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Have a vision

Ideas

Have a vision

The BIA set aside $87,500 in its 2012 budget for two 22-foot rainbow-swirl signpost markers. It's unclear when the posts will be installed. IMAGE 1 OF 1
While I often roll my eyes at many of the inflammatory comments left below our articles on xtra.ca, two this week gave me pause.

The first, referencing a story about residents at the intersection of Alexander and Church and their fight to keep benches off that corner, will be a familiar argument to many. The condo-dwellers there have long complained that the street is too noisy. “If you live downtown you get drug dealers, hookers, homos, gang-bangers — a cesspool of humanity basically in all of its lusciousness.”

I couldn’t have said it better. That’s why I live downtown.

The writer then encourages homeowners unhappy with the evening noise of Church St to pack up and move to Elliot Lake if they don’t like downtown life.

But the police and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam have done the opposite; both are looking at ways to further sanitize the area and placate the loudest voices. Indeed, as she has for many other tiny spaces, Wong-Tam has commissioned designs for this corner, including one that would turn it into a mini-golf course and another that would create a gay walk of fame.

Where is the vision in this? How can a neighbourhood be built — or improved — one corner at a time, each with a different concept?

Wong-Tam has rightly been a great advocate for neighbourhood improvement and action ahead of WorldPride 2014, when Toronto is supposed to finally become that international gay destination we’ve always imagined we are.

This type of piecemeal planning doesn’t seem the best way to get us there. Like they have on the waterfront or transit files, city officials working to improve the Church St neighbourhood are limping along haphazardly, with no vision and no backbone. Wong-Tam can host a stakeholder meeting every night for the next year, but at the end of it she surely won’t come up with a grand, exciting vision. She will end up with mini-golf on one corner, a gay walk of fame on another, a 65-storey eyesore condo on yet another and not a shopper or tourist in sight.

Which brings me to the second comment, found under a travel story featuring Berlin and referring to it as a mecca for gay tourists. One reader wonders why Toronto can’t be such a mecca. Good question.

The article describes Berlin as “a vast and diverse set of gay scenes” with “thoughtful civic amenities.” Meanwhile, “It has a well-established, multifaceted gay community, and you’ll often see same-sex affection and leathermen in full regalia alongside families and kids on bikes. It is also the location of big summer street events.”

Well, that’ll do it. So while the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area has been busy cancelling the annual Fetish Fair and trying to bring in family-friendly . . . wait . . . neighbourhood-inclusive activities, other cities get that what makes a great neighbourhood is diversity, sexual expression, street parties and civic amenities.

The BIA has also been unable to express a clear vision for the gay neighbourhood in Canada’s largest city. In trying to pander to everyone, it has appealed to no one. Indeed, its members have cancelled a popular, sexy, gay street fair that attracted tourists — the very type of event that should be ramped up in advance of WorldPride — in favour of spending almost $100,000 on two rainbow-swirl street markers.

And while it is true that improving gay life does not fall under the BIA’s mandate, turning the gay neighbourhood it serves into a more appealing destination for gay tourists can only help business.

A city that has lost its ability to embrace sex and sell itself to the world is a city that has also lost the ability to see itself as part of a diverse world (and as part of a diverse community within that world). 

Somehow I cannot imagine potential international gay tourists to Toronto scanning the internet looking for a city with the best flowerpots, gayest mini-golf or prettiest rainbow street markers. No, they’re looking for the raunchiest street party, best restaurants and most diverse homo scene (see Berlin). The rest is window dressing.

Even Liz Devine, co-chair of the BIA and president of Thomas Cook Rainbow Travel, knows this. While she recently told Xtra the BIA wants to open up Toronto’s gay village to those outside the gay community, she also told The Globe and Mail what makes a great gay travel spot in the rest of the world. She calls Puerto Vallarta a “true gay destination” because it has “many gay-owned and -operated hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.” Curaçao is a hot gay travel spot because of its “gay-themed events,” and Barcelona is Europe’s gay gem because of its “street musicians . . . tapas bars and DJ-fuelled nightlife.”

I hope one day Devine’s counterparts in Barcelona and Berlin will be able to say the same about Toronto.
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Comments

Yikes
For a comment that starts by lamenting on how how our community 'eats its own,' George sure seems to be sharpening his own dinner knives. His opinion is valid, of course, but some of his points are incorrect -- particularly the one about Wong-Tam (whom I adore) having 'zero' money for area refurbishment. Always best to do your own homework before accusing others of not doing theirs ;)
Fantastic
God dammit, this community eats its own. I'm so tired of reading ongoing irresponsible "reporting" and brainless opinion pieces like this in the country's biggest gay paper. So Danny, do you have a business plan? A proposal for funding? ANYTHING other than a knee-jerk complaint? The "condo dwellers," who incidentally live, work, shop and play in the village, were fine with the lively street for years. It's why they moved there. Have you even made the effort to interview a single one of them? It was the repeated violent assaults, the nightly threats to physical safety, the out-of-control crack heads screaming their heads off while smashing beer bottles against tree trunks until 3 a.m. that finally drove them to act. I know Berlin, and no Berliner would put up with that kind of crap. And how many times does it have to be said - the fetish fair LOST THE BIA MONEY. This wonderful diverse sexual utopia you demand was tried and the community DID NOT SUPPORT IT!
No vision? No backbone? How about no money? Kristyn is doing what she can working with a truly dysfunctional city council dominated by fools who would defund Pride, never mind throw money at a community that celebrates violent drug addicts while dismissing genuine attempts at beautification. She is working hard and a real ally to the gay community. The church/alexander designs were preliminary, and Kristyn is doing what she can with the (zero) money she has. And seriously, do you even read what you write? In one paragraph you praise Berlin as a place where leathermen and families can mix, while in the next you condemn the BIA for attempting just that. God, does this paper even employ a copyeditor?

How much has Pink Triangle Press donated to this "cause" since they vacated the neighbourhood? What have YOU done? How about inviting the screaming drug dealers to make a home on your doorstep if you love their contribution so much?

People, please stop bitching and start doing something con
Joe, excellent Idea's....
Sadly, I wasn't the right sort to be crowned Councilor in the ward. But if I was able to run for Councillor with a fair shot to win and then became Councillor, I would take your idea's and workem! But alas, we have perhaps the most boring, business woman and, gasp, art (gallery) sales thing, who is frankly borderline retarded, as a Councillor and is really now only interested in becoming mayor. Therefore it's more important to do the easy stuff, like attend a photo op to have the province pay for a park beside Yonge St. Inclusive, spectacular, exquisite and innovative is not part of her lexicon, I mean seriously have you seen who her gallery represents? Dull is more to her liking. What a mistake she has turned out to be.
Landscape Architects can redesign our Village
Dear Councillor Wong-Tam. After seeing the whole of: http://www.claudecormier.com/projets/
***especially what they did in the Montreal Gay Village (Pink Balls - Boules Roses)
http://www.claudecormier.com/projet/aires-libres-2011/ **I realize that The Toronto LGBT Village needs to hire Landscape Architects
to re-design the Alexander & Church St corner, as wells as the rest of the Church St LGBT Village. The piecemeal attempts by the local BIA have been dismal failures
because they cannot see the forest for the trees. They are concentrating on small things here and there like banners to mark territory (like dogs). The grass-roots piecemeal efforts have not worked --we do need a single vision. A good Landscape Architect who can work on large scale projects can easily redesign the Toronto LGBT Village to be spectacular and inclusive --including the Alexander-Church corner --and all with a single vision. Something grand, exquisite and innovative
will also bring tourists back from the suburbs and from abroad, along with dollars.
Make Church St incredible to bring tourists
Make Church St incredible to lure tourists
Dear Councillor Wong-Tam. Please see below how the Montreal LGBT Village is putting Toronto to shame with their exquisite design and festivities concepts to bring tourists to their Village. The whole main street in the Gay village is pedestrians only. They have streamers of Pink Balls (Les Boules Roses) strung across the road for miles --it is beautiful and festive in an expansive way and most innovative. Toronto LGBT Village is dismal and boring and scattered in comparison. Why would any tourist come to Toronto when they could go to Montreal and have a better time? AND BTW their whole main street (Ste Catherine St.) is blocked off to traffic --pedestrians only, for the whole summer. Can you have any influence over the Church Wellesley BIA to do something as spectactular in Our Toronto LGBT Village? _____________Excellent_Promo_Video http://vimeo.com/27117847 http://www.claudecormier.com/projet/aires-libres-2011/ __________Click_on:_Les_Boules_Roses
Hey Joe,
Nice ideas, there are those visionary/kick ass community minded people out there, but as you know implementation also requires other funding and other hoops to jump over, and there's the rub. The most important funding and hoops required to initiate anything are now completely infested with the non-visionaries who in no way will be sharing any of the resources public or otherwise unless and only if it benefits them personally, professional and socially. It is CORRUPT to the core. We don't lack visionaries, we lack a pathway, a mechanism with which to allow them to shine that doesn't include the corrupt, dark and the dull. Those in charge of implementing almost anything in this city rarely if ever allow light to shine, ESPECIALLY, fabulously, sparkling, creative gay light. This is what corruption looks like. Look around, nothing but lost potential everywhere.
Toronto Tourist Mecca
Excellent article by Danny Glenwright. “One reader wonders why Toronto can’t be such a [tourist] mecca.” Thankyou, Danny for mentioning me :-)) We do not actually need the BIA nor Wong-Tam to initiate events and beautify the area. The BIA caters to it's members, many of whom are Straight and probably don't want to intensify LGBT culture. They are holding us back. But any person or group can initiate ideas and fundraise and lobby the City, and acquire permits to carry out events and to build things. Now that we have identified that there is no vision and we need one, we should invite visionaries to get together to come up with a singular vision for the area. Are there any Urban Planners who would be willing to donate expertise and time?? Are there any wealthy LGBT people willing to donate or invest money into improving the area and turning it into a tourist mecca ?? We don't have to wait for World Pride, we can start now. Can XTRA initiate this process?
Wow, finally a clear consise
view of the very real threat of these dullards such as Wong-Tam with NO vision and way too much power. I understand she is not an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination but her stupidity, her ambitions and plans to be the next mayor and ultimately her lack of capacity is harmful, especially to the Gay neighbourhood. Too bad she doesn't care about anyone in the end but Wong-Tam.
How sad
How sad it is that the very thing that makes an area attractive to residents and tourists is often the first thing driven out when the powers that be decide to "improve" the area. They seem to have forgotten the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
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