Twenty years ago, Toronto's West Queen West was a working class neighborhood on the rundown periphery of Toronto’s urban core. Gentrification began slowly, with young families moving in, but when the newly renovated Drake Boutique Hotel re-opened its doors in 2004, it set in motion the change that would come to define the area. Art galleries, clothing stores, yoga studios, bars, and restaurants transformed West Queen West into one of Toronto’s most vibrant communities, now known as the city's Art and Design District.
To take the pulse of the neighborhood, one need only go to Trinity Bellwoods Park on a sunny weekend, where hundreds of young people gather to picnic, play music, walk tightropes, and make art. The crowd is a well-spring of creativity that feeds the constant re-imagining of West Queen West.
Karen MacKenna is a Toronto-based writer and photographer with a background in documentary film. Her love of design has been inspired by time spent in Finland, which she calls her second home.
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