Welcome to your Dream Village

Scott Dagostino asked some of fab’s favourite local queers how Church Street could become more ghetto-fabulous

[originally printed in fab issue 407 – September 15, 2010]

Artist John Webster boldly speaks for many when he says, “I’m a visual guy and this gay village is really ugly; it has no character. It’s not even seedy cool anymore. Over the last 10 years, queers have started making homes and meeting spaces all over the city and its suburbs. This is an awesome thing.”

While this is true, what if Church Street could be rescued from apathy, poor zoning and greedy landlords by a fantastic renovation scheme? What if the Village was allowed to dream?

Mark Kuznicki, consultant and creator of ChangeCamp
Church Street needs to reinvent itself by incorporating its heritage and by being a safe place for diversity, difference and queerness, while reimagining what that means today. Montreal’s gay village implemented a car-free policy; Church Street could do the same and become a year-round cultural, community and entertainment space.

Todd Klinck, co-owner of Goodhandy’s
Church Street as a pedestrian-only zone would be amazing. The bars could build their patios out onto the street, creating an outdoor festival atmosphere that goes late into the night. Condo owners would have to accept the noise — they chose to move into the downtown core, after all.

Brad Fraser, playwright
My dream Village has a large treed park, safe and busy day and night; a revamping of Buddies to make it attractive and accessible from the street; a number of large busy clubs that are properly soundproofed; a small rep cinema that doesn’t smell like rats; and a smattering of excellent, interesting, reasonably priced restaurants whose servers are not bipolar.

Fay Slift, ladybear
I’m hoping for the rebirth of the old Zelda’s building. Perhaps turn it into a drop-in centre for all the old drag mothers and daughters. Arts and crafts, free Sanka, with margarine and relish sandwiches served up. Classes where you can learn to breathe life back into your old wigs, as well as your careers.

Ryan G. Hinds, performer

We need a live music venue for the many queer bands and singers who have to go elsewhere to make their name. The old Zelda’s would be perfect. A funky, independent coffee house is needed in every neighbourhood and would be complemented nicely by a vintage clothing store. I hate that everything new that opens is aiming to be some kind of faux chi-chi, upscale, trendy place.

Jane Farrow, executive director of Jane’s Walk
Turn the Zelda’s space into a big queer museum and archive with a fantastic public plaza out front. There are now retail vacancies because the landlords are jacking the rent up, thinking that queers have so much money they’ll support any business, no matter what. It’s a weird, backhanded homophobia. My Church Street has lots more room for sitting and people-watching, benches, steps, patios. It would be dense, vibrant and lively.

Shawn Micallef, editor of Spacing magazine
My theory is that Church Street will stay “kind of gay” the way many of our ethnic strips keep their identity, even as the neighbourhoods surrounding them change and become heterogeneous. I would say Church Street needs maybe one more place to dance. There are enough bars, but it needs to let people shake a proper leg more.

Shaun Proulx, journalist and OutTV host
Some overdue maintenance for George Hislop Park! In the spirit of our lovely Alexander Wood statue, erect one of George — perhaps something abstract the straights will puzzle over: “Man at Glory Hole.” Bushes would be appropriate — a maze around the statue? It should just pop with horticultural style.

Sasha Van Bon Bon, sex columnist and Scandelle
My dream Church Street has a headquarters for a newly politicized queer movement: offices for activist organizations; a beautiful 24- hour drop-in centre for sex workers to get safer sex gear and take a load off, with reduced-price foot massages and pedicures; a Bruce Mau–designed space for sexuality workshops coordinated by Andrea Zanin; subsidized space for the Toronto Women’s Bookstore and This Ain’t the Rosedale Library; a queer strip club and a bathhouse with diverse nights DJed by luminaries like Nik Red and Denise Benson; and, of course, the most ass-kicking homo retirement home, called The Incontinental, with featured entertainers Keith Cole and Fluffy Souffle.

Tim McCaskell, educator and activist
Widen the sidewalks for restaurant street-patios and turn the parking lots south of Maitland into urban parks with public art.

Keith Cole, performer and mayoral candidate
Yes to trees, flowers, greenery, a movie theatre, public art, a bakery, nightclubs, a piano bar and cabaret, a rec centre, an outdoor skating rink, parks, benches — with everything being pet-friendly. Open the street up! Make it a beautiful, compassionate, human-being- friendly promenade that says No to fences, cars and any planning that includes Kyle Rae.

Shane MacKinnon, DJ and performer
Zone off the street and make our own rules. Condos and corporate chains would be gone, making affordable room for independent business owners to thrive and be supported by their community. Bars with all types of queers and their hetero friends co-mingling would be the norm.


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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