The city draws on its vast international pedigree to give it shape and definition: The polyglot Toronto is the Toronto story. And it’s changing at a rapid pace.
There’s a lot that’s new about this place, which has its pros and cons. Although bike lanes, roads, and transit system struggle to keep up, the signs of growth are all around. The skyline downtown is a forest of cranes, as condo towers stretch upwards to 85 stories. There are marvelous new parks, new museums, and property values rising to new heights (asking locals if the bubble’s soon to burst is an easy conversation starter in this town). Green initiatives include the Toronto Bike Share program and ever-improving waterfront playgrounds. An alternative foods movement is widespread.
The city is taking strides to reclaim its final frontier along the lakefront. After years of political dithering, visible progress is being made to rehab the city’s derelict shipping and industrial past at the water’s edge.
New developments include a revamped Union Station, landscaped lakeside recreational trails, and the addition of multiple parks. The two crown jewels of the new waterfront are the whimsical, white-sand Sugar Beach opposite the Redpath Sugar refinery, and Trillium Park, an abandoned amusement park (Ontario Place) that has been transformed in a stunning ode to native flora.
North of the lake, traffic is congested at best—chaotic at worst—especially on weekdays. It’s particularly bad in the core, but the highways aren’t immune. As the suburbs continue to densify, developing their own personalities, the roads are only getting worse.
Gentrification has made an aggressive sweep over Toronto. As rents rise, colorful ethnic neighborhoods such as Parkdale (home to the city’s largest Tibetan population) are being transformed, pushing eclectic and mom-and-pop businesses, and the people who run them, farther from the city center. Although much of downtown has been gentrified, there are some parts of Toronto, including downtown, where gangs rule. But the city remains one of the safest in the world, according to The Economist.
For better or for worse, the city's classic nickname, "Toronto the Good," tells just one part of the story these days. A local reporter has compared Toronto to a teenager (it’s a young city, barely over 200 years). The comparison is apt: Toronto is exuberant, out for fun, a bit rambunctious, and sometimes a challenge to manage. The reward is that it’s more interesting than merely nice.
Hogtown Today, The 6ix Tomorrow
Every year, the city seems to add to its roster of nicknames. Once derisively referred to as “Toronto The Good,” thanks to the town’s prudish reputation (anti-vice, anti-liquor, anti-fun), Toronto has been the recipient of scads of new monikers: Hogtown, The 6ix, T.O., and YYZ are used interchangeably.
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