Friday, January 26, 2007

RV Camping in the 416

Did you know that Toronto doesn't have one spot in the city to accommodate a bunch of RVs? The answer probably never crossed your mind. Meanwhile City Councilor Case Ootes has been pushing for it for months and finally got to make his case this week at City Hall. He thinks we're missing out on an increasing demographic of RV tourists coming to TO, and he's probably right. There are about 7 million RVs in the US, one for every 12 car owning households. Imagine if we could attract even a tiny portion of that touring crowd.

Now the question is where to put the homes-on-wheels. I've heard Walmart lets people in RVs camp out in their parking lots, but it's not something I'd want to wake up to on my vacation. Instead, Downsview Park and the CNE grounds are being proposed, since both areas connect to transit. A CNE RV park would likely offer great views of the city and become a coveted camping spot but it would be hard to forget you're cramped between two major roadways. While we are talking about people who spend much of their time on (or near) the road, an RV park in Downsview, surrounded by trees and nature, has better potential to offer travelers a getaway in the city while still in the middle of it.

See what people are saying about it on blogTO.

image: Photocat62

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Line-ups at Lululemon Warehouse Sale

According to Anita Clark's website I want - I got, and mass emails quickly circulating around the city, Lululemon is having another huge warehouse sale. You can expect massive line-ups but also bargain prices for otherwise pricey yoga gear. I know the image of Lululemon-clad girls running about town has become a bit cliche, so if you'd rather avoid the stereotype Roots, Fila, and Old Navy offer yoga lines too.

Since I'm back on the yoga track, hitting Bikram classes a few times a week, I feel like I spend most of my extra time doing laundry. That's one good reason to for me to pick up some more gear. Most of Lululemon's yoga tops and bottoms are made with material that wicks away moisture too so it'll be easier to handle the heat when my Bikram's instructor jacks the thermostat to 40C+. You wouldn't catch me dropping $50 for a bra top or $75 on stretchy pants so I think I'll hit the sale like everyone else does to find some bargains.

See what people are saying about it on blogTO

Location: 473 Adelaide Street West.
Sale starts today and runs until Sunday
Everyday 10AM-7PM

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Better Plan for Parkdale

Parkdale residents and politicos assembled Monday night to debate the question "Where Goes The Neighborhood?" The idea was to tackle the hot topic of gentrification. I'd attended hoping that, somehow, we could all band together to create a vision for the wayward community, but hope was not to be found. With widely respected panelists such as Spacing's Matthew Blackett and the brain behind 401 Richmond, Margaret Zeidler, I'd hoped we'd do more than establish affordable housing as a priority and bash the former Harris government. Area MPP Cheri DiNovo stood up for comment too, saying she's asked for 20,000 units of affordable housing to be built in this part of TO. I'm not sure where she intends to put it though, maybe that should have been on the debate agenda instead.

As it stands amongst other Toronto communities, Parkdale currently has a large percentage of renters and, Councilor Gord Perks pointed out, is one of only a few communities that still has legal rooming houses. Perhaps Parkdale is already doing its fair share to support those in the city with lower incomes and it may not have the infrastructure in place to help the resource dependant community. Parkdale is like Kensington was years ago, a place where newcomers to Toronto settle and try to build a future. Many young families are moving in as well, renovating homes and taking pride in their new neighborhood. No one wants any displacement of current residents however, so what it needs is a plan for growth and a way to ensure that rent and property taxes don't skyrocket.

Businesses in the area are also seeing a shift. There is a much smaller percentage of variety and grocery stores, while home decor and reno stores are gaining popularity. However, commercial vacancy currently sits at 13%, making me think that gentrification isn't the real problem. I can think of a few new cafes and bars in Parkdale too but nothing too chichi or chic that it's going to get condo-dwellers buying into the "dream" of living right in the middle of the action. Ultimately it's the high-rise condos that will anchor Queen Street West, in Parkdale's neighboring ward just east of the tracks, that frighten Parkdale residents. Though, it could bring more focus westward and Parkdale could begin to see some necessary improvements. Perhaps it'll start with a few new facades, some new parks, a community centre, then a renovated building or two. There's so much promise in Parkdale, all that's needed is a plan and a way to ensure it includes all kinds of people. That's the only way Parkdale will retain its unique charm and character.

Read what people have to say about it at blogTO, so far there are 19 comments making it one of the top posts of the month.

image: avp17

Monday, January 15, 2007

Andrews Architecture Being Destroyed

Australian architect John Andrews was considered a groundbreaking genius in the sixties, fashioning plans based on a new kind of architecture: brutalism. He'd achieved Mr. Big status after completing Scarborough College for the University of Toronto and went on to build the tallest freestanding structure in the world - our beloved CN Tower. Back in the day concrete was king and brutalism was associated with a brave new social utopian ideology. Nowadays, people like Prince Charles refer unfavourably to the works as "piles of concrete". “Rubbish”, I say. While they can sometimes give off a gloomy, almost heavy feel to the city blocks they dominate, they are as much a part of the urban landscape as the sidewalks and steel. In btonbrut's blogTO video called brutopia eclipsed we're shown other landmarks Andrews has created while questions arise as to why some are being destroyed.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Wanted: One-way Ticket to LA

You can't blame the little guy for wanting to head south to warmer weather, especially when it wasn't his intention to hitch a ride to Toronto in the back of a truck anyway. Problem is no one will take him. If it were any other animal it wouldn't be an issue, but for this smelly stowaway going back to Cali is not so easy. A one-way ticket could cost as much as US$6,000.

Though he appears friendly, the Toronto Wildlife Centre can't release the skunk because he could spread disease, but getting him across the border might be a huge problem too. Let's hope some big-hearted Torontonians come to his rescue. Anyone headed to Lalaland?

(photo: fieldsbh)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

CanWest to Buy Alliance Atlantis for 2.3 Billion

Ever since Toronto broadcasting powerhouse Alliance Atlantis was put on the sales block, people in the media industry have been speculating who the potential buyer would be. Playback magazine had a front-page poll listing the possibilities as Corus, CanWest, Astral, Rogers and Quebecor. However the news this morning is that Winnipeg-based CanWest, owner of Global and the National Post, is in the lead.

CanWest would partner with Goldman Sachs in the US to purchase Alliance Atlantis for 2.3 billion dollars. Goldman's part of the purchase would include Alliance's half of the CSI franchise - sadly, I'll no longer be able to use CSI in my defense of Canadian television programming - while a new subsidiary of CanWest will take over broadcast specialty channels such as Showcase and the recently relaunched Slice channel.

At a benefit I attended in November hosted by Alliance Atlantis CEO Michael MacMillan, he ruminated about the company he started with a few of his roommates in a small Toronto apartment upon graduating from Queen's University. Now, it appears he'll be focusing on philanthropic activities like running Toronto East General Hospital's fundraising campaign.

(photo: CPimages/Frank Gunn)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Toronto to Lose Cinespace's Dockside Film Studio

There's nothing remarkable about the stretch of waterfront across from The Guvernment nightclub at Queen's Quay where honeywagons sit parked before a large film production studio called Cinespace. It's no surprise then that this is where the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation has set its sights to begin development of a key area of our waterfront called East Bayfront.

You'd think no one would object to the revitalization plan to include accessible waterfront and two-acre Sherbourne Park. The mixed use space, relative in size to Battery Park in Manhattan and London's Canary Wharf will also include 7000 units of housing and 1 million square feet of commercial space. Cinespace, a major player in the Toronto film scene, will need to vacate by February 21st in order for the plan to go ahead, and they claim they've just been given notice to leave the premises leased by them from City of Toronto real estate developer TEDCO.

Toronto's film industry is already dealing with city-ordered relocation of studio space, since a relative monopoly on the industry was given to the Toronto Film Studios to build Filmport. This means that space for US productions to shoot, key to the growing film industry in Toronto, is really tight. It could mean the loss of thousands of jobs if US productions find other cities that are more accommodating.

Cinespace is simply asking that it get 18 "official" months to find a new home. In the meantime Filmport and those affected by relocation can build new studios and Toronto can continue to offer the film production services it has come to be known for. Location Manager Craig Williams is one of 4454 film industry professionals who have signed an ongoing online petition agreeing that loss of studio space could have a "devastating impact" on Toronto's film industry. He believes that "while we've all been waiting for the waterfront to evolve into something we can all use and explore, the city has to have a balanced plan to ensure it is not at the expense of key industry."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Toronto Inspired Fleming's Casino Royale

Ask anybody who the new James Bond is and they'll likely be able to answer, they'll probably even add an opinion as to whether actor Daniel Craig will fill the famous Bond shoes, but ask anyone who Frank Pickersgill is and you'll likely draw a blank stare. Pickersgill, however, is not very different than Bond, except that he was a real spy, and a hero, a Torontonian and didn't sport the same kind of Bond bling. Frank fought for our country, during World War II, as part of a unique group called the SOE - Special Operations Executive - initiated by Winston Churchill.

To train this elite force Camp X was created, close to the shores of Whitby, Ontario. It was at this spy school, the largest in North America, that Canadian, American and English men and women were taught how to transmit messages secretly, kill silently, and how to handle interrogation if captured.

Ian Fleming was part of the spy school at Camp X, but space was limited so he was living on Avenue Road in Toronto and travelling to the school when necessary. It was while while living here in Toronto that the author penned his first book Casino Royale and named the character James Bond from a nearby church.

Fleming went onto great fame and success but not all of his comrades at Camp X were so lucky. Pickersgill was captured, and interrogated, on a couple different occasions. The first time he broke out by sawing out his cell window, using a blade baked into a loaf of bread. Years later, the Canadian spy parachuted into enemy-occupied France. Fellow SOE members drove into the Loire Valley to find him but all were intercepted and Pickersgill was taken back to prison. This time his escape through a second floor window didn't end successfully. He was recaptured and later executed. A garden is dedicated in his honour on UofT's campus.

It's not the ending fellow Camp X alum Ian Fleming, creator of agent 007, would have written but it's a story that deserves to be told out of respect to those who helped gain our freedom.

If Fleming were aiming for authenticity it may've been with a Canadian accent that we would hear the famous spy's introduction: "Bond, James Bond" and Canadians would realize that their biggest heroes are not Hollywood-born.

Explore 416style Photography on Flickr

1. breath from another, 2. follow me, 3. chachi's sunday bath, 4. untitled, 5. listen carefully, 6. deep space - cielo nyc, 7. good morning america, 8. cityscape,

9. hark the herald, 10. idle, 11. parliament hall, 12. CMC, 13. swing sookie, 14. humber bay, 15. reids killer whale, 16. kabuki theatre,

17. pop, 18. giraffe head, 19. colourful toronto, 20. sky at city hall, 21. osaka neon, 22. bongo drummers, 23. toronto island airport ferry

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Czehoski Restaurant on Queen West
Originally uploaded by hc916.
I've been having a bit more fun rating restaurants in Toronto on Restaurantica. My favourite place out there is Czehoski. It's a great place to meet friends for drinks in summer or winter. Menu is small but there's a great selection of drinks, even organic wines.

It was my top pick too when I wrote a piece last fall for Variety magazine. New Yorkers (Gotham edition) could get a quick look at the best places to hit in Toronto for nightlife when visiting during the Toronto International Film Festival.

At the time I sat down for an informal interview with the Manager of Czehoski; he revealed great stories about the former mob hangout and butcher shop, remnants of which are immediately obvious when walking through the door. On the second floor it's another world entirely, small intimate areas make up the space.

Visit Restaurantica for more of my review.

Back to The Garden

Fish & Chips
Originally uploaded by racingsquirrel.
I found a new resto in the Junction. One of those I'd always meant to try. I'm not much of a pub girl, the menus always seem the same and the places always smell too greasy. Back to the Garden is a few steps up, it's cozy like a pub but the menu changes often and has a wide variety of delicious bits for every type of foodie.

My bf likes their burgers so we just gave them a ring since he wanted to go pick it up. In my search for their number i came across a cool new website called Restaurantica where visitors to the site can take a 1-10 vote on the food and service. Back to the Garden was already rated a 9 out of 10, but I still felt like I should add my own restaurant review.