Downsview: Much More Than a Park

Jesse in Toronto Neighbourhoods                                      Toronto_3

Growing up in the ‘burbs' of Toronto, I had acquired a certain ignorance about the ‘big city’.  Toronto was a place to go annually for holiday shopping, the CNE and Toronto Island; it remained a place full of landmarks and mystery until I was well into my teenage years. In 1998, Toronto’s surrounding municipalities amalgamated into what is now the City of Toronto. From the outside looking in, this creation of a mega-city added to the daunting allure that Toronto had always held within its borders

With the extension of Toronto’s borders, another area of curiosity became encapsulated within its realm. Downsview Park had been a military base (CFB Downsview) which closed in 1994 - it received National Urban Park status shortly thereafter. Bombardier Aerospace continues to manufacture airplanes within t03jul30_tickethe park and the former base is temporary housing for out-of-town soldiers. With two papal visits under its belt- Pope John Paul II in 1984 and World Youth Day in 2002- it was also the site of Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, the largest ticketed event in history, and a proposed location for the BMO Field.

Upon hearing about the latest goings-on at the park, I found myself asking: what about the surrounding community? There is so much more to this neighbourhood than the park; and it with this thought in mind that I went to explore the neighbourhood of Downsview (check out Realosophy’s Downsview neighbourhood profile for local school and housing stats).

The neighbourhood of Downsview is a consumer's dream. Yorkdale Mall, North York Sheridan Mall, andYorkdale  Orfus Road -a haven for outlet shoppers- are all located within its borders. Unique family-run bakeries, culturally-diverse grocery stores and souvenir stores are located north and south along Jane Street and Keele Street; east and west along Wilson Avenue. The ever-popular box stores have also made an appearance, just north of Yorkdale Mall.

Much like its neighbour, Elia, low-rise and high-rise apartment buildings line the main arteries that lead into residential areas full of bungalows and back-splits. Curious as to how quiet communities function next to the immensity that is Downsview Park, I spent some time in a residential area located north east of where Dufferin Street and Wilson Avenue intersect.

Towards the north end of this particular area, I was surprised to stumble upon new construction. It appears as though previous bungalows had been demolished to make way for the large, two-storey homes that stood in their place, receiving their finishing touches. This in itself was not flabbergasting, it was more so the location: these new homes were the ‘final frontier’ before Downsview Park began. The aforementioned Bombardier Aerospace Hangar was visible as was the majority of the parkland, not much more than grassy fields. I was also impressed by the silence as I further explored this community. Aside from the late-fall leaf blowers and chopping and stacking of wood (yes! wood piles flooded driveways throughout this slice of Downsview, a fantastic sight) there was little proof that an airplane manufacturer was but a few blocks away.

Woven throughout the entire neighbourhood of Downsview are parks and green spaces which have been branded as greenbelts. These areas are inevitably in the shadow of Downsview Park which will always be the forethought whenever the neighbourhood of Downsview is discussed. A blessing in disguise, Downsview Park can be the public focus as residents relish in smaller, lesser-known areas of this neighbourhood.

Jesse Fleming is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Email Jesse

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