Three months or so after the Toronto Star predicted that it might save the “blighted” intersection of Bathurst and Queen, Starbucks is finally open on the northeast corner, the former site of a doughnut store/hangout for what outsiders regarded as degenerates, dope fiends, and all-round ne’er-do-wells.
Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder. But after a couple of weeks customers seem thin on the ground, and the corner—which fond locals still regard as the true centre of Queen West—shows no sign of gentrification. The Star story called the intersection “a windswept tangle of streetcar wires and tracks, home to a Pizza Pizza, the Big Bop music venue—a hulking presence in peeling blue paint—and The Meeting Place, a drop-in centre for the homeless that attracts as many as 200 clients a day.” None of whom seem to be patronizing the new Starbucks. Queen and Bathurst is just as windswept as it always was; the streetcar wires and tracks are just as tangled. A new fence has gone up outside the Meeting Place, but people still hang out on the steps, socialize, and split a bottle if anybody has one. Panhandling is an official TMP no-no, so any that goes on is quite discreet.
“Last year,” the story continued, “after a visitor from St. Catharines was stabbed to death near Bathurst and Queen…” In fact, the killing took place several blocks away outside Trinity Bellwoods Park near the intersection of Queen and Niagara streets, which just happens to play host to another Starbucks (the chain being very fond of corners). This could prompt the chicken/egg question: Which came first, Starbucks or the blight?
The new coffee house at Bathurst looks grey and forbidding on the outside and, from casual observation over the course of a day, doesn’t seem to be attracting a huge number of people, unlike the Tim Hortons a couple hundred metres north on the corner of Bathurst and Dundas streets, which usually has a lineup at the counter.
Back in 2001 a proposal to put a Timmy’s at Queen and Tecumseth, about the mid-point between the two current Starbucks, was shot down by neighbourhood protesters, led by businesspeople who were already seeing the upmarket potential of the block and didn’t want the double-double crowd cheapening the deal. As the march of progress heads relentlessly into the setting sun (any time now, Mimico realtors will be listing houses in “Queen West West West”), it may be time for a rethink and a freshly baked maple-glaze. Seattle-trained baristas need not apply.
Photo by Bill Taylor/Torontoist