CRBA picks battles following off-leash victory, methadone, streetscape losses

By Michael Schwartz –

dogwalkerResidents of historic Corktown have been expressing their fears for the future of their neighbourhood. Their unease arises from a number of recent—and highly diverse—developments.

Most controversial in terms of health and well-being are the lingering consequences of the methadone treatment clinic that opened on King St. E. The clinic was approved—extremely quickly,many say—a few years ago when a local caterer moved out.

Steve Behal, a former board member of Corktown Residents and Business Association (CRBA), has direct evidence of the problem, having been left literally to pick up the bits, “I have a bucketful of needles, pill jars—and a weapon.”

Then there are commercial worries. The venerable Ritchies auction house recently closed, losing one source of well-heeled customers for its neighbours.

Joanne Nelson, owner of art gallery and gourmet café Gallery 402, and herself a past CBRA president, laments its disappearance and loss of revenue.

“It was an absolute shame. I looked forward to serving Ritchies’ clientele over two days every fortnight. The bonus was that they were lovely people to serve.”

Future uses for the site remain unknown.

Further uncertainty for Corktown lies in local planning decisions, described by Behal as “random infill.”

In what is referred to as land swap, a Porsche dealership has moved from the site of Upper Canada’s Parliament Buildings to King St. The problem is that instead of an imposing and elegant frontage for the dealership, the service entrance backs onto this main artery.

Behal wrote to Coun. Pam McConnell, stating that the dealership “completely undermines our King Street Village neighbourhood and creates a back-alley mentality with the methadone clinic across the road.”

His concern continued, “Is this the kind of infill we can continue to expect along King between Berkeley and River? Who is the planner that approved this? Why is there no concrete plan for my part of the street?”

McConnell’s assistant Tom Davidson commented, “Likely, the dealership will not be long term once the owner decides to redevelop at some point.” However, any attempts to win concessions from the dealer have been in vain. Community members pressed “for more landscaping and a wider sidewalk, but were flatly refused by the owner.”

A happy ending is more likely for residents fighting a 4-year-long battle for an off-leash dog area in Corktown.

Now that council has returned from a 2-week recess, and with the seasonal snow finally melted away, the physical changes required for the off-leash area can finally be made. Davidson explains, “The design and delivery of the fence will take a bit longer as we went with a higher quality option (we’ll) likely have the pieces in place to install in May. A tender for the installation has gone out and closes on April 15.”

Residents are still looking to the future. Blocks away, work has begun on the 2015 Pan-American Games. Corktowners hope their issues will be resolved soon so their historic neighbourhood will represent Downtown at its finest.