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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Rogue city agency trying to lay waste to Dovercourt streetscape

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It was with increasingly incredulous dread that the news of the City of Toronto’s plan to expropriate the Matador on Dovercourt and demolish it for parking sunk in over the last few days. At first it seemed not real — impossible even in Toronto — but then like the way news that the blackout of ’03 had turned the world topsy turvy trickled in, it was confirmed as true. First it was Christopher Hume’s column in yesterday’s Star, where he used many exclamation marks, but could have probably used a few more.

The gap between what the city does and what it says is growing wider.

That became clear recently when we heard that Toronto wants to buy the legendary Matador Club and tear it down to make way for a parking lot. A parking lot! A parking lot!

No, we’re not making this up.

To add insult to injury — or should that be lunacy to idiocy — we also heard that if the owners of the 43-year-old club aren’t prepared to sell their land to the city for $800,000, it will consider expropriation.

Truly, Toronto has lost its way. Truly, whatever our aspirations may be as a civic entity, they are fast being undone by a bureaucracy so out of touch with reality it’s frightening. And where are the councillors in all this? Does their silence signal agreement? Creeping suburbanization is one thing, but this is neanderthal.

Then, the answer to Hume’s question “where are the councillors” was on Global News at six tonight when Adam Giambrone was asked about this and shrugged, saying a there is a need for parking in the area and he would support a motion to expropriate. He was repeating the position of Toronto Parking Authority president Gwyn Thomas who said as much to The Star earlier this week.

For many Torontonians, the Matador is indeed legendary, a strange and unique after-hours cowboy-booted club that seems to respect its neighbours and avoid the usual trouble generally associated with such enterprises. I’ve only been twice in my Toronto tenure, earlier in the decade, and I recall having a passionate conversation about New Brunswick with an ex-pat from Moncton while a young version of Hank Snow twanged away on stage. I recently asked a friend if he and his family who live approximately 10 houses up Dovercourt are ever disturbed by the Matador, and he said they never notice it. That’s remarkable.

But its legendary status and history (Leonard Cohen, Neko Case, etc.) are beside the point here and almost irrelevant because the city — our city — wants to expropriate and tear down a fine and sturdy piece of the urban fabric, located in one of the most desirable and valued neighbourhoods in North America, and turn it into twenty (20!) parking spots, spending $800,000 in the process (insulting to the owner, offensive to the rest of us who are enduring the current budget crunch and trying — so very hard — to believe and support the Giambrone side of things).

This is madness. Most cities would do tax-incentive back flips to get developers to build something in a parking lot — because so many cities are now a series of parking lots, without much actual city because they’ve been hollowed out over the years. Toronto is lucky by North American standards; we’ve been continually filling them in. Even if the owners of the Matador are ready to sell after 43 years — perhaps it’s a natural end for this particular operation if somebody else doesn’t want to take it over — it’s outrageous and heartbreaking that the City would move to gut this bit of Toronto for a parking lot. As Hume tells the “guileless” Gwyn Thomas in his satisfyingly incendiary column, “the 1950s are over.”

But a little poking around the Toronto Parking Authority’s Leave it to Beaver-ish website demonstrates they don’t think so:

As the Mayor Nathan Phillips summarized the situation nearly 50 years ago at the opening of the Authority’s City Hall Garage, “…business goes today where there is convenient, thrifty parking and stays clear of locations that can’t or won’t provide it”. 50 years of prosperity for various commercial areas in the City and the continued success of the Toronto Parking Authority are a testament to the enduring truth of the long-departed Mayor’s assessment.

All these years we’ve all thought the Toronto Port Authority was the public agency that is Toronto’s worst enemy, but it turns out it could be a rogue agency from within. On the front page of the TPA site there is a prominent link to one of their latest moves, tearing down a building at 663 Gerrard Street East, in the heart of East Chinatown, for a parking lot. The TPA is eating Toronto.

At Spacing, most (if not all) of us do not share the radical opinion that cars are inherently immoral and car drivers are bad people. Many people need to drive a car to survive and that isn’t going to change in the near future, so we need to find a balance between the drivers and a clean, green, walkable and beautiful city. Yet every economically vibrant and “world-class” city I’ve been to is, without exception, an awful place to try to park. It’s expected. Toronto is no different, so tearing the city down to put lots in is as backwards as some of the things Ward Cleaver said to the Beaver.

When did our bureaucracy get so out of whack that they can destroy parts of the city? When did councillors stop standing up to staff suggestions that go against what this great city stands for? Email TTC Chair Giambrone (there is, of course, a streetcar stop 20 meters from the Matador) and ask him. Email Councillors Rae and Feldman, who are on the TPA board, and ask them. Events like this can shake one’s confident belief to the core that, despite differences here and there, most of us have the general good of the city at heart. I’d like to believe the councillors just need a little political support and motivation in order to take a stand and make the right decision for the Toronto we want to live in (the one they talk about on that website).

Photo by Jason Michael



  1. My friend got back from NYC, got off the train, and realized he was in “Caronto”. And it’s carrupt, carazy, hypocaritical – especially with the climate carisis. Not only is there this problem, which the TPA tried to do a few years back with the Royal Theatre on College, we also build massive garages under a “public” square that is created through expropriation, right atop a major subway stop. Then there’s building a subway to sprawl and a major road downtown with the FSE… and Mr. Giambrone has voted for these too.

  2. Here is a clear example of Toronto bureaucracy at its worst.

    Miller and company cry that the city has no money but are willing to spend $800,000 for 20 parking spots, that is $40,000 per car (worth more than an average car). Of course that site is worth much more than $800,000 and I hope the owners take the TPA to court for trying to rip them off.

    I used to live a few doors South of College on Dovercourt and I have been to the Matador many times, I am sure that there have been a few incidents in the place, but in general nobody even realized the place was an after-hours hangout, they are good neighbours. I feel horrible that such a great neighbourhood will loose a great landmark.

    These people who manage Toronto are so incompetent it makes me laugh, there is no demand for more parking in that area, 90% of people that go to the West End YMCA bike, walk or jog there. And why add parking to a place that is serviced by the Subway line to the north and by the College and Dundas Streetcars to the South? The money would be put into better use if they added bike lanes on College.

    This is so ridiculous it hurts, I guess Giambrone wants the parking so that he can drive to the Brass Taps, he probably doesn’t have to pay for parking at the TPA lots either… (another council perk for sure).

    So here we have it, the city of Toronto fucking things up again. I feel like such a dupe for supporting these guys in the last couple of elections… I will be sending Perks (my current councillor) an email with Giamborne and Pantalone as Cc’s telling them what I think of their incompetence and stupidity in managing Toronto.

    I still have to figure what makes me angrier, the city trying to rip off decent people or their idiocy in how they are trying to turn downtown into a mirror image of the suburbs (Liberty Village, The Queensway and Park Lawn, the stupid Canadian Tire at Leslie and Lake Shore East) while Mississauga and Markham are trying to build vibrant downtown cores like Toronto…

    You want to save money at city hall? Fire all those stupid overpaid bureaucrats who make these stupid decisions. They are a bunch of useless parasites munching at my property taxes.

  3. This is disgusting. I just don’t understand. It’s all been said above, but really, a parking lot? Disgusting. Why does council continue to ignore the wealth of landscape architects, architects, urban designers and urban advocates who are constantly telling them that they are destroying our city? How did the system get to be so broken, so backwards? I had spent many a late eve in the Matador and hoped to do so upon my move back to Toronto, but it looks like another one bites the dust. Toronto councill should feel great shame for destroying a part of our cultural landscape.

  4. I don’t think we should be building any new parking spots / lots anywhere.

  5. Bizarre!

    Somebody call the Y and ask them what they think about this. Hopefully, they could issue a statement against the parking lot plan. Isn’t it a bit ironic to make parking for a place that people go to to keep fit?

    The TPA is obviously out to lunch and in need of a major review. As for Giambrone, wtf?

  6. Even if there is a parking shortage in the area, isn’t that — dare I say it — a job for the private sector? Creating parking spaces through expropriation seems like a kind of subsidy (even if the lot ends up profitable for the city). If parking is that badly needed, some nearby condo developer can go to the expense of adding a level or two of public parking to their development.

  7. How much are the police selling the land their station was on one and a half blocks south for ? I bet its way more than 800,000$.

    I should say that a fair number of people do drive to the YMCA, I know I was a memember there for many years. But I have never had a problem parking in the area day or night so I am not sure what is really driving this. Is it actually a plan to shut down the Matador?

  8. Thanks to David Reeveley at the Ottawa Citizen for finding and linking to the PDF backgrounder:

    Normally with a story like this, if you dig a bit deeper you find it’s not quite as crazy as it appears — the outrageous possibility is only one option of a dozen and nobody seriously thinks it’ll be pursued, or the owners are happy to leave but there’s a legal reason why they’re insisting on an expropriation rather than an ordinary sale, or something. If that’s the case, though, the City of Toronto’s staff aren’t mentioning it in their backgrounder (PDF).

  9. Shawn: I think you meant “hollowed” out, not “hallowed” out. There’s nothing holy about this.

    For those who are upset about the city spending $800,000 for a 20-space parking lot, remember that from the city’s point of view this makes sense. The TPA actually makes money for the city. Parking lots are an economic benefit to the city coffers.

    Sad as it is, this development is not surprising. On Dundas, just east of Ossington, a few years ago there was a vacant lot that was marked as a site for townhomes. A couple of years past and nothing happened. Then the city turned the land into a parking lot. The excuse we were given: by turning it into a parking lot the city was “banking” the land for possible future development.

    Remember the house on Dovercourt, the side wall of which fell off? During the repairs to the house, the city took over that side of the house’s lot that abutted the laneway and put in… a parking lot. Coincidentally or not, that lot and this new proposed lot are just a few steps away from new Starbucks outlets.

  10. There is an long empty site a block away on the north side of College. Its been empty for years, probably was a gas station at one point. I do not know what development is going on there, but it would defiantly hold more parking spaces then the Matador site.

    I guess its just the business clientele of the Matador that irks the city. I doubt that they would be considering this if it was a Starbucks running out of that building.

  11. Our city is doomed: let’s become Detroit! Incredible.

  12. Thank you David — 2am writing makes everything hallowed.

    Michael> I’ve always thought of the Matador as a controlled pressure-release. People are going to go do late night things somewhere, so why not let it happen at a place that seems to behave responsibly as a neighbour and a place the authorities know about. From what I recall, the crowd looked like a lot of middle-class people with 9-5 jobs and good careers. Not that it should matter though — but it wasn’t what I expected to see at an after-hours place. It was all mixed.

  13. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Starbucks is behind this. I would like to know what kind of contacts Joe Casali and Lorne Persiko had with Starbucks before making such dumb decision. Anybody with any information out there? Let’s shame these guys to death!

  14. Carlos there is no evidence that Starbucks is behind this, and then seem to be fairly good corporate citizens in terms of urbanism. So lets not turn this into a conspiracy theory, as it undermines and distracts how outrageous the facts alone are.

  15. Thanks for this spacing!

    I have a feeling Mr. Giambrone’s popularity will drop even more with this. First Lansdowne and now this.

    I asked him many questions as I’m sure many others here have but have yet to receive a response.

    For those that have facebook there are now three groups on the issue. Which is a good place to cultivate group efforts and see what people are doing about this.

    here’s mine:

  16. Dawn, there are no conspiracy theories here. That is the way business work, only those without brains are the ones who can’t see what is obvious. The beauty about Wild West capitalism is that there is no need to conspire and hide things, it is so out there that people become indifferent or incredulous. I don’t think there is a conspiracy either, I just think that many businesses in that area would like extra parking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks is one of those businesses.
    I have to totally disagree about your assessment that Starbucks is a fairly good corporate citizen, but hey, what can you say to a person who sees a corporation as a citizen? I guess you are entitled to your own opinion about how Starbucks loves to charge a small fortune for their overrated coffee while keeping 3rd world country farmers in poverty and trying to overtake good neighbourhood coffee stores.


  17. I’d like to send those Councilors an email but can’t open the link provided by Spacing. Can someone post the email address online?

  18. While I find it entirely disappointing that the City would go forward with a plan to uproot a storied building in exchange for a few measley parking spaces, it is worth noting that regardless of expropriation, the owners of the Matador are negotiating to turn the building over to the City knowing full well that it will be destroyed. So it’s not exactly like the ownership is trying to preserve the building either, which is almost as disappointing as the action taken by the City.

    Also, when the City makes a capital expenditure, it doesn’t impact the operating budget (which is where the crisis is). And Adam Giambrone will not personally benefit from a new parking lot, as Carlos suggests. Giambrone doesn’t own a car.

    The real reason not to make the Matador into a parking lot is that it’s contrary to the city building agenda that both Giambrone and Miller were elected to implement, and it isn’t consistent with key policy objectives like the City’s climate change plan.

  19. There are many things wrong with this plan

    At a time when the City closed rec facilities to save about $700,000, they are expropriating a historical landmark for $800,000 so they can build 14 parking spaces. Nice.

    It highlights the utter lack of leadership or common sense at City Hall when they will expropriate for a parking lot, but will not do so to help the people at 1011 Lansdowne, for example.

    The City has gone on and on about the loss of our creative cluster in West Queen West to developers and the OMB (and we can debate about who is to blame until the cows come home, but it really doesn’t matter anymore because it is all gone and it is not coming back), but there will be no one else to blame on this one. The City shows no respect for our cultural history or our cultural future.

    One thing that struck me in the article was this: they are negotiating to buy the Matador, but they are unhappy with the price being asked, so they are threatening to expropriate it. If that is not negotiating in bad faith, then I am not sure what is.

    That a city that bills itself as a green city built for transit and bikes is willing to spend $70,000 per parking space while our bike lanes are in disrepair is unconscionable.

    The City spent $1.3 million to save Theatre Passe Muraille, but wants to bulldoze cultural icons it deems “unworthy”, and who lack lobbying pull at City Hall.

    At a time of fiscal crisis, spending $800,000 (plus demolition, plus disposal, plus construction, so it will be well over $1 million) on this is totally crazy. It is a waste of money, and it is a cultural icon that should be preserved. In an ironic twist, the City has pissed off the left AND the right in one fell swoop. Nice trick.

    If it wasn’t for the press, no one would have known about this travesty. This highlights the lack of communication between the City and its citizens, and shows the contempt the City has for the people and the things they hold dear.

    It seems obvious that the Matador in its current incarnation is not commercially viable. So, instead of a parking lot, what should be done? This is an ideal space to encourage the arts in a community that needs it. Look at the stuff going on around Bloor and Lansdowne for Nuit Blanche. It is inspirational. Space should be reused to provide rehearsal and performance space for all the community art groups that desperately needed space. Investments in infrastructure are investments in people. Jane Jacobs said we need a creative class in our cites to provide the ingenuity and energy that will drive our city. Let’s think about that as we park our cars in one of the $70,000 Matador parking spots.

  20. The West End YMCA could use the space at the Matador. It would be great as a multiuse facility. Ideal for more gym space, a great place for exhibitions, theatre and concerts and an appropriate public place for the community in general. Dang, this is Toronto, sorry for dreaming…

  21. From the above-linked TPA site:

    “….75% of the Parking Authority’s net profit is returned to the City as a dividend into the city’s general reserves. In 2001 this amounted to in excess of $26.0M….”

    Sadly, that is the likely motivation for this – same as with private lots – $$$. Not that it’s a good enough reason.

  22. The TPA is quite an interesting agency. It makes money for the city and is a city agency, but also won’t go out of its way to have the machines that it installs situated on separate pads away from the sidewalks to not affect the lives of citizens of the city: the machine ends up taking up 60 cm of space on the sidewalk and if someone is standing in front of the machine getting a ticket, the entire sidewalk becomes blocked. Consequently pedestrians must walk around on the grass, which naturally turns into a mud pool over time – this is especially pronounced on side streets that have high pedestrian traffic levels, e.g. around U of T. I wouldn’t want to be in a wheelchair doing this. I have tried contacting the TPA but did not receive a satisfactory response as to why they can’t afford a lousy few dollars extra to do the job properly and situate the machine such that one can actually still use the sidewalk. I have some pictures of this that I will post later.

  23. if it does end up being torn down for parking, starbucks should be the one paying for it. i pass through college & dovercourt multiple times daily, and (surprise) it only became a mess of double-parking and four-way flashers since starbucks moved in across from the y.

  24. Let’s get Patter Gatien to buy it. He can turn it into another multilevel monster crack den … sorry … arts centre and nightclub.

  25. Hume’s column was awesome. At least Joe Pantalone is only dropping 300 grand on extending the 29 bus to BMO Field whereas Chairman G is dropping 800 grand to demolish (that’s green) and pave (so much greener) in the cause of parking (greenest!)

    Let’s take our 800,000 and spend it on transit in College/Dovercourt. Meanwhile let’s sell every single TPA offstreet ground lot and build a Transit City with it.

  26. ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: A Desperate Proposal
    Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2007 10:59:51 -0400
    From: Gregory Betts

    Dear Citizens,

    I am writing to express my extreme frustration in hearing the news of
    your plan to tear down the Matador, a famous cultural landmark in our
    city. Having just returned from a tour of Europe, it is astonishing to
    me how poorly managed Canadian cities are; from the lack of public
    transportation options to the unfriendly, barely walkable design. Your
    decision in tearing down the Matador seems to not only confirm the worst
    of our tendencies, but accelerate their worst follies. Every major
    European city is centred around a pedestrian district, to which tourists
    (especially North American tourists) flock. The pleasure of these cities
    is precisely the freedom with which humans can interact with other
    humans — including, and especially, shopping, learning, talking, and
    dining. We go there because we don’t have it here. They don’t come here
    because we make our cities as ugly and boring as possible.

    I don’t even want to talk about the environmental side of things,
    because the move in question is so backward it makes even medieval
    responses to the plague (the first major environmental crisis of modern Europe)
    seem enlightened.

    Tearing down important buildings for asphalt has cost our city so much
    already (see if you can find Ontario’s first parliament buildings — oh
    right, they are stored underneath a parking lot), not just in terms of
    tourist dollars (the formula is simple: parking lots are boring, old and
    famous buildings are interesting, tourists go to places that are
    interesting) but in terms of cultural memory. The YMCA is an American
    Christian organization, and you would erase the achievements of this
    city to help increase their profits.

    Stop now. Let’s move this city into the 21st century, not return to the

    If you are looking to raise money, here’s a much better idea: right now
    you charge all cars that park on the streets of Toronto the same amount.
    Instead, have a button on every ticket dispenser that charges x for
    compact cars (Minis, Smart cars, Miatas, etc) 2x for regular cars
    (station wagons, sedans), and 3x for oversized (SUVs, Vans, and trucks).
    Not only is it fair, but it would also encourage the kind of car traffic
    we want in our downtown (smaller, less polluting) and raise money. It
    also gives people a choice.

    Stop now. Rethink the broader impact on the city, and make the right
    decision to make Toronto a better, cleaner, more people/human friendly
    environment to visit and to live.

    Sincerely, and with thanks for your consideration,

    Gregory Betts
    Assistant Professor
    Brock University
    St. Catharines ON
    (905) 688.5550 x 5318

  27. There is a parallel between this situation and Project Symphony on the waterfront where Mayor Miller and Kyle Rae did their best to ram through the project and override the very design committee they helped bring into existence in the first place. They also ignored any plans Waterfrontoronto was developing for the same site. What this says is that our politicians act like politicians. Likely they owe favours of some kind to the head honchos at the city agencies implementing the particular plan that everyone is in an uproar about. We might have expected more of Miller and his crew but they have shown themselves to be neither as principled nor as concerned about the direction of the city as we hoped.

  28. I like the buy it for the West End Y. By the way, Lansdowne is looking great.

  29. Did anyone notice that the TPA destroyed two houses across from the Ossington station (hmm, I thought we had a crisis in affordable housing here) to build another parking lot?

  30. I think one important point to make is that this plan is entirely contrary to the principles laid out in Toronto’s Official Plan — which is supposed to guide the actions of the city (and all its agencies) in all development matters.

    The Official Plan states clearly that the city will move away from car dependence, and instead encourage dense mid-rise mixed-use developments, particularly along “Avenues”, which specifically includes College.

  31. Reiterating part of a response on the subsequent post about the Matador: tearing it down to create parking is being used by Pantalone and others to justify opposing rush-hour parking on Dundas. At council tonight (27th), in debate this was stated.

    Unlike the prosperous College strip, Dundas is languishing, but is the only street in the West End that disallows parking during rush-hour on the ‘quiet’ side of the street. Those who dismiss the value of parking in building viable businesses that support and build communities can explain why the last and only street that remains poor is the one in this situation.

    I think that the middle class community that has moved into these historically Italian and Portuguese communities miss the conflicts and dynamics of what existed before, and still persists. Putting it simply: College is Italian. Dundas is Portuguese. Pantalone, who characterizes College as a destination, Dundas as a thoroughfare, is Italian and owes more favours in that community. The real purpose of the Matador demo is to provide parking support for the continued prosperity of the College strip, which years ago started hitting the wall for allowing expansion of bars and restos because of parking issues. I am told by a developer that since the Shallow Groove was built, only people who had deals with parking areas have been able to get new liquor licenses. This may be hearsay. However, the area the Matador is in is Portuguese… the person who would like to see the unsightly Verde Minho gotten rid of for a park may reflect that if that’s what the Portuguese working people who built the community in the first place prefer as a watering hole, why not tear down Vivoli or the Diplomatico for a park instead?

    The parking on Dundas got debated and voted massively in favour of allowing it. Since Pantalone said prior to the vote that the Matador being converted to parking was an alternate to Dundas parking, it should now be possible to confront him and others in favour of it and point out it is no longer necessary.

    Finally, Giambrone may be less popular with some, but not with those in the Portuguese/Brazilian community on Dundas who he stood up for, against Pantalone’s bullshit wrapping himself as the pro-TTC councillor, over the Chair of the damned Commission over the parking issue…

  32. I like m. Dowling’s suggestion of selling off every TPA asset in the city and using the revenue to build Transit City. Very humorous, and that would truly make things right. The whole city could become pedestrian, bicycle and transit access only. But, alas…

    Isn’t the idea here (in Toronto) to revoke the automobile’s current status, and restore a balance of modes of transport. That is, to make transit, walking and cycling as viable as car use? Or perhaps even to make car use the least attractive option for most people, most of the time. If we can agree that cars do not actually need to be eliminated, just demoted, vis a vis other modes, then maybe we could consider another possible conspiracy to be at work here.

    Devious master plan for Project Matador:

    Step i:
    Purchase Matador and level it.

    Step ii:
    Build temporary surface parking lot while plans are drawn up for a multi-level parking garage with street level commercial (important to avoid creating dead spots in the commercesphere). Any required zoning changes are handled by having secret closed-door meetings of Council packed with hand-picked, pro-conspiracy, Councilors.

    Step iii:
    With zoning and building permits in place, the lot is converted to an architecturally inspired parking *tower*, evocative of the former Matador, with (shallow) stores at sidewalk level (insert Starbucks sub-conspiracy here).

    Step iv:
    The road is narrowed. Bike lanes are installed. Inlets are provided in the now widened sidewalks to allow for deliveries to and merchandise pickup from stores and other premises (these are stopping only as parking is in the off-street garage(s).

    Also, being located on a corner, the entrance and exit for the garage could be located on Dovercourt to avoid conflict with the College Street Streetcars, Bicycles and Pedestrians, thus keeping things moving.

    Why the need for the secret conspiracy?

    Well, these things can be so political, can’t they? Just look at the Lansdowne situation for how even a progressive plan can draw so much opposition. It is too bad this happens, but not everyone is thinking about the bigger picture at all times. That is the job of our City Council.

    The driving point behind the conspiracy is that off-street parking paves the way for street redesign.

    This model is already working well in Kensington Market. Cars belonging to destination shoppers are housed off-street while people shop. Merchants and restaurants can still attract business from the wider area, thus allowing them to prosper. This, ironically, *preserves* our existing streetscape, for the most part, and even allows growth.

    The conspiracy would allow us to have our cake and eat it too.

    (Sorry for the long post, but it’s a rather big conspiracy)

  33. Unfortunately this 800 grand is probably TPA money which is “separate” as the City Manager and City Clerk will be quick to tell you, just like City Council’s obsession with capital being “separate” from current [which includes the City building things and starting programmes it has no money to operate].

    The problem with the City being a parking operator especially offstreet is that it tries to be poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously, which makes it hard for it to be seen as an even handed regulator of private lots.

    As for TPA being rogue, that’s actually two now along with TEDCO.

  34. It seems that a) Giambrone either supports it or hasn’t paid it that much attention as “it’s a TPA matter” and b) The city has the opportunity here to stand by the letter and spirit of the Official Plan and to show moral leadership in what is fast becoming (another) very divisive issue, by simply not allowing expropriation.

    This is the reply that I received from Councillor Giambrone’s office following an inquiry…


    Dear Resident,

    Thank you for contacting me about this issue. I can confirm that the Toronto Parking Authority is interested in purchasing 466 Dovercourt Road, known as the Matador, for a new parking facility.

    The TPA is an independent agency of the City, the municipal equivalent of a crown corporation. The TPA, not the City, funds its own capital purchases out of its own revenues. They do not come out of the City budget.

    The TPA is pursuing this property because it has made a business case showing that it believes there is sufficent demand for parking in the area and it will be profitable for them to operate there. The owner of the Matador is willing to sell, and the TPA wants to buy.

    The reason the TPA has come to the City is for the authority to expropriate if necessary. The expropriation process requires both a ‘hearing of necessity’ and third-party arbitration to determine the price if there is a discrepancy between the City’s assessment and the seller’s.

    If the TPA does end up acquiring this lot, I want to use this opportunity to to make some real innovative changes to our community. How can we make it contribute to the pedestrian and cycling environment? How do we reduce its environmental impact? Are there opportunities for the inclusion of public art? Can some sort of memorial to the Matador be included?

    I would like to invite community members interested in this issue to work with me and explote creative opportunities. Let’s start sharing our ideas on how we can re-imagine and re-invent this space so that, if this purchase does happen, it ends up being a very different kind of parking lot than what this city is used to—one that contributes more to the neighbourhood than just space for cars.

    You may also want to contact the TPA about this issue. Their website is, their email is, and their phone number is 416-393-7275.


    Huh? A ‘different kind of parking lot’?

  35. Well, if that isn’t the most depressing email from a councillor I’ve ever seen.

    What is wrong with Giambrone? Is he asleep, or is something else going on? Why isn’t he taking moral leadership here?

  36. Whoa… ride the elevator up to the “you can’t make this stuff up” dept. and take a look at this video on you tube…

    Yep, that’s Leonard Cohen, and that’s “Closing Time” from 1992. It was filmed at, you guessed it, The Matador. And you’ll recall that it was from his album called “The Future”.

    But listen to the words, and if you didn’t think Leonard Cohen was a visionary seer, you will now!

  37. I got the same letter as Alan from Giambrone’s office when I wrote to him ironically suggesting a “tear-down-the-Matador-thing” for Nuit Blanche. Indeed, what is a different kind of parking lot?

  38. Let’s call the process of turning urban buildings into parking lots “urbanausea”.

  39. Re: The Matador – Parking Lot
    You state “… e-mail councillors Rae …” et al. Well, I can only speak re Kyle Rae – BLOODY USELESS, unless you’re a developer, or fit the desired demographic.

  40. Toronto City Councilors are seizing the Matador nightclub, a Toronto icon, from it’s 79 year old owner and replacing it with a parking lot.

    Many object to the transaction because of the buildings historical significance, or whether spending $800,000 of taxpayer money for 20 parking spaces was a wise economical decision.

    But there remains the broader issue of why government planners should be empowered to steal from people in the name of urban renewal. In a free society, you and I are expected to purchase property without the use of force. Why should government be judged by a different moral code than we use to judge ourselves?

    As it stands now, arrogant public officials believe that cities are their own personal sandbox to play in. Where the government sees ‘blight,’ its victims see their hard work, their livelihoods and their dreams crushed. Many bureaucrats believe they have an right to improve the community, but there is no community rights, only individuals have rights. Communities only have desires.

    Many of us simply blank out while bureaucrats stand astride society like a gang of thugs over hikers they have captured in the woods, robbing us of our private property, in repeated waves of thievery. If the rights of an individual are not respected, we are not a free nation.

    Randy sent this as a letter to the Editor at both the Star and the Globe

  41. Just a couple of points to add:

    1. A spokesperson for the West End Y told the Globe that the gym “doesn’t need and has never requested parking from the city.” It’s too bad it’s getting lumped in with this debate. Seems like city officials are “expropriating” the Y’s issues.

    2. Great article yesterday on about the blight of parking lots in the U.S. It’s quite timely, considering the Matador situation. One professor quoted in the article sums up the problem best: “Parking requirements create great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment.”

  42. omnivore wrote:
    “Unlike the prosperous College strip, Dundas is languishing, but is the only street in the West End that disallows parking during rush-hour on the ‘quiet’ side of the street. Those who dismiss the value of parking in building viable businesses that support and build communities can explain why the last and only street that remains poor is the one in this situation.”
    Depends which strip of Dundas you have in mind. Dundas and Ossington is doing just fine (though I wish we could get rid of the parking lot that replaced the furniture factory).

    amin b wrote:
    “Devious master plan for Project Matador:”
    If parking is so essential, why not rip down the ugly old Metro Social Services building across the street. 😉 ‘course we could really solve the problem, if there is one, by levelling the Y for a parking lot. 😉

  43. Re: Amin B. Post and all

    Well, Lansdowne is far more polluting than it was before, with cars backed up idling behind buses attempting to remain on schedule so it is not a progressive plan in the least…there are also NO bike paths- as promised by Councillor Giambrone as part of the greening of the avenue. There has been an accident already with an ambulance struggling to arrive on the scene…

    The Matador is just another example of destroying something because the City can…in this case, for a huge potential real estate profit…and overriding the citizens’ will to build a proper community…