The Grange Park neighbourhood is named after the large park that sits just south of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Grange Park is positioned in an interesting spot between several larger neighbourhoods in the city. The result is an eclectic little spot that features a wide variety of atmospheres in a very small footprint.
Grange Park (the park and the neighbourhood) actually takes its name from “The Grange” a historic building that is now under AGO management. The Grange is a historic Toronto building that was originally built for a prominent Toronto man by the name of D’Arcy Boulton. It is the oldest of all of the brick houses still standing in Toronto. The neighbourhood is nearly square, sitting south of College Street and north of Queen. The Western boundary is found at Spadina Avenue, and the neighbourhood runs until University Avenue in the East.
The park itself has been a point of concern for local residents for some time. It has become quite run down, and is certainly not kept up in the way that many of the more popular Toronto parks are. However, a large project is being undertaken that will significantly improve and revitalize the park, according to this Toronto Star article. The aim is to have the project completed within two years, which should hopefully breath some fresh air into the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood itself is not easily defined with a singular identity. The borders between Grange Park and Chinatown are quite blurry, and many of the businesses that a person might associate with Chinatown are actually located within the borders of Grange Park. Chinese language signs are present throughout the neighbourhood, as many of the residents use it as their primary language.
The neighbourhood also is filled with conflicting real estate that again makes it difficult to define its identity. Million dollar mansions can be found, as can an affordable artists housing co-op. Grange Park can be home to anyone, and is a neighbourhood that can constantly surprise you.
One of the most important entertainment options in this neighbourhood is the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO is more than a hundred years old, and has 583,000 square feet of room in its facility. With more than 80,000 pieces spanning the timeline of art history, it is one Canada’s most important cultural repositories. For shopping enthusiasts, there is plenty to be found in the area. The shops of Chinatown and Queen west provide options ranging from the curious to couture. Dining options include Chinese food of course, but also a diverse range of options ranging from authentic Italian to Schawarma. The Village Idiot Pub is a favourite local watering hole located close to the AGO and OCAD. Baldwin Street holds a less well-known shopping hideaway known as Baldwin Village. This Grange Park gem features smaller, independent shops and local artisans. The dining here is also excellent with spots like Café la Gaffe and Bodega. Grange Park itself features a small waterpark that is popular with people raising young children in the area. It is also home to one of the cities many farmer’s markets during the summer weekends.
Housing in Grange Park is extremely varied, but trends in most of the residential streets lean towards older, larger homes. Most of the detached houses in the area are more than a century old, and feature original Victorian architecture. Some of these homes have been converted to multi-unit dwellings, and were turned into apartments for rent for the students of OCAD. Most people in the neighbourhood live in one of the large apartment or condo complexes that line the main thoroughfares. One notable complex is the Village By the Grange.
Grange Park is an extremely central and busy downtown neighbourhood, and as such can be much noisier than more outlying parts of the city. Dundas, College, University, Spadina and Queen are all major arteries, so a lot of traffic and human noise should be expected. In the past, Grange Park itself was quite run down and dirty. However, as the revitalization project progresses, it should make quite a difference in the overall environment of the neighbourhood.
Being in downtown Toronto, the high volume of people moving through Grange Park give it a somewhat higher crime rate than other parts of the city. It is among the top 10 areas of the city for assault, however, this statistic includes the entire Kensington-Chinatown area. It is not just limited to the smaller neighbourhood of Grange Park.
Despite having a small geographical footprint, Grange Park still has a number of schools within its boundaries. The Orde Street Public School provides education for younger students. The Beverley School focuses on providing quality education to special needs students. The area also features a number of unique high schools. The Contact Alternative School focuses on community building and social justice. Heydon Park Secondary School is an all-girls school. Braemar College is a private, co-ed institution that focuses on academic excellence and preparing students for post-secondary studies. One of the primary Toronto post-secondary institutes is also located in Grange Park. OCAD, the Ontario College of Art and Design was the first school in Canada to focus on commercial art, and is still considered one of the top design schools in the country.
Grange Park is a suitable place to raise a family. There are many schools in the area, and families are happily living there. However, the high cost of detached homes, and the relative smallness of most of the condos and apartments makes it difficult for those raising larger families to find suitable housing. That and the hectic pace of downtown living means it might not be for everyone. In reality, the division is nearly even between people living with or without children in the neighbourhood.
Grange Park has some of the best access to public transportation in the city, as major transit lines surround three of its four borders. Along University Avenue are two subway stops. St. Patrick station is located at University and Dundas, and Osgoode is located at University and Queen. Streetcar lines serve three streets in the neighbourhood. These lines have stops every few blocks, and provide quick and convenient transit throughout Grange Park. There are streetcars on University, Queen and Dundas.