By: Christine Chea, Graywood Developments
Late this summer, ULI Toronto decided to visit a part of the city not featured heavily in past events: the east end! More specifically, the East End Brewery Tour took members all the way to Gerrard and Coxwell, where former Dieu-du-Ciel brewmaster Luc Lafontaine recently opened Godspeed Brewery (242 Coxwell Avenue). Offering an impressive variety of craft beers, most of them inspired by his recent stint in Japan, Godspeed pairs Lafontaine’s carefully cultivated selection with Japanese fine fare. The small members-only group was the first group that Lafontaine toured through Godspeed Brewery, but they certainly would not be the last! Lafontaine provided us with a warm welcome and walked us through his journey of opening a brewery and restaurant in a building that many would have overlooked. After looking at numerous properties throughout the entire city, Lafontaine found a vacant retail space that was formerly a bargain bin store. Immediately upon deciding on the east-end location, Lafontaine did his research and ensured that the brewery use was permitted by the existing zoning and endorsed by the local councilor, Mary-Margaret McMahon. After sampling two of his crisp, refreshing beers, it was off to the Riverdale Hub.
The Riverdale Hub, located at 1326 Gerrard Street East, just east of Greenwood Avenue, is a social enterprise which offers co-working space, a café, rental spaces, art exhibits and their very own rooftop garden. Nathan Yee, the Hub’s Building and Sustainability Coordinator, toured us around the premises and spoke of the different services offered to immigrant women through the Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre. Yee explained how the Hub, in partnership with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is a community centre in its own right as it provides a meeting place for residents and brings together different community players through its programming. The rooftop garden, which supplies food to The Social Gardener Café (located on the ground floor of the Hub), provides a generous crop in addition to a breathtaking view of the city.
The last and final stop was at the Left Field Brewery, located at 36 Wagstaff Drive, where co-owner Mandie Murphy took the group on a tour and provided us with a guided tasting. What began as a vacant light industrial building in an industrially-zoned area directly abutting residential, is now a bustling brewery with its own tap room. The Murphys have truly transformed Wagstaff Drive from a place one wouldn’t want to frequent at night to a destination for beer and baseball lovers. Local police have even commented that the number of calls regarding nefarious activity along Wagstaff Drive have gone way down since Left Field opened its doors. In addition to bringing activity to Wagstaff Drive, Left Field often supports the local community fairs, festivals and schools. Despite all the goodwill they’ve brought to the neighbourhood, there has been a complaint or two about Left Field due to noise levels. Despite the handful of complaints, Left Field has flourished as a destination that welcomes all members of the family (including four-legged ones!) to visit.
Lastly, ULI members were treated to an intimate conversation with Inder Jandoo, local business owner and Vice-Chair of the Gerrard India Bazaar Business Improvement Area (GIBBIA). Jandoo has owned a clothing business focused on traditional Indian clothing in what is now known as GIBBIA for the last 38 years. GIBBIA stretches along Gerrard Street East for about 7 blocks from Glenside Avenue to Coxwell Avenue. Jandoo described how GIBBIA is a destination for people of all ethnicities, not just south-east Asians. The annual Festival of South Asia, a full weekend festival which shuts down a portion of Gerrard Street East, is a testament to the GIBBIA’s reputation as a destination for many Torontonians across the Greater Toronto Area.
The evening concluded with an assortment of delicious pizza, delivered to Left Field from Big House Pizza located on the Danforth. Members left with a greater knowledge of beer brewing and why these breweries made the decision to call the east end home!