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The Junction's getting trendy

Rapid social change has made The Junction one of the trendiest neighbourhoods for homebuyers and a lucrative launch point for small business.

The west-end neighbourhood, that gains its name from the four railway lines that converge at its centre, was once a much darker place than the clean and trendy place it is today.

Alcohol was prohibited in The Junction for much of its life and when the dry laws were repealed in the late 1990s, the Axis Gallery and Grill (3048 Dundas St. W.) was the first bar to serve liquor in the area. When Axis owner Roger Bu took over the establishment in 2004, The Junction was unrecognizably different from today.

"When I started, I used to see hookers on the street. Now it's much, much cleaner here. The neighbourhood is very peaceful, with no violence. Now young professionals are moving into this neighbourhood because the property is still cheap compared to High Park and people see this as an up-and-coming area," Bu said.

The arrival of the middle class into The Junction has meant more business and more competition but Bu says the overall effect can only be positive for owners like him.

"Even with all the new places opening up, every year I still see my numbers going up. When an area gets matured, it's good for everybody," Bu said.

At Indian restaurant Curry Twist (3034 Dundas St. W.), owner Anant Singh says the best sign of change in the neighbourhood has been the growth of young families who now comprise the majority of foot traffic. While Toronto is often known for its small, self-contained cultural pockets, The Junction has become very much a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds and Singh hopes the trend will continue.

"You see a lot of young couples in this area, it shows the neighbourhood has life to it. It's very mixed here and I'd like to see The Junction develop more and be an example for the rest of Toronto of how to raise a community," Singh said.

The increased competition has been a challenge but also a boon and Singh hopes The Junction can serve as a blue-print for how to create a truly mixed community in Toronto.

"The last two years have really seen big changes with lots of trendy new businesses opening up. The competition is more challenging for sure — there are four Indian restaurants in this stretch alone — but the rents are reasonable and there's a good cross-section of society here," Singh said.

At organic grocery market The Sweet Potato (2995 Dundas St. W.), owner Digs Dorfman saw the growing viability of The Junction two years ago when he opened and says the local clientele has been very supportive.

"I feel there's a stronger set of community values here than anywhere else in the city. I'm probably on a first-name basis with at least 100 customers. We've been busy right from the start and that's been due to the support of the community here," Dorfman said.

At Forever Interiors (2903 Dundas St. W.) where owner Martin Scott builds gorgeous high-quality furniture out of reclaimed wood, clientele have almost exclusively been professionals aged 27-45, a demographic he says all owners in The Junction are working hard to capitalize on.

"We've seen a better selection of stores come in that are better suited to the middle-income, professional demographics of the area. There are 23,000 houses in the area and we're all working on getting them here."

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