Among Toronto neighbourhoods, Dovercourt Park is something of an unsung hero.
Neither seedy enough to attract rising chefs with cult followings, nor gentrified enough to send real estate values out of sight, it's long been a stalwart area where immigrants find a community, twentysomethings are able to rent a decent apartment, and first-time buyers can purchase a semi and fix it up.
Mention the name in passing, and many Torontonians have trouble picturing it on a map.
But there is a real Dovercourt Park at the centre of this 'hood north of Bloor, south of Dupont and loosely between Dufferin and Ossington – depending on who's sketching the boundaries. On some real estate maps it's also known as Dovercourt-Wallace Emerson.
In years past, the neighbourhood developed a stolid, lunch bucket character as industrial plants set up close to the Canadian Pacific Railway line just north of Dupont and Portuguese and Italian immigrant workers moved onto the side streets to the south.
Today a few automotive businesses linger, but most of the heavy industry is gone.
The stretch of Bloor Street known as Bloorcourt hasn't become as cool as the more westerly strip heading towards Lansdowne, and a former draw – the Paradise Cinema – has closed its doors. As of yet, no corner bank building has reopened as a Starbucks on this bit of Bloor to signal a neighbourhood on the rise. But cool new places seem to be opening virtually every week: The transformation of Dovercourt Park is happening at a fast clip.
It Gets High Marks For:
Genuine village provenance: Today's residential streets were farmers fields when the Village of Dovercourt was founded in 1870. The notable Toronto family the Denisons were the landed gentry who rented out plots to tenant farmers and the area was named after their clan's estate, Dover Court. In the early 1900s, the area was annexed by York and then the City of Toronto in turn.
Bloor/Gladstone library. "It's always jam-packed," says one regular patron of this branch of the Toronto Public Library. The original portion is a designated heritage building built in 1913. A highly-lauded 9,000 square-foot addition has such 21st century elements as a glass curtain wall and green roof.
Transit: It's an easy stroll along the side streets to the Bloor subway line, which whisks passengers between the Ossington and Yonge stations in about 10 minutes. The Dufferin bus route also runs right along the west border.
Dovercourt Boys and Girls Club: The club situated along one edge of the park provides after-school programs for kids. Since this is an area with lower-than-average income residents, it's a good community resource.
Room for Improvement:
Streetscape: The houses of Dovercourt Park have never really been known for their architectural details. First it was tar paper that covered the shacks of recent arrivals from England. Then Portuguese immigrants introduced angel brick. There's a fair amount of siding. You get the idea. On the upside for apartment-hunters, many of the larger dwellings have been divided up.
Schools: Dovercourt Junior Public School has recently leapt ahead in the standardized tests of elementary schools. Since many parents choose a neighbourhood by the quality of its schools, this improvement is good for real estate values. St. Anthony Catholic School has some catching up to do in the rankings. Bloor Collegiate Institute and St. Mary's Catholic Separate School also lag the top contenders.
Restaurants: There could be an opportunity here for adventurous chefs. Members of the Ethiopian community have opened several restaurants and they tend to get the crowds in, but denizens of the area say there's room for broader choice. For years now, Universal Grill has made a destination of Dupont and Shaw.
Harbingers of Change:
The Rustic Owl is a new spot for coffee and treats with friendly people behind the counter and a gallery in the back.
People rave about the ice cream sandwiches at Bakerbots, where they bake their own cookies and fill them with delectable flavours from Ed's Real Scoop.
John's El Cafecito appears to be a virtual office for many of its regulars. They also sell artisanal crafts.
Drift: The place for hangover poutine around noon, beer, liquor and board games into the evening.
Freedom Clothing Collective: This is a favourite boutique in the neighbourhood for anyone who needs an original gift or has a bit of spare time to peruse the garments and jewelry from local designers.
Hollow Ground Barber Shop: A young crew takes advantage of a retro building and fittings to open an old-school barber shop.
In the current hot market, eye-popping asking prices above $900,000 are appearing on the large, fully-renovated houses. More typical dwellings are semi-detached, with some row houses and condos added to the mix. In the recent past, a lot of the housing stock has changed hands in the more affordable $350,000 to $500,000 range, which makes the area a draw for first-time buyers. Church-to-loft conversions have been popular with buyers and builders continue to buy up every old pile of bricks they can get their hands on.