Church and Wellesley is the heart of the LGBT community in Toronto, Ontario, and known by most as “The Gay Village” or simply “The Village”. Whatever you want to call the neighbourhood, it is a thriving commercial and residential district near downtown Toronto. Few neighbourhoods in Toronto feel as unified, as focussed and as supportive as Church and Wellesley.
Church itself serves as the main commercial corridor of the neighbourhood. It is roughly halfway between the East and West boundaries of the neighbourhood which are marked by Jarvis and Yonge Streets. The Village continues south, all the way to Gerrard, and north to Bloor.
Church and Wellesley is a neighbourhood that is extremely confident in its identity. This area provides not just a home, but also a community for those who make their homes here. One of the local landmarks is a statue of Andrew Wood, a merchant celebrated for being a gay pioneer. At one time, he owned a significant portion of the land that now makes up The Village, and many streets in the area are named in honour. The Church and Wellesley is a diverse and active community. On the streets, you’re likely to see high-powered Toronto business people, but not only. Shopping in the district ranges from the discount to the designer, so you get people from all walks of life coming to do their shopping in the Church and Wellesley.
The general feeling in the area is one of activity. Construction is ongoing, and most of the streets in the area are major arteries with a great deal of traffic. Add in a healthy dose of nightlife in the Church and Wellesley and it feels like the entire neighbourhood is always in motion.
This is where Church and Wellesley shines. Dining, music, nightclubs and bars are all found in abundance in this neighbourhood. Many of the most well established gay bars in the city are found in this neighbourhood.
There are both chains and independent restaurants to be found here. ZaZa, a Toronto Italian coffee and Gelato shop, has a new location right on Church Street. If Italian cuisine is to your liking, you might also want to visit Ganzi for casual Italian and Pizza. Ganzi is also home to a large outdoor patio for residents to enjoy in the summer months. Smith is a trendy and upscale hot spot that is particularly famous for its brunch, but which is popular at all times of the day.
Crews and TangosCrews and Tangos The nightlife is what Church and Wellesley is famous for. Crews and Tangos bills itself as “Toronto’s #1 Drag Bar” and has a vibrant painted exterior that is a local landmark. Woody’s and Sailor are a bar duo that are among the most popular gay bars in the entire city.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is located near Yonge in the Village. This gay theatre is recognized across North America for its ground-breaking work, and states its mission as, ”developing and presenting voices that question sexual and cultural norms.” The highlight at Church and Wellesley comes in the summer. This is when Pride Toronto happens, and although the festival has grown so large that it includes events around the city, the action is always centered around the Village. This is one of the largest Pride festivals in the world, with an estimated 1.2 million people coming together to celebrate.
The Church and Wellesley neighbourhood is still home to a great number of rental apartments. While much of the downtown core has been converted to condos over the last few decades, there are still many available apartments in this part of town. Given its location in an older section of Toronto, some historic architecture is on display along residential streets. You will see a mixture of older detached brick homes, semi-detached houses and large old buildings that have been converted into multi-unit complexes.
This is a very busy part of downtown. Church Street itself is often packed with traffic, pedestrians, and ongoing construction, making it very noisy. The neighbourhood is also close enough to the downtown core that the air quality is noticeably more polluted than on the outskirts of the city. The residential streets are short and connect immediately to a major artery, so there aren’t many places to get away from the noise.
The crime rate in this area is higher than the average for the rest of Toronto. Assaults along the Yonge-Church Corridor are more than twice as common as they are in the rest of the city, according to the 2011 CBC Crime Map. Sexual assault and drug charges are also higher here. Partly, this is caused by very high population density in the area, as well as the high number of nightclubs. Because these statistics include the entire Yonge-Church corridor, they include parts of other neighbourhoods with higher incidences of crime. This could skew the statistics somewhat. During regular hours, Church and Wellesley certain feels like a safe place to be.
This part of town is short on schools. With few children living in the area, the demand simply isn’t high. At the south end of the neighbourhood on Alexander Street, the Church Street Junior Public School does provide public education from K-6. A professional college also makes its home here. Trillium College offers social programs in addition to programs that focus on the health, technology and business professions.
Access to the Yonge branch of the subway system is available at Yonge and Wellesley. The 506 Carlton Streetcar line provides transit along the southern edge of the neighbourhood. In addition, just a block north of The Village are the Bloor and Sherbourne subway stations.
There are very few families with children living in this area compared to the rest of the city. The city of Toronto estimates that there are 74% fewer children under 14 living here than the city average. That said, it is a very youthful neighbourhood, with the highest represented demographic being the 20-35 year olds. Single people, not families, occupy the majority of the homes here. Twice as many homes have 1 resident compared to those that have 2. It is also estimated that more than 55% of the people living here are single.