Little Portugal Toronto
Business Improvement Area
Dundas St. West, from Trinity-Bellwoods Park to Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto
By showing what we are we project a better image than if we tried to… fabricate a more encompassing image. But that wouldn’t have the particular character of this area – Hélder Ramos.
Since 2006, the Little Portugal BIAs has been responsible for the beautification and marketing of this West downtown neighbourhood, which in the 1970s-2010s had one of the highest concentrations of Portuguese immigrants in Canada. Besides contributing to the gentrification and subsequent exodus of Portuguese businesses, this BIA has been committed to celebrating the Portuguese heritage of this popular neighbourhood.
Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are a civic invention of the City of Toronto that has been exported to other parts of the world. These are local, autonomous, decision-making committees made up of commercial real estate owners, shopkeepers, and service providers in a designated area of the city. BIAs receive property tax funds collected by the City, which they use for beautifying public space and marketing the neighbourhoods’ commercial offerings. Since they emerged in the 1970s, Toronto’s BIAs have “revitalized” several of the city’s working-class neighbourhoods. At the same, they have accelerated gentrification, followed by the exodus of former residents and the subsequent change in the neighbourhood’s socioeconomic and cultural character. This was the case with Little Portugal, which spans along Dundas Street West from Trinity-Bellwoods Park to Lansdowne Avenue, an area in West downtown Toronto with the largest concentration of Portuguese immigrants in Canada in the 1970s-2010s.
In 2006 and 2007, two BIAs were founded on this strip, the Dundas West and Little Portugal, which have since merged under the name Little Portugal Toronto. In the early 21st century, many of the longstanding Portuguese-owned businesses and service providers started being replaced by non-Portuguese establishments (i.e., cafés, bars, restaurants, boutiques, galleries, barbers, tattoo parlours, etc.) catering to younger, sophisticated, and hip patrons that settled in the neighbourhood in large numbers; especially since the construction of mid-rise apartment buildings along Dundas and Ossginton Avenue.
The Little Portugal Toronto BIA has tried to maintain the Portuguese character of the neighbourhood to distinguish it from other popular neighbourhoods in the city. This has largely been done through street art, including a large Portuguese rooster sculpture donated by the city of Barcelos, unveiled in 2021; and a series of murals depicting Amália Rodrigues, a fisherman from Nazaré, and the Cleaner’s Action – the latter done by the renowned Portuguese street artist Vhils, unveiled in 2021. Older and newer Portuguese businesses and service providers like Pimentel Photo Studio, Nova Era Bakery, Saudade, West Neighbourhood House, among others, continue to offer products and programs reflecting the cultural heritage of this immigrant community. The annual street festival Do West Fest (formerly Dundas West Fest), founded in 2013, which typically runs on the first weekend of June also features Portuguese businesses, exhibitions, and entertainment. Although not formally associated with the BIA, the annual Portugal Day parade also continues to celebrate the longstanding presence of the Portuguese in this neighbourhood.
Hora dos Portugueses
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