EDITOR: This continues Shawn Micallef’s posts following the Green Line hydro corridor through midtown Toronto, location of the Green Line Ideas Competition. Check out greenlinetoronto.ca to find out how you can participate.
Section 11 – Geary Avenue from Salem Ave to Delaware
Beyond Bartlett Park, Geary Avenue continues parallel to the hydro towers that now run along the CPR railway. Some sections underneath the towers have been licensed to private companies for storage or parking, while other sections have become semi-feral, with grass of varying length and scrubby bushes where dogs sometimes run off leash. The first light industrial building on the north side, east of the park is well known to the Toronto creative community. Called “The Branding Factory,” it leases space to creative companies as well as quite a few bands. Rock and Roll-looking guys are often outside, smoking between practices, and muffled bass and drum sounds can be heard while walking by.
More garages further along on Geary are the kind of garages where people who like cars take them. The kind of people who say “I have a guy…..” when referring to their mechanic, like they would their accountant or their doctor. Geary Avenue is not a Jiffy Lube or anonymous car dealership kind of street, it’s where whatever’s left of the romantic pursuit of cars-as-interesting-machines and engineering works of art still plays out. Still, like the auto shops on Ossington south of Dundas, some of the ones on Geary have left, transformed into residences or commercial spaces, like a place called Superframe, where major galleries like Mercer Union get their art framed, or the James Tse photography studio. We often hear about artists pushed out — they’re more connected to the media — but working-class operations suffer from the same market forces.
Just before Delaware the foundation of a building can be walked on; old concrete with weeds pushing out of the cracks, a sign that buildings were demolished when the hydro corridor was established. There’s some illegal dumping so trash piles up in the corners, and in these unused spaces there are often surprising unencumbered access points to the railway corridor, with nothing between people and the trains.
Dovercourt is the first difficult road crossing on the Green Line — previous road crossings were either at a traffic light or the street that wasn’t busy. The proximity to the railway underpass, and the traffic rolling out of it and uphill quickly likely make a crossing signal impractical or even unsafe. Pedestrians mostly cross at mid-intersection, as walking to either Dupont on the next crossing point north is too far to be appealing. It would be nice to have a pedestrian and bicycle path over these busy roads somehow.
Section 12 – Geary Avenue and Parkette
Across the tracks, past Dovercourt, the graffiti covered great glass factory of the Hamilton Gear and Machinery Company, founded in 1911, rises higher than most of the Dupont skyline. This building and others along this stretch betray modern Toronto’s industrial routes and that our shiny international city has much in common with Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland and other rust belt cities.
One of the more impressive existing parkettes on the Green Line, the Geary Avenue Parkette, takes advantage of the land underneath the powerlines with manicured grass, trees, a playground, children’s splash pad and a sand volleyball court. Recently renovated by the City, there is a pleasant circle of benches under a tree near the Ossington Avenue end of the park with new plants and crushed pale yellow gravel, much like paths in formal European gardens and parks. Given the shape and steel construction of the hydro towers, if you let your imagination take over, you can see Paris here in an unexpected part of Toronto. Those mini-multiple Eiffel’s are also a bit odd when looked at closely: the “arms” on one side are double length, holding more wires, as if the towers are reaching towards the lake. Here, there’s a substantial fence between the tracks and playground, beyond which the back of the Dupont industrial buildings rise. Another fence between Geary and the playground keeps the kids away from this busy stretch of street; with fewer shops than before there’s less activity to slow drivers down so they speed along quicker here.
At Ossington there is another difficult pedestrian and cycling crossing where buried Garrrison Creek flows underneath, as it once made its way uncovered along where Somerset Avenue is now, crossing at this intersection, and heading in a general southeast meander.
Section 13 – Garrison Creek Parkette
At Ossington the Green Line again becomes a car free route, as a paved pathway leads up the underpass embankment and along an alley with houses backing onto it from adjacent Acores Avenue. The busyness of Geary and the Ossington crossing give way to calm and quiet. Suddenly there’s less people, no commerce and no cars to dodge. When trains do come by — and they do, often, the CPR is a busy line — they break the calm and dominate everything, a moving mass of steel along the south. The ground rumbles and you have to yell to speak. The diesel locomotive commands attention like nothing else in the city, short of a skyscraper.
Just south of the tracks is another old industrial building that has been rough artist live-work lofts for some time, and the 24hour Sobey’s grocery store. The park here under the hydro wires is framed on the north side by alley garages, so it’s reminiscent of the “back yard” portions of the diagonal Green Line corridor to the west, and will sometimes provide space for neighbourhood bbq cookouts near the allotment gardens and off-leash dog run.