Danforth and the Beach Neighbourhood Profile
A relaxed neighbourhood near the lake and the downtown core
By Elysse Zarek, revised by Sarah Bleiwas
The Danforth and the Beach areas are unique in Toronto. The Danforth is also known as Greektown because of the area’s large Greek population. Greek shops and restaurants stand side-by-side along the street and Greek festivals take place every year. There are also significant numbers of Italian immigrants that lend a different flavour to the neighbourhood. Many young families and new immigrants migrate to the Danforth area because of its lower housing costs compared to the central part of the city.
The southern region in this neighbourhood has undergone a recent transition where many of the large industrial buildings have been transformed into loft style housing or studios. This has made parts of the Danforth and Beach neighbourhood popular with music, art and film professionals.
The Beach, roughly the area slightly north of Queen St. E. and down to Lake Ontario, is known for its distinctive, California-style character and artsy, laid-back folks. A boardwalk runs through the area, surrounded by sand, volleyball nets and family parks. In warm weather, shorts and sandals are the required dress code. Quaint shops line Queen St. E., and locals and tourists can be seen strolling along the sidewalks. In recent years, the Beach has become home to many young, affluent families.
Danforth and the Beach by the numbers
170,805: neighbourhood population*
4,863: number of Jews**
24%: increase of Jewish population,
2001 to 2011
747: number of Jews ages 15-24**
$369,000: median price of single detached home in Danforth area
$493,000: median price for single detached home in the Beach
$1,200: average rent for two-bedroom apartment
* Canada Census 2001
** UIA Canada's National Task Force on Jewish
Housing in these neighbourhoods is quite varied, from three storey Victorian homes to small rental townhouses, and practically everything in between. One thing that is consistent is the distinctive character of each home. With varying decorative accents from porches to gates, the housing style in the Danforth and Beach neighbourhood definitely has charm.
Residents of the Beach also like to distinguish themselves from visitors to the neighbourhood by calling the neighbourhood “The Beach.” Non-residents usually say “The Beaches.”
Jewish residents of the Danforth-Beach neighbourhood see themselves as part of the downtown Jewish community and just one more patch on the multicultural quilt that is Toronto. Their synagogues – while smaller – maintain a more community feel.
“The Danforth is a good area for young people. The more people who end up moving here, then the stronger the community will be. And it’s likely to happen because of housing prices,” says one resident.
Of all the Jewish neighbourhoods in Toronto, the Danforth-Beach and High Park have the lowest numbers of Jews. Nearly 171,000 people live in the Danforth-Beach areas; the Jewish population sits at 4,863 people.
Ellen, who has lived in the Danforth area for over five years, says that there are many young families and children in the neighbourhood.
“Within the last five to seven years, there has been a turnover from the old Greek and Italian seniors. They’re selling their homes to young families,” she notes.
The demographics show this change – the Jewish population in the Danforth-Beach area grew by almost a thousand people in the past 10 years. The median population age registers at 36 years, for both Jews and non-Jews alike.
One of the challenges of being farther away from Bathurst St. – the spine of Jewish Toronto – is that it’s harder to maintain a Jewish identity. One mother remarked that only five or six per cent of the students at her son’s public school are Jewish. “Our kids are a real minority in their schools,” she says.
However, the Danforth-Beach area does have its own unique Jewish institutions. The Danforth Jewish Circle is a liberal, egalitarian synagogue that rents space in a church. the congregation is not affiliated with one movement of Judaism, but explores the different scopes of Jewish life in a inclusive environment. In addition to Shabbat and holiday services, the Danforth Jewish Circle has an after-school program, a preschool and social programs for all ages.
The Beach Hebrew Institute is one of the oldest synagogues in Toronto, and the building was declared an historic site in 1982. The Conservative-style shul is a few short blocks away from the boardwalk and has about 250 members. It has Shabbat and holiday services, a Sunday Hebrew school for elementary school students, and adult education programs, as well as facilities for Bar/Bat mitzvahs and weddings. This historic shul is featured on Ontario Jewish Archives' online Toronto's First Synagogues exhibit.
Chabad of Danforth-Beaches offers spirituality, community, Jewish life, and Torah learning through innovative adult programming, as well as a Hebrew school.
For other synagogues and Jewish community institutions, residents often head west to the downtown core.
Shops and Services
Local grocery stores like Loblaws and Metro supermarkets carry basics like produce, but for kosher food, a trek over to Bayview Ave. or Yonge St. is required. More information on kosher food, please see the Yonge and Eglinton or York Mills articles.
The area is well known for the quaint shopping district found along Danforth Avenue. In addition to the necessities - convenience stores and coffee shops - one can find shops and restaurants which reflect the diversity of the neighbourhood. Clothing shops, antique shops, art galleries, trendy cafes and even candy stores with kosher goodies can be found on Queen St., in this neighbourhood.
Towards the east end of Danforth and the Beach is a large discount outdoor shopping mall.
Many residents take advantage of the local bars, restaurants and cinemas and stay within the neighbourhood for entertainment. But the downtown core is minutes away, and a trip to the theatre or concert halls is a short trip.
Because of it proximity to downtown, people in the area take advantage of concerts and events in the city. Residents from other neighbourhoods flock to the Beaches during warm weather, and parking can be hard to find on a Sunday in July. The Beaches Jazz Festival in the summer also attracts a strong crowd.
For recreation, residents can choose from the many parks and facilities scattered throughout the area. Highlights include an ice rink, tennis courts, wading pool and two public libraries. Kew Gardens in the Beach also hosts many annual events including a menorah lighting festival.
The subway’s Bloor-Danforth line runs right through the Danforth, with more than 5 subway stops in this neighbourhood. By extension, accessing other parts of the public transportation to reach virtually any destination in the city is convenient from this neighbourhood. The Danforth and the Beach both connect to Toronto’s highway system via the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway.
Residents can also access the Don Valley Ravine quite easily. The ravine has a bicycle trail that runs south through the city.
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