Snapshots from Toronto’s downtown reopening

Snapshots from Toronto’s downtown reopening

Twelve notable Torontonians share what they’re most looking forward to now that the city’s coming back to life.

Like the rest of the world, Toronto hasn’t had its regular comings and goings over the past two years, but the city is now ready to welcome everyone back with open arms. And no one is more excited than the people who live and work in the heart of the city every day. We asked 12 Toronto personalities to share what they missed most about downtown life and why they’re ready for its comeback. Take a read of this collection of musings about things they love about Toronto as well as their plans and wishes for the city moving forward.

What have you missed the most about pre-lockdown downtown life?
Photography by Ryan Emberley

Daniel Abichandani—Partner at Deloitte

I miss unobstructed views of people’s smiles filling our streets to the brim. I miss having conversations that don’t involve having to ask anyone to go off mute. I miss seeing entrepreneurs reaping the rewards of their sacrifices in pursuing their Canadian dreams. I miss dancing on tables—hair down, drink in hand.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Jan De Silva—CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade (@trbot)

I miss the energy we all gain from the connections and interactions that would punctuate my day—bumping into friends and coworkers in the PATH, meeting with business leaders, and connecting with colleagues over lunch. These different experiences and perspectives that co-exist around us in the downtown core reinforce the meaning behind our work at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. The economy isn’t abstract, it’s made of people and experiences.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Luke Donato—Executive Chef at Ascari Group (@cheflukedonato)

I miss the energy of the city. I grew up as an inner-city kid and I’ve become accustomed to the hustle and bustle. That energy is probably why I’m in hospitality. The feeling of being part of a busy dining room—whether I’m working or not—is such a wonderful feeling of success. I’m looking forward to hearing the white noise of a restaurant in full swing—that’s my church music.

Photography by Kennedy Pollard

Ryan Emberley—Photographer (@ryanemberley)

I’ve missed our vibrant event community—from the restaurant openings on King West to the trade shows at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to the Toronto International Film Festival, downtown Toronto is an irreplaceable hub that connects Canadians from all over the country in business, arts and culture.

What are you most looking forward to now that downtown Toronto is reopening?
Photography by Emma Pugsley

Cameron Bailey—CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (@cameronpbailey)

Fish tacos on a patio. Longboards on Queen. Cocktails with insanely artisanal ice cubes. The annual cherry blossom selfie frenzy in the park. Layers and layers of street noise at Dundas and Spadina. Lineups in the sun for the summer’s latest hipster snack. And that Proustian scent of the city’s best popcorn when you walk through the doors of the place where I work. 

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Umbereen Inayet—Programming Supervisor at Toronto History Museums, City of Toronto (@umbereene)

Public art at Fort York and museums across the city. Walks along the waterfront at Ontario Place and across to Humber. Day parties, festivals, pop-ups, picnics and flirty sun-kissed vibes. Rooftop pools, patios, after-work drinks and nights at Aloette. Morning strolls for smoothies at Bolt. Meditation with Embrace. Hot yoga and workouts at Altea. Sitting in seats at the Toronto International Film Festival. Most importantly feelings of freedom, joy, a renewed zest for life, genuine care and focus on connecting with one another in ways like never before.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Laura Petracca—Chef de Cuisine at Leña Restaurant (@laurapetracca)

I cannot wait to go to a live show, see a band rock out, and dance all night long. I love going out to eat—obviously—so hitting up all my favourite spots and trying out a few new places are on the agenda, including Gia, Edulis, The Oxley and Birdie’s Fried Chicken. I’m also a big-time Jays fan, so seeing them play with my friends and family will be a must.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Yung Wu—CEO of MaRS Discovery District (@marsdiscoverydistrict)

I’m excited to see the MaRS Centre come to life again—it is an incredible convergence of local businesses, Toronto’s innovation community, ventures, investors, researchers and the public. We’re ready to open our doors to in-person events and programming that fosters the in-person collaboration we’ve all missed. I’m looking forward to MaRS once again being the centre for impactful meetings and the fulcrum for the vibrant startup community that has shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic. 

​​What do you think the remainder of 2022 will bring for downtown Toronto?
Photography by Ryan Emberley

May Dang—Owner at ImPerfect Eats (@imperfect_eats)

I hope Torontonians support their local restaurants and businesses—we need to help rebuild and regrow our amazing local spaces and brands and celebrate connection and community after being forced to be separated for so long. I hope 2022 brings a return to tourism, and I want us to highlight to the world that even after going through so much, Toronto is still a vibrant tech, creative and entertainment hub that shines.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Tristan Forbes—Digital Content Producer for the Toronto Raptors (@tris416)

A new outlook, an appreciation for “freedom” for life, for friends and family. An appreciation for human connection. We’ve missed out on so many cultural experiences—Caribana, Taste of the Danforth, so many sporting events, so many concerts. I really believe everyone will cherish the moments we missed and make sure to be present in the upcoming moments and experiences.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Gargi Ghugare—Co-Founder of Studio (@thisisstudio_)

I predict the summer of 2022 is going to feel like the swinging ’60s: everyone’s going to be out and about and well-dressed after two years of sweatsuits. I’m excited to bump into people I know in all the new and exciting spots that have opened up during the pandemic. Some neighbourhoods have made big efforts in revitalizing their respective communities and encouraging participation, so I’m excited to get to know my neighbours better.

Photography by Ryan Emberley

Vicky Milner—Co-Founder and President of CAFA (Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards) (@cafawards)

People are really looking forward to going out and being active again. I think the rest of 2022 will bring a lot of amazing events, festivals and opportunities to discover and explore the city and beyond. As we head into the spring/summer, I think there will be a lot going on again and the people of Toronto are excited to embrace it all!