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One year in Leslieville

Today is the first anniversary of the Free City of Leslieville. In our first year, we did exactly what we declared we would do: Review the architecture of social housing (15 reviews of 20 buildings). Has anybody attempted that sort of thing before? Has anybody actually done it?

This is one of those times when the work wins out. Pipsqueak bloggers working for U.S. publishers tried to impugn our integrity, but we stood up for ourselves, then simply ignored their arses, concentrating on publishing. Our work is original and unique, while theirs has already been forgotten.

We also stuck to our purpose as being something other than a catch-all neighbourhood site. This isn’t, and never was billed as, the place to go to find out all about Leslieville before you move here. We did cover a few other topics, including what turned out to be almost a non-event – the opening of a Starbucks in our midst. As we’ve been saying for over a year now, this neighbourhood cannot be “gentrified” or turned into an East Queen West. The abundant social housing, often right there on the main drag, is one of the reasons why.

We still have a wrap-up post to write on about a half-dozen lesser buildings. Then, probably in the spring, we’ll start the logical, and always-planned, extension of our housing critiques: Reviewing the rich people’s houses. Check your RSS or come back from time to time for Housing the Gentry of Leslieville.

Collaborator Ian Beanlands writes

Congratulations go out to the architect of on this, its first anniversary.

Not only has the site kept the whole city informed about this up-and-coming, ever-evolving neighbourhood, there has been much behind-the-scenes work going on you may not even know about.

Joe and I usually argued right before we started in on the social-housing reviews. I think we were uptight because we felt a sort of obligation to the residents of the projects we were talking about. Joe asked me for input because of my background in architecture, but I think we both quickly learned that architecture was the least of the problems with these places.

In fact, architecture with a capital A more often than not got in the way and just made things worse. Projects like the Maddy Harper Lodge, where the architect seemed to think it more important to express some of stylistic metaphor than design a comfortable place for living, demonstrated that designers’ heads are too often just not in the right place.

The visit we had to 1070 Queen was a real eye opener. People there were genuinely dedicated to the well-being of the residents. The architecture was mediocre at best, but that really didn’t seem to matter so much.

It’s one thing to have someone advocating for your area of the city. But something more is happening at As whole districts of Toronto get swallowed up by unprecedented (and largely uncontrolled) development, little Leslieville, where once only heavy industry and the under wealthy resided, is becoming an actual place. Thanks in no small part to the rigorous chronicling by residents like Joe.

Lets hope that Joe, for his neighbourhood’s sake, can keep his passion for his home alive for at least another year.

POSTED: 2007.01.09