The Yorkville Gentrification Problem

With the closing of Asuka Japanese Restaurant a few months ago, yet another Yorkville institution disappeared because of redevelopment and condos. In all this rebuilding and repurposing of old buildings Is Yorkville losing its soul? Or has it already been happening for a long time? And most importantly, whether you are a long time resident or new and maybe just staying at a furnished Toronto apartment in Yorkville, you must be asking yourselves: where can one get a good honest sushi meal in Bloor and Yonge area these days?!

In addition to this pretty insignificant restaurant closure, there are the plans for the complete gutting of 101 Yorkville Ave, and closing of Lettieri cafe, among many other changes, and that's just sticking the west side of Bay Street - it is probably a matter of time until the entire neighbourhood gets a complete face-lift - we give it about 5 years until every nook and cranny in Yorkville has been bought up, redeveloped, revamped and tastefully (or without taste in many cases) unveiled.

In the early 2000's as the Hazelton Hotel was still just a row of 3-level cozy row-houses filled with local salons and galleries, many protested and voiced their concerns that the redevelopment of this block would be the end of Yorkville. It of course was not, but what has been slowly happening, much like everywhere else in the city is that even Yorkville, a neighbourhood that is one of the most high-end and luxurious in the city is also becoming gentrified, in a different way. Who knew that even completely gentrified neighbourhoods could go through a second wave of gentrification and meet with the same force of resistance (likely for entirely different reasons) by its residents? Surely the same gentrification issues existed as Yorkville became the current state of what the neighbourhood represents and left its Hippie past behind.

But the question is: are the new places that are taking over adding or destroying the essence and character of Yorkville? While Yorkville has and always will be about luxury, it has also always been about its history and charm, and with every closing of an old institution that character is re-made and erased. Can Kasa Moto really replace Asuka as the main Sushi place in Yorkville (there is a reason why we are not mentioning Suhi Inn)? These old places not only had more character but they were also places that you could visit regularly. Being a regular at Kasa Moto is, well, just a different type of regular, a bit (lot) more high-end and not as cozy.

Toronto is probably the poster-child of gentrification - it has been happening like a formula that seems to get more and more efficient, for decades now, and the momentum and tenacity of builders has only increased over time. You can't walk half a block in Yorkville without seeing one of those official development notice signs on a building, and sure while many of the structures in this area are still from the 70's and 80's, they add a personality and old grace to the otherwise sterile, modern Toronto architecture. 

Sure, some of this change is very good for the neighbourhood, like getting rid of that awful parking lot that is now 100 Bellair, but at what point will the neighbourhood lose its character completely? Is there something to be said for a neighbourhood with such a colourful past to still want to hang on to that hippie-origin, even if it is just in the form of a few old relic structures?