Toronto’s six most memorable neighbourhood naming smackdowns
Toronto: city of neighbourhoods, multiculturalism and, to a lesser extent, bureaucracy. These three attributes collide most often when it comes to naming or renaming Toronto’s diverse enclaves (140 by the city’s last count). And collide they did last week when a group’s efforts to change part of the Danforth Mosaic to Little Ethiopia were dashed. The minor controversy got us thinking about all the other Hogtown ‘hoods that have seen residents bicker and quibble over the proper term for their turf. Here, the six most memorable.
1. THE BEACH
Other moniker: The Beaches
The story: For decades, residents of this posh lakeside enclave quibbled in a neighbourly way over its proper name. The Beach or The Beaches? In 2006, the area’s BIA decided to settle the debate for the sake of consistency—at least for the street signs. Die-hard singular and plural camps emerged. Proponents of The Beaches justified the plural name by citing the four beaches in the neighbourhood (Woodbine, Balmy, Kew and Scarboro) while others said the area had been historically called The Beach because it’s centred around Beech and Queen Streets (don’t get us started on the “ee” versus “ea” debate). The BIA, seeing no consensus, conducted a poll of 2,200 respondents, which came out 58 per cent in favour of The Beach. Hilariously, an earlier proposal from Tourism Toronto to change the name to The Beach was shot down by members of the same BIA, who identified themselves as The Beaches BIA.
Turf war factor: grab your pitchforks
2. THE JUNCTION TRIANGLE
Other monikers: Dundas West, Perth Park, Railtown, Shedden Farms, Black Oak Triangle, The Wedge, The Triangle, Railpath, Rail District, South Junction Triangle, East Junction
The story: Last year, a group of residents united to form Fuzzy Boundaries, a lobby group hoping to resolve the identity crisis of their nameless neighbourhood, a smallish west-end zone that used three rail lines as rough borders. After asking locals for suggestions, the group sifted through over 280 entries to create a short list that included many of the above-listed names. In the end, Junction Triangle came out on top with 46 per cent of the vote. The name has made it onto Google and received plenty of media attention, but has yet to turn up on street signs or become widely used.
Turf war factor: good blog-rant topic
3. UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS
Other moniker: Jane and Finch
The story: Often considered synonymous with grit and crime, Jane and Finch businesses and institutions have been working to rebrand their area. Over the past year, banners have been erected around the infamous intersection with the term “University Heights” to evoke the prosperous image of York University (York even shelled out $50,000 for the signs). Developers are following suit; the notorious Chalkfarm towers is currently on the lookout for a more pastoral name. The rebranding has generally been dismissed by locals, who would rather have safer streets than a name change. Perhaps the best analogy comes from Paul Nguyen, founder of jane-finch.com, who told the Toronto Star: “Air Canada used to call it coach, now they call it Tango. They’re just giving it a fancy name. It doesn’t change the fact you’re still in the back eating peanuts.” At least they’re getting an LRT line and a subway stop.
Turf war factor: skip the meeting
4. HARBORD VILLAGE
Other moniker: Sussex-Ulster, South Annex
The story: In the late ’90s the Sussex-Ulster Residents Association badly needed a facelift. Meetings skipped over financial matters and its dysfunction rendered the neighbourhood a bit of a lame duck. Then, in 2000, the group motioned to adopt the quaint Harbord Village title in order to avoid being roped in with the Annex or Kensington Market. Since taking on Harbord Village as the official label, the neighbourhood has become one of the hottest thoroughfares of restaurants and boutiques in the city. Its residents association is now one of Toronto’s most active (with new solar energy projects and a pioneering tree inventory). Needless to say, nobody squabbled over the new name.
Turf war factor: unanimous consent
5. THE STRIP
Other monikers: Dupont-Spadina, The Dupont Strip, North Annex
The story: Ezra Braves, owner of Ezra’s Pound and vice-chair of the Dupont-Spadina BIA, wanted a catchy name for the bit of Dupont between Spadina and Davenport—something that would help promote its swish businesses. “The Strip” seemed like a natural offshoot of the common Dupont Strip handle, but businesses put up a mean fight in protest of the generic name. Petitions were signed, threats were made. Eventually, The Strip was officially adopted in March of this year, but it hasn’t registered in local parlance. Asking most Torontonians out for a coffee date in The Strip is bound to get a puzzled reaction.
Turf war factor: grab your pitchforks
6. LITTLE ETHIOPIA
Other monikers: Danforth Mosaic, East Danforth
The story: Danforth resident Samuel Getachew began a petition in January to name a bit of Danforth Avenue, between Greenwood and Monarch Park, Little Ethiopia—the stretch has been part of the Danforth Mosaic BIA since 2008. Getachew collected over 600 signatures for his proposal, but while 11 Ethiopian eateries populate the strip and there is currently no neighbourhood in Toronto identified by an African ethnicity, the BIA has refused to consider a name change. They argue the plethora of other cultures present in the area makes the Mosaic name far more appropriate.
Turf war factor: grudging compromise