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 Main Square post was researched and written by Michael Caton and C. Pete.
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Main Square is located at the TTC hub of Main and Danforth. It is a 3 min walk from Main Subway station and the Danforth GO station, and has several bus and streetcar stops within a short hop. Main Square was built in 1972 as a partnership between CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.), a government entity, and a private company. It was envisioned to be integrated housing similar to the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. CMHC manages the renowned Granville Island in British Columbia as well as many other neighbourhood enterprises that encourage integrated and creative communities, supporting artists and diverse incomes.
Currently, streetcars and buses run up and down Main St. In 1923, streetcars also ran East and West along Danforth.
The corner of Main and Danforth, viewed from within Main Square. This intersection is a TTC hub, with various bus routes, and the Main St. subway station just a few steps up Main St.
In 1998 CMHC sold out their share in Main Square and the buildings were bought buy Talisker Corporation, a private enterprise. It appears that CMHC may have pulled out due to the quality of the buildings, perhaps due to the incredibly high power needs that may exceed normal conditions. Apparently the sale went with a mandate that a certain percentage of subsidized units must be available. Unfortunately, most of the relevant documents are housed in Ottawa.
Property manager Realstar’s promotional photo.
One person that we interviewed describes the population at Main Square as a mix of people with all different cultures, backgrounds and income. She claims that residents must be employed to live there. On further questioning, it appears that subsidized housing entities are contacted when too many apartments remain un-rented. While we were talking a couple was turned away in the office because as they were newcomers to Canada and the man had only had his job for one month. They say new renters must have had steady income from the same source for one year, a common requirement from many landlords, but another hurdle for newcomers or students or the underemployed.
The interviewee thinks a lot of people get together around religion. A group of Indian women wait in the lobby together weekly for a bus that picks them up for church. There is a small mosque functioning downstairs in one of the buildings in a room on a lower level. There is also a bingo in a room on a lower level that seniors attend regularly.
Marcella (mentioned below) enjoys meeting with friends in the square, they get Tim Horton’s coffees every day and sit on “the wall.”
We interviewed Marcella, a 78 year old resident who has lived at Main Square for several decades and has been in the area much longer. Marcella is from Cape Breton and says there are a lot of people from â€œback homeâ€ in the neighborhood — which may explain the fish and chips restaurant across the street! She moved to Toronto alone to get work while her mother cared for her children in Cape Breton, then her mother sent her two sons to her. She worked as a grinder at a factory, at a restaurant, and at the post office. Marcella describes herself as having been a “real go-getter”, if she had time off she got another job. She does not currently feel secure at Main Square because rent increases every year.
We also spoke with Lou, who sped off before we could get a photo! Lou is in his 90’s. He uses a walker.
Lou is from Saskatchewan, where he first had to leave due to the Depression, and spent some time hopping freight trains. He eventually moved with his wife to the Beaches. They relocated up to Main Square first year it was opened. Lou still lives at Main Square with his wife, and has seen many changes, including who is coming to Main Square. He amiably says it has taken time to adjust to the many new cultures that are now present, but does not voice any complaints about his neighbours. Lou managed several stores at different locations around the city and found Main Square more convenient for travel to his places of work. Lou had a difficult time getting up to his walker after sitting on â€œthe wallâ€ in the main square.
Generally speaking, people are busy at Main Square. The square itself is a bustling transit zone as residents bring groups of children to school, head for various transit stops and get on the subway.During the day the old timers and others (including pigeons) use the square as a meeting and recreational space. At night the square and areas surrounding the buildings bustle again as residents return home and children use the available space to play outside.
There is no playground or area designated for child’s play. As well, there is relatively little seating besides the low walls that line raised planting beds. Despite this lack of designed accommodation, at night Main Square is hardly deserted as families gather outside to socialize and watch the groups of children running, laughing and growing together. It is no wonder that in the summer the ice cream truck visits this rich community every evening!
Click here to see a larger version of this psychogeographic map.