Prone to booms and busts throughout its tumultuous history, the Junction, whose retail strip runs parallel to a commuter rail corridor in Toronto's west end, was an absolute 'Boomtown' in the 1950 and '60s and is once again experiencing an upswing more than five decades later, according to the local Business Improvement Area (BIA).

"The good news is, the area is booming," proclaimed Junction BIA Executive Director Moe McGuinty at the organization's temporary headquarters at the corner of Dundas Street West and Pacific Avenue. Comparatively speaking, commercial rents are still reasonably priced along Dundas Street West, said McGuinty. There's a new merchandising mix that's being created, particularly over the past 11 months since McGuinty's become executive director. While six businesses have vacated the area, another 25 have either opened up shop or are scheduled to open.

"That's pretty staggering," said McGuinty on a Friday morning at the end of January. "Leases have been signed, construction is underway. Details are to come."

Rumour has it a brew pub is on its way into the neighbourhood as is a wine bar, he said. Within the BIA's boundaries, Indian Grove to the east and Quebec Avenue to the west, there are a total of 196 storefronts of which nine remain vacant. The retail strip boasts 39 food services business, comprised of restaurants, cafes and bakeries and 24 home and style-like places, comprised of furniture, decor and lighting.

"Since last November when the Junction's business directory and shopping guide went to the printer, I've got eight confirmed new businesses. It's incredible. It'll be out of date before it hits the streets - businesses have them, but I'm putting another 7,000 in the mail," said McGuinty.

Even professional services, which have until recently shied away from the Junction, are arriving by way of a real estate office and chartered accountant. Although, the area is still lacking in financial institutions, said McGuinty. There is only one bank - the Bank of Montreal. Besides that, there are four cash stops.

What McGuinty said he finds intriguing is the fact that the Junction does not cater to one ethnicity, particularly when it comes to food.

"We've got Mexican, Chinese, Indian, organic, Vietnamese, Vegan, Lebanese, Colombian, Italian, Argentinian, Thai, Fair Trade, Mediterranean, Greek and good ol' Canadian food," he said, rhyming off a long list.

While it may not be considered "downtown chic," the food is simply really good, said McGuinty.

McGuinty hesitates to use the word 'hipster' to describe the area because he knows it makes some local folk cringe, but he said there's really not a more appropriate word.

"The Junction appears to be attracting a like-minded set of young, creative shop keepers," he said.

McGuinty says he is pleased with the progress the BIA has made in the past year, however, there's certainly lots more room for growth. It would like to build on the initial success of its community events, such as when Santa came to town in December. The BIA has also completed some streetscaping work, including the addition of 10 park benches along the sidewalks and its self-designed new flower boxes surrounding 120 trees along the strip. Such improvements in the area, including the installation of year 'round tree lighting, has instilled a new pride of ownership among business owners, said McGuinty.

"We're going to expand our flower initiative and outdoor lighting and we're meeting with the city to begin the process of erecting an historical plaque," he said. "We're going to be known on every Ontario road map as 'The Junction.'"

The BIA is collaborating with Junction firefighters on this project. It has yet to be determined where the plaque will be erected, however, it'll go up within the next 12 months.

Looking towards the future, McGuinty said the BIA is anticipating an influx of shoppers when new homeowners move into their condos at the Village by High Park development at the corner of Dundas Street West and Keele Street.

"I think we've reached a tipping point where the new businesses attracted to the area are continuing the funky, eclectic, creativeness here. It's the critical mass that will keep the ball rolling," said McGuinty. 

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  February 1, 2011 - InsideToronto.com