How the Junction got its groove back

[attach]3259[/attach]The neighbourhood known as the Junction is one of Toronto’s oldest and most distinct areas, but years ago author Henry Calderon noticed a disturbing trend.

“The Junction was a place where people didn’t want to go and live,” said Calderon, who also works as a producer and a consultant.

“They were selling their buildings or basically abandoning their buildings and leaving the area because they thought it had no hope.”

The Junction, which gets its moniker from four nearby railway lines, was once its own municipality called West Toronto. Because of its close proximity to the railway, the area used to attract a great deal of industry, which in turn provided many job opportunities. When the stockyards closed down and other big employers left, so too did the people. The once bustling neighbourhood was dying. Those residents who did remain were ashamed.

“I believe 10-12 years ago when you ask anybody living on the corner of High Park and Dundas they will not say they live in the Junction,” Calderon said. “They live near High Park, near Annette. They will name the streets, they will name the corridor where they live but will not say they live in the Junction.”

In 1998 a revitalization program began in the Junction and Calderon was hired on as executive director. After six years of work, he now believes the Junction is on the road to recovery.

“Right now I think it’s very positive,” Calderon said. “Today, they feel very proud living in the Junction.”

Calderon is now writing a book about the project entitled How the Junction Got Resurrected, which should hit bookstore shelves within the next year.

“The book is basically the story of the people who were in involved in the revitalization of the Junction,” Calderon said.

“With me as their executive director, we had an opportunity to bring forward the power of the community and how that came to be an example for many other communities that are going through revitalization.”

One of the key factors in the gentrification of the area was the decision to get rid of prohibition. Prohibition has been over in Ontario since 1927 but did not end in the Junction until 1997. The local option law banning the sale of alcohol in the area since 1909 was having a negative impact.

“The restaurant operators, they couldn’t operate because they didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol. It was a dry area. It was a dry area for over 100 years and that continued to be a huge barrier that they had to overcome,” Calderon said.

In addition to allowing the sale of alcohol in the area, a number of condos are now being built and Calderon hopes they will bring new life to the neighbourhood.

“I think there is going to be an amazing growth,” Calderon said. “We’ll see an expansion of young families, we’ll see an expansion of young entrepreneurs and young professionals that will see the Junction as a place where they can live, work and play.”

Calderon names ‘the intimacy of the architecture’ as his favourite aspect of the Junction and is happy to have played a part in the area’s restoration. He hopes that by reading his book, How the Junction Got Resurrected people will learn, not only about the Junction, but also lessons that can be applied to other neighbourhoods.

“The book will basically say that when you put your mind into something positive and you have the right will for it, you make it happen,” Calderon said.