer who will create something that has a viable market? Gasp!

  5. Really, anything would be better than a parking lot at that location, but what about affordable housing, either in the existing structure or a new one?
    We are in more and more need of housing every day…the list of applicants just keeps growing!

  6. here’s an idea: why doesn’t the city make an offer on a property that’s actually for sale in the area, and leave the matador alone completely. i can’t understand why that building is being singled out for any particular use, parking or otherwise.

    in any case, why does anyone think that the city’s offer of $800K was a bargain? the most expensive listing currently on dovercourt is $659,000 for a property that appears to be a house in great condition on a huge lot.

    to me, the city’s offer looks poorly researched. it resembles the city’s offer for the former fez batik, which was characterised by some experts as far richer than the market would demand.

    i agree that the cost to the city of this property will far exceed $800K if the city resorts to expropriation. i think that the owners are entitled to vigorously defend their interests in accordance with the law, and that the city should not make expropriation part of any general parking lot policy. i mean, if they really want to expropriate rundown properties, why not do so to protect heritage sites?

  7. If we don’t need the parking space, and I would argue we don’t, isn’t this post moot? Why expropriate the Matador at all?

    Give the 800k to TTC and tell them to beef up service and reduce the TPA’s so-called need for parking.

  8. You can’t really compare the value of the Matador, which has commercial zoning, to that of a residential house.

    For instance, a building on the Matador site could potentially be built to fill the entire lot. Not so for a house up the street.

  9. The best possible use for the Matador, is to have local twangers and bangers playing their hearts out to a bunch of drunken locals and tourists all night long.

    The only way I could justify having a parking lot put in there is if all those parking spots were then subtracted from the on-street parking on College. In other words, remove the on-street parking on College and make that street an actual thoroughfare for cyclists with a full bike lane east-west.

    The City should have a rule that anytime a parking lot is installed the on-street parking nearby should be diminished accordingly.

    Still, I don’t think I would EVER give up the Matty even for an extension of the bike lane on college. And, I’ve only ever been there a couple of times. Honest.

  10. I like the 24h bar idea, but there are places that ought to be considered first. Places that have handled themselves well during extended last call like the Drake. Starting here really makes no sense.

    I like the ArtScape idea *shrug*

  11. At a council meeting that took place tonight, council voted on whether rush-hour parking should be allowed on Dundas St. Pantalone and 4 right wing councillors voted against it, with Pants trying to make it an anti-TTC measure: but Giambrone, TTC Chair was among the remainder of council that voted for it (I think 20-5 or 24-5).

    The expropriation of the Matador was cited at one point as the reason why people on Dundas St don’t need the same parking rules that College, Queen, King, Roncesvalles etc. all have. The ten or fifteen spots they might get out of it were going to solve the total lack of parking during the late afternoon and morning all along Dundas.

    Pantalone took the attitude that College and Dundas are completely different streets, and that Dundas should be treated as a thoroughfare, while College should be treated as a ‘destination’. It’s interesting that one element that could be a contributor to College as destination is slated to be destroyed to do keep Dundas free of cars, and one might speculate why.

    Another way of looking at it is that College is Italian community, Dundas is Portuguese community. Of course, down at the end that the Matador is, its Portuguese/Brazilian. Panatalone is Italian. He characterised the Dundas community as ‘hardworking, working class’. In other words, poor. And now that the Italian section of the College strip has built up over fifteen or twenty years to become the new Yorkville, Pantalone is turning the Portuguese areas into service zones to support it…

    Lula Lounge is an important destination affected by the Panatalone decision: they can’t put vans and trucks in front of the building between 4 and 6, when setup and soundcheck happens. Their organization, along with the Dundas West BIA is why Pantalone is finally facing substantial opposition to his partisan empire-building.

    The vote, which will make their lives a little easier, but also help a lot of very poor and marginal businesses on Dundas, comes on the same day that the city announces a campaign to attract latino, and specifically Mexican tourism to Toronto.

  12. Kevin,

    I know that the idea of 24hr bars is probably not likely to become a reality and so debating who should get the first license might be a bit fruitless…however…

    I’m not suggesting that allowing The Matador to operate in it’s current format (The Guy with the Duffle Bag who sell Mickies) with it’s current ownership. I do think that the brand has all the integrity needed to make the transformation into a safer, more legit 24hr drinking establishment. When you think of after-hours drinking, The Matador always comes up in conversation. For that reason, and it’s relative isolation (compared to the booming West Queen West area) would make it an ideal location to be a test-bed for a 24hr bar idea. Easy access to transit and lack of parking would also promote safer consumption.

  13. The city shouldn’t be buying this property at all. We don’t need it and the money could be better used elsewhere.

    It’s this kind of thinking that has led us to our present budget situation.

  14. i think they should tear the damn thing down and put up a beautiful 20 storey condominum residence with lots of underground parking.

    (they could model it on the BeBloor project on Bloor just the other side of Landsdowne – that is what i have in mind).