Kensington Market

Toronto, Canada

Submitted by: Andrea Winkler

Kensington is infamous in Toronto for its year-round vendors selling everything from fresh fish to chilies.

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Why It Works

A bustling neighbourhood in the heart of Toronto, just west of Chinatown, Kensington is infamous in Toronto for its year-round vendors selling everything from fresh fish to chilies. Small houses along street labyrinths and murals throughout the market make Kensington Market a unique and much loved neighbourhood in Toronto.

Kensington Market is situated in the heart of Toronto. Nestled between the major streets of College, Dundas West, Spadina and Bathurst, it is easily accessible by transit and attracts people from not only all over Toronto, but all over the world. The cozy market has an organic feel with a mish-mash of Ďmom & popí shops, punk record labels, a large selection of vintage stores, and one of the best butcher shops in Toronto. Kensington Market is one of the most vibrant places in Toronto.

What Makes Kensington Market a Great Place?

Bordering four major streets, the market is easily accessible by transit, bike and walking. There is not much parking in the area, which can make for very congested streets in the small market. There is a local project to make Kensington Market a car free area.

The areaís mixed uses have the streets occupied at all times of the day. Murals on shops and local stores, layers of posters, low-rise buildings and a central park space create an oasis within the city.

The mixed diversity of living spaces, independent restaurants, bars, clubs, grocery shops, coffee shops give the place a real local feel. There is a high level of neighbourhood involvement in issues surrounding Kensington market and have worked to maintain the local identity of the neighbourhood.

A variety of uses and activities including festivals such as the Lantern Festival, which is home to puppet-making activist head quarters, clubs, bands, the student gallery space which houses art shows and live bands. Chinatown is located just to the east of the Market. The area is bustling throughout the week. Kensington is home to many grassroots, socially/politically minded people so the cafes and bars are incubators for activism. In the evening bar and club patrons spill onto the streets.

Kensington Market is a very sociable place. With cafes, drum circles, bars and eateries, one can meet friends at random wandering about the small market. Vendors stand outside their stores talking to friends and passersby. One can do some shopping or just sit and enjoy a coffee on a street bench.

History & Background

Originally intended to be the site for large English-style country homes on huge estates, Kensington Market was divided into smaller plots of land with small houses and became home to many of the new immigrants who arrived in Toronto. By the 1920ís Kensington was home to 80 percent of the Jewish population, and was known as the Jewish Market. The market area has seen a transfer of populations, which has added to its rich layers of cultures- Ukrainians, Hungarians, Italians and Portuguese. In the 1960ís Kensington Market narrowly escaped an urban restructuring project that would have torn down the small houses to make way for large apartment-style housing. In the 1970ís Chinatown joined the market as it moved westward to Spadina west.

Today, Kensington Market is a mishmash of many cultures and ages. You will find an array stores, including food, clothing, health food, a knitting shop, and patios and a park surrounded by houses. Today, neighborhood groups work to keep the market local and have successfully prevented chain stores like Nike from infiltrating the market. Other groups are working to prevent gentrification through projects that reinforce local identity and sense of place through story telling projects and online public forums.

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