Where is Riverside in Toronto?
The Riverside Buisness Improvement Area (BIA) spans 10 vibrant tree-lined blocks along Toronto’s historic Queen St. East, from Davies Avenue beside the Don Valley Parkway (westerly boundary) to Empire Avenue, just past the world famous De Grassi Street (easterly boundary). The wider Riverside neighbourhood is bordered by Gerrard St to the north, Booth Ave to the east, Eastern Ave to the south and the Don Valley to the west. Riverside is located between Corktown and Leslieville, and is only 2.5 km from Toronto’s downtown core. It’s Toronto’s authentic urban neighbourhood and easily accessible via streetcar, bike, car or by foot.
Why the name “Riverside”?
Riverside runs alongside the Don River – an icon in Toronto’s landscape and history. The name ‘Riverside’ dates back to the 1880s. As you wander Queen Street East in the heart of Riverside, note the curving blue brick ‘river’ in the sidewalks and the public art referencing that connection throughout.
Local Area Development and Transportation
The Riverside area boasts excellent positioning within one of Toronto’s desirable East End neighbourhoods. A mixed commercial and residential node, Riverside has become one of the City’s hottest neighbourhoods, offering an exciting mix of independent retail and dining establishments nestled among tree-lined streets of Victorian and Edwardian style homes.
The locational characteristics of Riverside properties are strongly enhanced by direct positioning upon the TTC Queen and King streetcar lines. Vehicular access is also excellent, with quick access to the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, and on-street and surface lot parking options. The area is also home to Car2Go and Zipcar vehicles for easy, flexible car rentals by the minute, hour or day. With bicycle post and rings all along Riverside’s 10 blocks and access to Toronto Bikeshare stations, the area is also welcoming to cyclists. The area’s attractive streetscape with planters, exploratory historical plaques, murals and other points of interest welcomes walkers and strives for complete accessibility over time.
With a local population of approximately 22,712 people (within 1 kilometer), nearby residents enjoy an above average household income of $103,410 versus the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) average of $94,500. Population growth (within 1 kilometer) is expected at 6.8% over the five year period from 2014 to 2019, a strong growth projection supportive of the increased desirability of the city’s East End. A family friendly area, 35.4% of couples have children at home while 57.7% of these households own their own dwellings (within 1 kilometer), a solid indicator of increasing local affluence. The dominant building type remains to be a mixture of low-rise apartment stock, predominantly built before 1960.
Located in the heart of Toronto’s Downtown East, the area’s business landscape has grown in recent years to form one of the trendiest scenes in Toronto. The area offers an eclectic mix of clothing retailers, galleries, concept shops, furniture/design stores, restaurants, cafes, tailored service providers, and indie music bars. Encompassed by numerous new residential condominium developments and affluent homes, the surrounding business market offers a stable, high-end selection of shopping and eating destinations for local residents and visitors. Extremely low vacancy rates are seen across local units and there’s an upward trend in net rental rates in this popular East End neighbourhood.
History of the Riverside Neighbourhood
The residential landscape within the Riverside neighbourhood is comprised of primarily Victorian and Edwardian style homes constructed in the 1800s. These homes were previously used as boarding rooms for the working-class but have since been redeveloped into homes for young families and redesigned to suit the tree-lined street scape. Riverside real estate values have increased dramatically over recent years and it has become a trendy and sought after residential district of upwards of $500,000 for a single family home.
Read the ‘Uncovering Riverside’ blog series for more about the history of Riverside:
#1 Uncovering the History of Riverside: An Introduction – The story starts with how, when and why Riverside got its name
#2 Uncovering the Sport and Game of Riverside – Learn about the early days of sport and game in Riverside
#3 Uncovering the Holiday Season in Riverside Past & Present – Learn about early holiday traditions, personalities, and life in Riverside
#4 Uncovering Riverside: A Curler’s Valentine – Read about Riverside’s long-time love affair with curling and links to personalities of the past
#5 Uncovering Easter in Historic Riverside – Read about Easter in Riverside past and more baseball links
Stay tuned for more blogs on the history of Riverside! The series is a partnership with local historian Barry Slater of the Royal Canadian Curling Club.
Growth of Riverside
Industries declined in the second half of the 20th century and during the 1980s and early 1990s the area experienced significant economic difficulties. Over the last 15 years, Riverside has undergone significant revitalization and gentrification. Many of the buildings and residences have preserved the historic architecture of the building and modernized the interiors to reflect the diversity and pay homage to the fusion of old and new in the neighbourhood.
One of the main draws of Riverside remains its proximity to downtown. With The Toronto Eaton Centre being only 2.5 km away, the Riverside neighbourhood remains one of the few well-preserved residential districts within a short commute to the downtown core. The area is seeing increased popularity among young professionals, and the ratio of lofts to single family homes continues to grow each year.
The Broadview Hotel
The Romanesque-style New Broadview Hotel was built in 1893 and has had a variety of uses over time for societies and associations of all sorts. Most notoriously the hotel was a strip club named Jilly’s in the 1980s to early 2010s. In 2014, Streetcar Developments purchased the building and has transformed it into a high end boutique hotel which opened in July 2017.
Historic Postal Station ‘G’
The fine Neo-Classical Building constructed of sandstone is a landmark in Riverside since its opening in 1913 as Postal Station ‘G’. Designed by E.J. Lennox, it remained the Postal Station ‘G’ until 1975 when it became the Ralph Thornton Community Center and the Queen and Saulter Branch of the Toronto Library.
In 1995 the Ralph Thornton Community Centre restored the clock, which had been stuck at a standstill since 1979. The flatbed turret clock with pinwheel escarpment was designed by Joyce and Co. of Whitchurch, Shropshire and built by Smiths of Surrey, U.K in 1913. The clock was restored in 1995 by Lloyd Hovey of Toronto through the generosity of the Tennison Family in the memory of Mr. Arthur Tennison, the head Stone Mason in the construction of this building.
Art in Riverside
Originally called the Queen Street Viaduct, before Eldon Garnet (among others) contributed their artistry to the bridge, it was just a bland, unnoticed passageway to the East end. After Garnet won the contest to decorate the Riverside Bridge, it soon began gaining recognition as it became an iconic landmark, and even began to pop up on t-shirts and in murals. This artwork sparked a revitalization of the Riverside neighbourhood and unified the people within the community. Most recently, on June 5th of 2015, the Bridge was illuminated through the Riverside Gateway Bridge Project and lit up for the public for the first time. “It was an opportunity to celebrate the structure that had long linked the downtown core with the east end”, said former Riverside BIA Executive Director, Perry Lupyrypa, who championed the project over the last three years with Riverside business and community sponsors and partners.
Sports Heritage Mural (Munro St.)
In the mural, created by Monica Wickeler, one can see Toronto’s first Baseball diamond in Riverside – Sunlight Park, the skating that used to take place on the Don River, the former location of Toronto’s Cycling Club, and the long curling history in the area.
Sports Legacy Mural 2015 (Munro St.)
In continuation of the Sports Heritage mural, the Riverside Sports Legacy mural (also by Monica Wickeler) is an exciting new project for Riverside launched in July 2015 in the spirit of Toronto’s Pan Am Games. Through using a stencil technique and Pan Am colours, tribute was paid to the Games through the contemporary sports illustrated – parapan sports, for example.
“Echo” in Joel Weeks Park
Born in British Columbia, raised in Ontario, Mary Anne Barkhouse has been a professional artist since the 1990s. After her proposal won a contest by the City of Toronto’s Public Art Office, she enlisted in Michael Belmore to aid her with the construction. The piece consists of three different sculptures in different corners of Joel Weeks Park. They are of a beaver, a fox, and four squirrels worshiping an acorn (see above). The piece is said to represent the flora and fauna of the neighbourhood. The artist also has some very interesting reasoning behind her choice of materials (bronze and granite), which is something you can learn more about on the Art History Walk!