Remember when Lula Lounge drew revellers out to the sketchiest part of Dundas St. West way back in 2002? It seemed so out-there. But the maverick Latin music and dance club brought many followers.
There's no posturing here. The characters who live here stick to the unvarnished nomenclature of Parkdale or Little Portugal, but Brockton was a genuine village before it was annexed by Toronto in 1884. At the intersection of Dundas West and Brock, the former Brockton town hall still stands (as a bank branch, naturally).
But the transformation is inevitable. Hidden in a back lane is an über modern box designed by Cecconi Simone and currently for sale with an asking price of $2.25-million. Listing agent Paul Johnston, of Right at Home Realty, figures the buyer will be a creative type who appreciates illustrious architecture and the transitive authenticity of the neighbourhood.
"Early mornings you still see workmen with their lunchboxes off to the site," says Mr. Johnston.
Artistic cred: Jessica Bradley Art + Projects is the eponymous exhibition space of a curator for the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada. The design shop Lubo creates furniture from recycled and reclaimed wood. Beadle is the boutique for handmade jewellery. And everywhere artists are inhabiting little bits of cheap space as their studios and lofts in other parts of town are turned into condos.
Places to hang: The individuals who range here are ahead of the curve. Naco, for example, has revolving installations of video and new media by created by emerging artists. Currently it's Collisions in a Tensile City by Adrienne Reynolds. They also serve Mexican food. Chef Nathan Isberg at the Atlantic Restaurant left behind more jaded Queen Street West when he took over this Portuguese tavern. Now it's affordable, earnest and rich in character - which pretty much sums up the hood, says Mr. Johnston.
There's a downside to such authenticity and that is the fact that some of the streets can be a bit grubby. In some spots there's the chance people on the other side of your semi may be selling banned substances from the front porch.
Real estate values are likely to suffer from the railroad tracks running through the area and in a market downturn, edgy areas like this can more easily slide back into seediness.
The streetcar makes frequent stops along College and Dundas but traffic congestion is chronic.
HARBINGERS OF CHANGE
Head down the first alley north of Dundas at night and you'll find the Port, which serves ice cream from the back entrance of Zoots Café. All over, people are finding quirky uses for improvised space.
Bohemian parents order cupcakes with brown butter icing at She Takes the Cake.
New condos are going up on Dundas West with a starting price just under $350,000.
More typical are the higgledy-piggledy semis which can be had for $450,000 on side streets such as Florence and Gordon. Detached houses are less common and will fetch more than $500,000.