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Don Valley Village

August 29, 2011

Don Valley Village is another example of an area that was previously farmland, and later developed in the 60s and 70s. The Consolidated Building Corporation had a particularly large hand in the development, building many of the high rise apartments in the area. The area in the centre surrounded by the two branches of Don Mills is often called the Peanut, which seems appropriate when you look at the map. Another moniker used to refer to the area is 4 corners, as there are 4 housing projects at roughly the corners of the neighbourhood.

It is an area that reminds me of the Scarborough City Centre, as the Sheppard subway line also terminates at a large mall, and is experiencing a condo boom as a result. Some of the places in the area also have condos by the 401, with large expanses of parkland in between.

The Don Valley Village neighbourhood is located east of Leslie, west of the 404, north of Sheppard, and south of Finch.

I started at Don Mills and Sheppard heading east on Sheppard, and ended at the same location going south on Don Mills.

Don Valley Village was walked on June 17, 2011

At one corner of the neighbourhood, and where the Sheppard line ends, is Fairview Mall. It is one of the larger malls in Toronto, and as malls do in many suburban neighbourhoods, acts as an important hub for the people. However, once again the people are left with only a pseudo public private space to utilize. It is very much acting as a useful hub though. Fairview library is right next to the mall, and a seasonal farmer’s market sets up shop outside the mall every week.

The condos are popping up like bamboo shoots around Don Mills station. The finished buildings loom over the pits and sales centres of those still under construction.

Suburban shopping centres, whether they be malls. or just plazas, sometimes try to establish a patio scene. But I feel it is almost never as successful, because the patios are almost always just facing into huge expansive parking lots. At least they are trying though.

A garden of high rises across the parking lot moat is the view from the patio.

Walk up Don Mills, and you will have to branch off to one side, much like you would have to around queen’s park. A peanut shaped plot of land is left in the middle, and is thus called “the peanut”.

It contains schools, community and recreation facilities, a park, a church, and a shopping plaza.

This is the very boxy Woodbine Junior High School.

Here is peanut plaza.

And a church located at the southern tip of the peanut.

Make your way up to Finch and Seneca Hills Dr, and you will find Seneca College’s Newham Campus. As I strolled by, a seemingly continuous line of students assembled to wait for the various TTC or YRT buses that would frequently pass.

Just a bit further west on Finch is the Zion Church Cultural Centre. Look across the sea of cars on this busy thoroughfare to view this historic rural church. The Zion Primitive Methodist Church was built by the settlers of what would become L’Amoreaux (a neighbourhood in northwestern Scarborough). It was acquired by the then City of North York in the 1970s, and turned into a cultural centres in the 1990s.

As Finch dips down into a valley, you get a clear view of the central North York skyline. Were it not for the iconic nature of the CN tower, you could imagine people unfamiliar with Toronto confusing this skyline for that of the downtown core.

Just before Leslie is another bit of L’Amoreaux Methodist history. The Zion Schoolhouse built in 1869 is now a city run museum restored to what it would have been like in 1910. Among the hustle and bustle of booming North York can be found bits of history from the early settlers of this region.

Leslie is another busy street for cars, but one that feels almost entirely isolated for a pedestrian. The entire length from Finch to Sheppard consisted only of inward facing houses. As you walk along you see the backs of fences and buildings. There are also little to no places to cross, and so anyone who wants to catch the bus going the opposite way has to navigate their way through the traffic.

On Van Horne Avenue the housing starts to take on an extremely frustrating aesthetic. The suburbs are often filled with sub-developments of identical houses, but at least you can accept that for what it is. What I found here, is far worse. You don’t notice it right away, and you think at first that they have actually introduced a little diversity into the development. But that’s what they want you to think, and relatively quickly, you notice that there are basically 4 houses looping to create a really annoying pattern. This fake diversity is a thinly veiled attempt to break out of the sub-development mould. You start to feel as though you’re trapped in some infinitely looping street you will never escape. At least identical houses are honest.

Of all the walks I’ve been on, this is one of the things I’ve seen that annoyed me the most. Especially because the styles of at least 3 of the 4 different houses are so pretentious. Like the kind you would expect to see in an area where a lot of old bungalows are being renovated to make bigger houses, except instead of being a somewhat more customized house, its the same pretentious design that 1/4 people in the area have.

There are these two types here, in addition to a smaller more symmetrical grey brick house. Those three line the street.

And then at every corner, this red house with the cheesy pillars on the patio is found. There appears to be a slight amount of customization that buyers could request or decide upon, but it doesn’t really make a difference in the face of the monotonous pattern.

I was relieved to leave the street and go into Belibury Park, take a seat, and enjoy watching the life in the park. Because no matter the problems with a street, or neighbourhood, it is important to remember that there are still people who live there.

A plaza on Nymark just off of Leslie contains the Jerusalem Restaurant, which claims to be the first middle-eastern restaurant in the GTA. But its hard to know, because you see so many of these claims from so many restaurants.

Closer to Sheppard on Leslie, you can find one of the “4 corners”. The Villaways housing project, named after the streets in the area, which all end in Villa Way. Many child murals are on the sides of the buildings, but its somewhat unsettling, because it can be hard to tell if the children are scared or surprised.

At the corner of Sheppard and Leslie, across this massive intersection, we have Leslie Station,and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine just behind it.

A bit further east on Sheppard, you can see North York General Hospital rising up from the other side of the Don Valley.

Finally, on Shaughnessy Blvd, just before I ended up back in the aforementioned sub-development, I found a much more interesting house, with a large lawn sculpture.

And with that, we must leave the Don Valley Village behind us. Until next time…

  1. I LOVE the peanut plaza…it has my favourite little shop “Fine India Grocers” which looks like a hole in the wall, but has all the specialized ingredients I can’t find in the grocery stores.

    Now you’re getting into my territory a little. I never walk around it, but I do drive by things a lot 😉

  2. You’ve covered a nice piece of land with this post. While your thoughts on our cookie cutter subdivisions are a little difficult to swallow, they are accurate. We are starting to see people opting for innovative exterior remodelling to quell the similiarities. So stay tuned, and don’t count us out!

    ; ) Thanks for th post.

  3. I’m definitely not counting anyone out, as I frequently see interesting/different houses in addition to cookie cutter designs. I don’t inherently dislike the cookie cutter stuff, although I don’t prefer it. I understand that the economy of scale makes it cheaper to do, and likely cheaper for people to afford as well.

    I guess in this particular situation, I was just annoyed because i was fooled for a moment into thinking that people were trying more interesting things. And so I probably took it a little too personally, when I found out that instead of the traditional cookie cutter, it was 4 widely different models used, but repeated, which gave it a different feel than a typical subdivision.

  4. 4Corner Hustler permalink

    Big up all Corners man dem. Sparroway crew….big up. ABG…big up. Brahms man dem….hold it down. Villaway fly boys stay getting it. Sunday night ball at Oriole was the lick back in the day.

    Big up Parkway Forrest man dem and Chester Le same way.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Scenes From The Peanut, Parkway Forest, and Graydon Hall | Scenes From A City

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