The article series about the Beach contains an entire kaleidoscope of personalities and organizations that make up this great community. The following interview with Neil Macdonald, Chair of the Beach Business Improvement Area, is intended to provide you with a general overview of the area that touches on many different aspects of the community.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself. What connection do you have to the Beach? What is your role with the Beach Business Improvement Association?
My name is Neil Macdonald, and I am the Chair of the Beach Business Improvement Area (BIA) for two years. I have my own freelance business and marketing writing business, which I run out of my home. I have been living in the Beach for 15 years.
The Leuty Lifeguard Station
2. What is the mandate of the Beach Business Improvement Association? What areas does it cover? How is this organization funded?
The Beach BIA is an association of business people that have come together in order to improve business conditions along Queen Street East in the Beach, from Lockwood Avenue (three blocks west of Woodbine Avenue) to Neville Park Boulevard. Like any other BIA, we are working to make our area a more attractive place to work, visit, and do business. The City of Toronto, which supports our organization with various resources, collects a levy on our behalf from all commercial property owners within our district. They also provide matching funding for capital works projects.
Merchant on Queen Street
3. Please explain to us: is it “the Beaches” or “the Beach”? Some people might be confused.
There is no “official” designation, and there are plenty of historical precedents for using both terms. However, as you probably know, this can be a controversial topic. You may be aware of last year’s neighbourhood vote that we conducted to decide which name should be used – we received an amazing amount of media attention during this campaign. As part of our initiative to erect historically themed street signs along Queen Street to strengthen our district’s visual identity, we felt we should consult Beachers on the matter, rather than arbitrarily choose one name over the other. “The Beach” was the preferred choice, by a comfortable margin. However, by no means do we wish – nor would it be possible – to enforce the usage of this name. Call us what you will, just so long as you come on down to visit us!
Winter sunset on the Boardwalk
4. Please give us some general information about the Beach, its demographics, its residential architecture and other unique features. What makes the Beach such a special neighbourhood? Please also talk about some of the awards and special designations the Beach has earned.
Of course, the feature that most defines The Beach is the lake and its beaches. We are fortunate to be the only neighbourhood in Toronto that has preserved and enhanced its connection with the lake, and our lakefront, with the boardwalk and numerous recreational facilities, is the focal point of our neighbourhood. However, the beaches and boardwalk aren’t the only things that bring people to our area. Queen Street in the Beach is a thriving commercial strip, with unique stores and vibrant pubs and restaurants. Beachers are fiercely proud of their neighbourhood. There’s a real small-town feel to our community, with many grassroots organizations that have come together to strengthen our community through charitable, cultural, social, and recreational activities.
Beautiful residential buildings
Our residential architecture is typical of many inner-Toronto neighbourhoods. Most homes in the area were constructed in the early 20th century, though there are pockets of much more recent development. The area is densely developed – there’s the usual mixture of modest detached and semi-detached homes and low-rise apartment buildings, while some areas of the Beach feature larger, upscale homes. In the past couple of decades, the Beach’s desirability has made this one of the more expensive districts in Toronto to buy a house, where even one of those modest semi-detached homes will set you back a bit.
Bustling commercial activity