The Toronto area that encompasses Corktown, the Distillery District, and Regent Park is a beautiful and historic part of the city, with heritage buildings that have gone through huge renovations.
The Distillery District is a pocket just southeast of Parliament Street and Front Street, near the Toronto Harbour. North of there is the residential area known as Corktown, which borders Queen Street East, and even farther north is Regent Park — bounded by Gerrard Street East to the north and River Street (parallel to the Don River) to the east. The Corktown and Distillery District neighbourhoods are easily accessible by the Don Valley Parkway, Gardiner Expressway, and Yonge/Bloor Subway System, making them some of the most sought-after areas.
- The National Film Board of Canada made a documentary called Return to Regent Park that details the community seen as a “city-planning failure, a ghetto under siege.”
- Professional hockey player Glen Metropolit lived in the Regent Park area.
- St. Paul’s Catholic School in Corktown is the oldest Catholic elementary school in the city, build in 1842.
- The Mill Street Brewery, located in the Distillery District, was named the Canadian Brewery of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
- Since 1990, the Distillery District has been the site for over 800 film/TV productions.
In 1832 the Gooderham and Worts Distillery was founded within the area that is now known as the Distillery District, and by the late 1860’s was one of the largest distilleries in the world, exporting whisky. In the late 20th century there began a deindustrialization which put a halt to the distillery and began the demolition of buildings in the area. Corktown was developing around the same time, with its name originating from Irish emigrants who found employment in the breweries. St. Paul’s Basilica was built in the area in 1822 by James Baby, and it’s the oldest Roman Catholic congregation in Toronto.
Some years later, Regent Park was becoming a slum and was turned into the largest social housing project in the 1940s. The city had hoped to turn the area for the better, but it did not alleviate the area’s crime and social problems.
In 1990, when the final brewery operations were closed in the Distillery District, a redevelopment projected started, with people wanting to invest in the 13 acres of area and appreciate the heritage buildings and Victorian architecture. Similarly, Regent Park was in need of costly repairs and the government developed a plan to rebuild it over ten years starting in 2005.
Homes, Architecture, and Real Estate
This area has gone through redevelopments that have changed its architecture and real estate. The Distillery District went from a distillery in the 1800s to a National Historic Site under protection since 1976. In the 1990s, people started investing in this area with Victorian architecture, and two condominium buildings were built. Some of the buildings are now converted lofts with high ceilings. Similarly, 68 per cent of real estate sales in Corktown were condos in 2010, and boasting a good amount of space for the dollar ($550 per square foot). With such accessibility and the character of historic architecture, average prices are in the half a million range, although smaller units in Corktown may be less.
In contrast, Regent Park, just north of Corktown, struggles with its bad reputation for crime but should be on its way up. The majority of buildings in Regent Park are owned by Toronto Community Housing, which manages low-income housing for Toronto, but with new buildings replacing the old, it seems to be a good thing for the community. Apartments like these are mostly low-rises, and the city government has high hopes for its redevelopment — condominiums under construction are expected to match the high prices of neighbouring areas, although they will still have low-income rentals to replace the units the city tore down during the revitalization.
Who Is Your Neighbour?
This neighbourhood is home to young families and professionals who love the character of Toronto architecture, its proximity to downtown, and its affordable prices compared to the downtown core. The average household income of Corktown is $61,078, and the average residents are in their 30s. The area is trendy and attracts artists to the areas who enjoy the loft or studio lifestyle. Residents of the area are proud of the neighbourhood’s strong culture and the redevelopment of Regent Park in recent years. There is a lot of optimism for the improvement of this community, in particular with community involvement in events run by the Corktown Residents and Business Association.
Parks and Green Spaces
The neighbourhoods have a history of industrial production, but over the years, they’ve still held on to some green space. Here are some of the parks in the area:
- Corktown Common — Bordering the Don River to the east and having once been an abandoned post-industrial site, the redevelopment was a $135 million project that now consists of hilly parks, trees, shrubs, playgrounds, a splash pad, benches and barbecues, bike paths, a boardwalk, an off-leash dog area, and an athletic field. A wetland pond makes for a spectacular walk through the park, and the brand new facilities are going to be popular all summer long.
- Sackville Playground
- Regent Park North
- Sumach-Shuter Parkette
Recreation and Culture
Corktown Common has two playgrounds, a splash pad, and a dogs’ off-leash area for recreational purposes.
Some of the fitness studios in the area include:
- Float Suspension Yoga – 236 George Street (416 886 6954)
- Booty Camp Fitness – 74 Berkeley Street (877 762 2689)
- Fun & Mental Fitness – 80 Sackville Street (416 231 5432)
- Extension Room – 30 Eastern Avenue (647 352 7041)
Several churches provide places of worship in the neighbourhood, including:
- Little Trinity Anglican Church (425 King Street East)
- St. Paul’s Basilica (83 Power Street)
- Greek Orthodox Church of the Mother of God of Prouss (461 Richmond Street East)
- St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church (509 Dundas Street East)
The closest libraries to this neighbourhood are at 171 Front Street East and 269 Gerrard Street East.
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
This area has grounded itself in Toronto history with their schools, like the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse that was built in 1848 and is now a heritage site and museum.
- Inglenook Community School – 19 Sackville Street (416 393 0560)
- St Paul – 80 Sackville Street (416 393-5204)
Mariposa in the Schools – 55 Mill Street (416 462-9400)
- Nelson Mandela Park Public School – 440 Shuter Street (416 393-1620)
- Lord Dufferin Junior and Senior Public School – 350 Parliament Street (416 393-1760)
- Afzal Islamic Montesorri & Academy – 204-224 Parliament Street (416 367-0020)
Arts and Entertainment
Because of the influx in visitors to the Distillery District from those visiting the city from out of town, this neighbourhood has had many art galleries opening up over recent years.
- Eskimo Art Gallery – 8 Case Goods Lane #220 (+1 877-364-6845)
- Corkin Gallery – 7 Tank House Lane (416 979-1980)
- Arta Gallery – 14 Distillery Lane (416 364-2782)
Soulpepper is a small theatre in the district that runs nine performances per season running throughout the year at 50 Tank House Lane (416 866-8666).
The closest Cineplex movie theatre is at Yonge and Dundas, 10 Dundas Street East (416 977-9262).
The Distillery District is a nice area to visit for its independently owned shops—over 30 of them, selling furniture, jewellery, vintage designs, home decor stores, clothing, and Canadian art. A walk up to Queen Street East brings you to the main entertainment and shopping street of the city, where you can catch a streetcar into the bustling downtown core and the Toronto’s Eaton Centre.
The area is home to some of Toronto’s best restaurants and cafés, as people come from far and wide to visit the Distillery District area. These tend to be on the expensive side, but a short walk north up to Corktown will welcome you to a variety of restaurants with different price ranges, big and small, mostly European-inspired.
- Archeo 31 Trinity Street – (416) 815-9898
- Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill – 17 Tank House Lane (416) 361-5859
- CAFFE FURBO – 12 Case Goods Lane (416) 366-7070
- Tappo – 2 Trinity Street (647) 430-1111
- Morning Glory Cafe – 457 King Street East (416) 703-4728
- Weezie’s – 354 King Street East (416) 777-9339
- Gilead Café & Wine Bar – 4 Gilead Place (647) 288-0680
Getting to this part of town is easy whether you’re driving, taking public transit, or biking. By car, the Don Valley Parkway runs just east and is a few minutes to the area. It is not far north from the Gardiner Expressway, which takes you across the city from Mimico to Scarborough along the lakeshore.
By public transit, there are streetcars that run from the Bloor Street subway line, like 504 from Broadview, or the 65 bus from Castle Frank Station.
Medical Centres and Doctors
- Riverdale Community Midwives 48 River Street (416 922-4004)
- Dr. Klarreich – 110 Berkeley (416 861-0716)
- Toronto East General Hospital, 825 Coxwell Avenue (416 461-8272)
- Mount Sinai Hospital, 600 University Avenue (416 596-4200)
- St. Michael’s Hospital, 30 Bond Street (416 360-4000)
- Princess Margaret Hospital, 610 University Avenue (416 946-4501)
- Toronto Police Services (TPS) – 51 Division, 51 Parliament Street (416) 808-5100
- Toronto Fire Station 325, 475 Dundas Street East
- Toronto Fire Station 333, 207 Front Street East