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Your Guide to Jane’s Walk 2014

Some strolling suggestions to help you make the most of this celebration of Toronto.

When Jane’s Walk first launched in 2007, a year after the death of urban activist Jane Jacobs, the Toronto Star listed 23 strolls. Christopher Hume noted that “though [Jacobs] was one of those people who refuse all honours … Jane’s Walk might well be the one sort of attention she would have appreciated.”

Since that modest start, Jane’s Walk has grown in leaps and bounds. While those initial walks covered only the pre-amalgamation City of Toronto, this year’s edition offers over 130 strolls across the 416. And these are only a fraction of the walks that will be held in over 150 cities across the globe this weekend, covering all continents except Antarctica (though we wouldn’t be surprised if one were to take place there someday).

The number and range of scheduled of walks can be intimidating, so we’ve pulled together some themes you can use to build your Jane’s Walk experience. If you’d like to know more about the event, a launch party—featuring a keynote speech by Toronto’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat—will be happening Friday night at 918 Bathurst.

So here are some walks for you, if…


If you want to see neighbourhoods being transformed…

Toronto is not a static city. Several neighbourhoods are currently experiencing major changes, from rising out of old industrial sites to awaiting the arrival of new transit lines. These walks provide a glimpse into the future and an overview of the challenges accompanying these transformations. (Jamie Bradburn)

TITLE: Still Not Boring, One Flooded Year Later

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 1–2 p.m. (groups head out every 20 minutes)

MEETING SPOT: Centennial Recreation Centre (Municipal Drive and Eglinton Avenue West)

Mount Dennis is on the cusp of changes spurred by transit projects. Walkers will observe the excavation of the Eglinton LRT and visit the bridge for the Union-Pearson link. The walk will also include a discussion of the impact last summer’s flooding has had on local landmarks like Keelesdale Park.

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TITLE: Revitalization or Displacement? A Critical Look at the Idea of Mixed Neighbourhoods

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: All Saints Church (Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street)

Regent Park is in the midst of transforming from mid-century public housing to a mixed-income neighbourhood filled with reinvestment. This walk will feature a debate about whether these changes will create a healthy neighbourhood or further displace the poor.

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TITLE: West Don Lands and Pan-Parapan Am Athletes’ Village Walk

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Underpass Park (walk south from the River Street streetcar stop on Queen Street East)

This is an opportunity to check out the ongoing development in the West Don Lands as it prepares to welcome athletes during the 2015 Pan Am Games. Walkers will take a look at the Athletes’ Village and the still-under-construction Canary District and make stops at two parks we suspect will be the treasures of the neighbourhood: Corktown Common and Underpass Park.

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TITLE: Walk the Unwalkable: Six Points Interchange

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 4 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Under the big tree east of Kipling Avenue, south of the Dundas/Kipling ramp

The Six Points interchange, where Bloor Street West, Dundas Street West, and Kipling Avenue meet, is one of the least pedestrian-friendly places in the city. But that won’t be the case for much longer: demolition of the ramps is scheduled for this fall. The fact that participants are advised to keep an eye on their children and wear fluorescent clothing hints at the possible risks!

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If you want to explore Toronto’s past…

Some fools claim Toronto’s history is boring, when in fact it’s anything but. These walks invite you to take a journey into Toronto’s past and explore topics ranging from the evolution of neighbourhoods to the way past social ills continue to influence the city. (Jamie Bradburn)

TITLE: The Ward: A Walking Tour of Toronto’s First Priority Neighbourhood

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 1 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Main doors, Church of the Holy Trinity (Trinity Square)

Urban affairs writer John Lorinc tours the sites of the Ward—an impoverished working-class neighbourhood that was bulldozed to make way for buildings like City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square—and discusses its important legacy as a gateway for immigrants searching for a better life in Toronto.

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TITLE: Junction of the Canadian Dream: Hangin’ Out With History

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 2:30 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Park behind Runnymede Library, along Glendonwynne Road

The Junction has been a meeting point stretching back to the time of pre-contact First Nations trails, and it’s unsurprisingly a neighbourhood full of good yarns. This walk promises to be a lighthearted look at West Toronto’s history.

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TITLE: Walking and Working: A Women’s Labour History Walking Tour of Toronto

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 10 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: Northwest corner of Spadina Avenue and College Street

Presented by the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts, this walk looks at the experiences of women in the city’s labour and feminist movements from the 1850s on, touching on the work of pioneering female activists and union leaders.

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TITLE: Celluloid and Popcorn: The History of Cinema on Roncesvalles

START: Sunday, May 4, 1:30 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Northeast corner of Roncesvalles Avenue and Queen Street West

While the venerable Revue is the movie theatre most people associate with Roncesvalles, the neighbourhood once boasted many other cinemas. This walk will show you some sites (including old projection rooms) and consider the changing nature of the film–viewing experience.

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If you like to go on picnics…

Walking builds an appetite, so stopping for a picnic en route seems like a perfectly sensible idea. These strolls will offer both the opportunity to tote your favourite treat-filled basket—and some food for thought. (Jamie Bradburn)

TITLE: Picnics and a Walk

STARTS: Friday, May 2, 2:30 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Working Women Community Centre (5 Fairview Mall Drive, Suite 478)

A tour of the parks in the Fairview neighbourhood, located just west of The Peanut, with stops for picnics along the way.

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TITLE: The People’s Lakeshore Picnic Party

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 1 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Islington Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard

Besides a picnic at Cliff Lumsden Park, this walk will offer stops at community centres and free clothing/food services within New Toronto and will include stories from local seniors about the evolution of this corner of south Etobicoke.

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If you want to get to know a neighbourhood…

The City of Toronto lists 140 official neighbourhoods. All have their own stories, and Jane’s Walk offers many excellent opportunities to check out an unfamiliar spot or learn unexpected things about places you thought you knew intimately. (Jamie Bradburn)

TITLE: Layers of Thorncliffe Park

STARTS: Friday, May 2, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: Thorncliffe Library (48 Thorncliffe Park Drive)

The ongoing evolution of Thorncliffe Park will be examined through five “layers” of the neighbourhood’s history. The walk will consider the area’s past as a horse racetrack and a postwar self-contained community, its present as “Arrivals City” for immigrants, and its potential futures as a business incubator or big-box zone.

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TITLE: Farms to Record Studios: Explore Eglinton Avenue West

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Maria A. Shchuka library (1745 Eglinton Avenue West)

A 19th-century country church, poetry readings, barbering, and a recording studio are among the attractions of this diverse area, which will be serviced by the Eglinton LRT.

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TITLE: Steeles L’Amoreaux: Stories of Change—Past, Present, and Future

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 1 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: 85 Silver Springs Road

Explore the past, present, and future of the Steeles-L’Amoreaux neighbourhood in northwest Scarborough.

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TITLE: Bloordale: A Work in Progress

STARTS: Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Northeast corner of Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West

The official description warns that Bloordale is a “work in progress.” This walk will examine the neighbourhood’s experience of gentrification and how the process has affected residents and businesses.

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If you like to stroll and appreciate art at the same time…

Toronto’s artistic gems aren’t found only in galleries and museums—on these walks, you’ll encounter the graffiti, public art, and unexpected visual treasures that grace our city’s streets (and alleys, and parks, and between-building spaces). (Sarah Sweet)

TITLE: Art and Parks Hidden Between Buildings

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 3 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Cloud Gardens (14 Temperance Street), on the Richmond Street West side, at the stairways leading to the Conservatory

The City sometimes requests that private companies work public spaces and art into their developments—the problem is, many Torontonians don’t realize these spaces are open to everyone. On this walk, you’ll be introduced to the art and parks the city conceals between its private buildings.

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TITLE: Graffiti in Toronto

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 12 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: The corner of Queen Street West and Soho Street, near the tree trunk with “HUG ME” written on it

Your guide won’t only be taking you down some of Toronto’s most colourful and creative back alleys—he’ll also be schooling you in the types, rules, and visual terminology of street art. The website notes that this has in the past been extremely popular: expect to be part of a large group and to move at a relaxed, saunter-y pace.

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TITLE: Church Street Mural Project Walk

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 1 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: 418 Church Street

Join Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) and Church Street Mural Project curators James Fowler and Syrus Marcus Ware as they discuss 12 murals in the Church-Wellesley Village that celebrate Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.

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If you’re interested in social justice…

A festival celebrating the life, philosophies, and legacy of Jane Jacobs would obviously not be complete without walks exploring the social and political issues affecting the people of the city. Walks will cover a range of topics related to social justice and will highlight the efforts being made to foster and strengthen communities. (Sarah Sweet)

TITLE: Walking With Refugees in the West Bend

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Romero House (1558 Bloor Street West)

Led by staff, residents, and friends of Romero House—which provides transitional housing and support for refugees—this walk will explore the stories and experiences of refugees, while taking you past local organizations working to assist them.

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TITLE: #WiTOpoli: The Past and Present of Toronto Women’s Activism and Engagement

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 2 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: Toronto Police Headquarters (40 College Street)

Learn about the political victories, protests, people, and institutions that have advanced the cause of feminism in Toronto—and about the ways in which residents are continuing to build a more equitable city.

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TITLE: Belly Full: A History of Hunger Resistance in Parkdale

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 10:30 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) (Queen Street West and Sorauren Avenue)

In this city, 557,500 adults and 104,800 children are considered “food insecure.” This walk will provide an overview of food security efforts in west-end Toronto over the past 30 years and highlight how citizens can advocate for change.

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TITLE: Retracing Stop Spadina—Part 1: Expressways

STARTS: Sunday, May 4, 11 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: Eglinton West subway station entrance

Walk in the footsteps of Jane Jacobs herself, as you trace the history of what would ultimately be one of her great triumphs: the cancellation of plans for the Spadina Expressway.

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If you already love or would like to learn to love the wonders of nature…

Toronto might have a lot of skyscrapers and concrete, but it also boasts ravines, and trails, and trees, and many green spaces—if you have not yet biked the Beltline or really appreciated the Don, now’s your chance. (Sarah Sweet)

TITLE: The Beltline and Beyond: The Midtown Trail Loop

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, 1 p.m.

MEETING SPOT: The picnic table in the middle of Ben Nobleman Parkette

This one is a ride rather than a walk—we’re talking bikes only. Hear all about the history of the Midtown Trail Loop as you cycle a 16-kilometre route almost entirely cut off from the bustling streets of the city.

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TITLE: Walking the Don: 200 Years of Change Along the River

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 11 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: St. Matthew’s Clubhouse, at the south end of Riverdale Park East

Toronto has traditionally had a tendency to alternately ignore and then mistreat the Don River—but the Don is finally starting to get its due. Find out how the river helped shape Toronto’s history, and what’s being done to restore and reclaim it.

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TITLE: The Changing Urban Forests of Midland Park

STARTS: Saturday, May 3, 11 a.m.

MEETING SPOT: Inside Birkdale Community Centre (1299 Ellesmere Road)

This year has been a devastating one for Toronto’s trees, thanks to the toll taken by the December ice storms. If you haven’t already, it’s about time you started appreciating the beauty, complexity, and profound usefulness of our trees, and this walk through Birkdale Ravine would make for a pretty good start.

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