There’s a street near Downsview where no one lives, that no longer has a name, and hasn’t appeared on a map since 1991. It’s a stone’s throw from Highway 401, but it’s probably the only place in Toronto to get a glimpse of what the city would eventually look like if all 2.6 million of us packed up and left tomorrow. Curbs and house foundations are obscured beneath underbrush, trees and prairie grasses sprout through the centre of the road, and bulb-less streetlamps have collapsed, or teeter at precarious angles.
Blondin Avenue was once a typical suburban cul-de-sac, but its location at the juncture of Wilson Avenue, Weston Road, and the 401 made it a hotspot for storage facilities, autobody shops, and warehouses. From the ’60s onward, homes were torn down as residents fought a losing war to save their neighbourhood.
Blondin Avenue circa 1967
In 1984, Blondin’s 24 remaining households made an appeal to the City of North York: Buy us out of here. “While we were dealing with commercial at one end, they were trying to have industrial at the other,” said resident Rose Genovese to the Toronto Star. “It was a life sentence and it’s time to be liberated.”
It took five more years before Sorbara Group, a development company that had proposed a seven-storey office tower on the street, bought out the rest of the residents and tore down their houses. But the office tower never materialized. The real-estate crash of ’89 kiboshed the project, and in 1991, a small notice appeared in the Star indicating that the City of North York was stopping up Blondin Avenue and removing most of it from the street grid.
Blondin Avenue circa 1991
A few years ago, Sorbara Group planned a townhouse-condo for the site. It came to nothing, but they still haven’t given up. “It’s close to the airport and it’s in an area that seems desirable,” says Andrew Sorbara, the company’s director of design development. “We still think it’s a really good location.”