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Zelda’s move shows village gentrification

After nine years on the main strip of Toronto’s gay village, Zelda’srestaurant shut its doors on Sept. 27 without a word of warning.


Overnight, Church Street changed.


After nine years on the main strip of Toronto’s gay village, Zelda’s restaurant shut its doors on Sept. 27 without a word of warning.

From 2 a.m. until dawn, owner Michael Swann and his staff filled a moving van with kitchen appliances, dishes and bottles of alcohol.

Swann says the quick move was because a bigger, cheaper place became available on Yonge Street. With the lease on his Church location up for renewal, he says his landlord wanted to raise the rent from $27,000 to $35,000 a month.

Gentrification is a flashpoint in any city, but in the Church-Wellesley village, the exodus of old inhabitants in recent years has political undertones.

Historically, the neighbourhood has been a place of comfort for those whose sexuality once made them societal outcasts, but in 2009, the very concept of a gay village is in transition.

Rapidly rising housing prices means Church-Wellesley is hardly the “ghetto” it was in the years before same-sex marriage and other such family law victories. And for the young people who could be the neighbourhood’s future, the labels “gay” and “lesbian” are just a starting point for self-discovery.

“I prefer no identification, but the easiest way is to say pansexual and trans,” says Teal Jaques, 20, who is considering making a physical transition from being a biological male.

 
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