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The Humans of Jane's Walk: Get to know the history of Yonge Street with Michael Matthys of DIALOG

In this special series called The Humans of Jane's Walk, produced in celebration of the 10th annual Jane's Walk festival we will feature profiles of some of the amazing people who lead the walks in the neighbourhoods they know and love. 

To demolish, or not to demolish? Exploring Heritage Character in Toronto's Downtown

Ever wonder what 'heritage character' means, or what it means to label a building as a 'heritage building'? How do you determine a neighbourhood, or building, has heritage character? Does it just need to be old? Or designed by a famous architect? In a city like Toronto, this challenge is compounded by the fact that many of the city’s early neighbourhoods have been more-or-less constantly changing since they were built. Thus, what is special and unique about these neighbourhoods is not easily described by the age of buildings, their architectural style, shape, or height. Toronto’s early neighbourhoods—Historic Yonge Street—could be described as a series of layers. These layers have accumulated in unexpected ways, and studying their relation to each other helps us understand the character of the neighbourhood, and of the economic and social forces that have shaped it. The walk, called To demolish, or not to demolish? Exploring Heritage Character in Toronto's Downtown will start at St. Basil's & Elmsley Estate, with that early period of the area's history when the only development in the area was large estates. Following the timeline of how the city has developed since, the walk will take you through the key sites that illustrate the complex and layered character of the neighbourhood, while participating in a discussion of how development has become layered beside buildings, beneath buildings, on top of buildings, and within buildings. The walking tour will wind down at Maple Leaf Gardens, a unique example of adaptive reuse, with a strong connection to the area's past.

Walk Yonge Street with Michael Matthys of DIALOG

"I love studying the evolution of a city through the changing nature of its built form. Looking at how buildings, properties, transportation systems, and the public realm are assembled, re-configured, destroyed, and re-created, gives us a window into the underlying character of cities, their neighbourhoods, and the economic and social forces that shape them," says Michael Matthys. Michael is an Urban Planner with DIALOG, interested in creating more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable cities. He has an abiding interest in all things urban, an Edmonton ex-pat, and die-hard Oiler's fan, who is tall and should be easy to spot when you arrive at the destination to join the walk through the layers of Yonge Street's history.

Jane's Walk celebrates its 10th anniversary

Jane's Walk is an annual festival of free, citizen-led walking tours inspired by Jane Jacobs. The walks get people to tell stories about their communities, explore their cities, and connect with neighbours. The 10th annual Jane's Walk festival takes place on May 6th, 7th, and 8th in neigbourhoods all across the GTA. 

This year, Jane's Walk decided to tilt the festival. Please donate $10 or more to keep Jane's Walk walking, share a story or help shape one by leading a walk! More information at www.janeswalk.org/toronto.
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