Alexandra Park is a small, downtown Toronto neighbourhood. Home to a large number of Chinese speaking Torontonians, Alexandra Park is one of several neighbourhoods within which part of Toronto’s Chinatown is found.
The borders of Alexandra Park are found along Dundas Street in the North and Queen Street in the South. Bathurst marks the western edge, and Spadina Avenue is the eastern boundary. The centre of what is called “old” Chinatown in Toronto is found at the intersection of Dundas and Spadina. The park from which the neighbourhood takes its name is located at the intersection of Dundas and Bathurst. The park was named after Queen Alexandra. The visit by her and her husband, (who would become Edward VII) was the first to Toronto by a future king.
Chinatown in Toronto, like in many other major cities, is a different type of neighbourhood. It serves simultaneously as the home for a very large population, while also operating as a tourist destination. In Alexandra Park, it is as common to see the locals getting their groceries as it is to see droves of tourists snapping pictures when you get close to the heart of Chinatown. Currently, there are efforts to change Alexandra Park to a more mixed-income neighbourhood. At one point in time it was comprised largely of low-rent, co-op and community housing, but a massive project has begun to turn it into a mixed-income neighbourhood.
According to this story in the Globe and Mail, the project, which is already underway, will replace old, decaying housing with new homes at a variety of purchase prices. It will also help connect Alexandra Park to other downtown neighbourhoods.
Chinatown is one of the premiere destinations in the city, and the citizens of Alexandra Park barely have to leave home to enjoy it. Wandering through Chinatown is wonderful for those who like to shop for curios made in the east, but it is also a top-notch dining destination.
Chinatown is known for being both delicious and affordable. Sang Ho Seafood Restaurant is consistently well reviewed. Sky Dragon Chinese is known for its dim sum. Further south down Spadina, Pho Aimy can satisfy those having a craving for Vietnamese fare. There is also great dining along Queen Street, including Aji Sai Japanese and 5th Element, an Indian restaurant.
Alexandra Park itself is a great place to go and enjoy yourself, especially in the summer. The outdoor pool is popular with local children during the hotter months. Nearby, the Scadding Court Community Centre hosts a number of activities and classes for people of all ages. Also located within the Alexandra Park neighbourhood is Theatre Passe Muraille. This was the first theatre company in the country to focus on premiering Canadian work, and it remains known and respected as an innovator and champion of Canadian theatre.
The face of housing and real estate in Alexandra Park is changing rapidly. According to Toronto Community Housing, the stage 1 demotion is complete while stage 1 construction is well underway. The previous housing was mostly comprised of low-rent community housing and housing co-ops. The new construction is bringing some market value townhouses and condos to the area.
This is not only going to change the composition of the neighbourhood, it will also change its appearance. Many of the older buildings were brown and fairly featureless, as costs were kept as low as possible during construction. The modern construction going in here is giving the neighbourhood a facelift.
Alexandra Park is subject to all the noise and pollution issues that most of downtown Toronto faces. Especially if you’re living close to the borders of the neighbourhood, you will notice the sound of both public transit and commuter traffic at most hours of the day. Currently, due to the ongoing construction in the neighbourhood there is also a great deal of construction noise. However, this will pass. Once construction is completed, the neighbourhood should be much cleaner and quieter than it appears at present.
Crime has been a problem for many years in Alexandra Park. One of the primary issues was the way that side streets were disconnected from major arteries. The result was akin to a maze through the housing projects that allowed a great deal of crime to happen under the radar. It is thought that once the refreshing of the neighbourhood is complete, more open streets, better connected streets and mixed income housing will help to reduce the incidences of crime in the neighbourhood.
Parents with school age children in Alexandra Park don’t have a lot educational options right in their backyard. The Ryerson Community School provides education for students from JK to Grade 8. There are many schools to the immediate east in nearby Grange Park, and in many other neighbouring communities however.
There are educational facilities outside of the public school system in the neighbourhood however. The area’s population is served by the Jingbao Bilingual Children’s Centre, which focuses on providing a Bilingual preschool experience in English and Mandarin.
The best means of public transportation through the neighbourhood is the streetcar system of Toronto. The downtown area is served extremely well by a number of streetcar lines, 4 of which run through Alexandra Park. The 501 Queen, The 505 Dundas, the 410 Spadina and the 511 Bathurst make a perfect square around the neighbourhood.
Alexandra Park is home to a number of families who raise their children in the area. The new housing going into place should also make it suitable for a wider range of people from diverse backgrounds and income brackets to raise their children in this vibrant downtown neighbourhood.