Kensington Market's Garden Car Still Needs a New Home
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Kensington Market’s Garden Car Still Needs a New Home

The garden car being removed from its Augusta Avenue home last Saturday, possibly for the last time. Photo courtesy of Yvonne Bambrick.

Kensington Market’s garden car, a scrapyard four-door sedan (possibly once a Dodge Spirit) that had been festively repainted and filled with soil and plants by volunteers, as a community art project, was on the verge of losing its long-standing parking spot in front of La Palette, on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market, when we last checked in on it about two months ago. The car has now been moved to a temporary winter location, but is still in need of a new warm-weather home.

The garden car’s situation is detailed in our previous post, but to recap: its presence in Kensington Market was a result of a complicated deal between Shamez Amlani, who owns La Palette, and the City, who own the roads and the parking spaces thereupon. The garden car was first installed in 2006 without authorization, and was allowed to remain in its parking spot on Augusta Avenue year after year because of a special dispensation from the Toronto and East York Community Council, the city council committee that deals with neighbourhood planning issues pertaining specifically to downtown. As a condition of that dispensation, the car needed to be insured, and so Amlani added it to La Palette’s policy. In November, La Palette closed its Kensington Market location to escape an unfavourable lease (they’re now operating exclusively out of their second location, on Queen Street West). As a result, the car is no longer insured, and needs to move.
Starting in October, Amlani, with the help of Yvonne Bambrick, who was until recently the communications director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, began publicly searching for a new caretaker for the much-photographed and much-beloved neighbourhood fixture. To date, they haven’t found one.
“We’ll be continuing to seek out a permanent home for her over the winter, and will also look into the possibility of a new spot in the market come spring,” Bambrick told us in an email earlier this week.
“She’ll need some work before going back out into the public realm…but we are hopeful that another business (since La Palette is no longer) may add this important neighbourhood fixture to their insurance policy in order for her to be allowed once again to remain in the public right of way as public art.”
As part of its deal with the City, the car had always been removed during the winter to facilitate snow removal on Augusta Avenue, and so the fact that it will be missing from the Market during the colder months is not particularly unusual, or, for neighbourhood residents, unexpected.
But if a new spot hasn’t been found by the time the weather warms up, the car’s absence will be felt.