Roncesvalles Village is located in west Toronto, just east of High Park. It has semi-formal boundaries due to local geography and urban features. Roncesvalles Village is bounded by High Park on the west, Lake Ontario/Queen Street to the south, Lansdowne/rail corridor to the east, and Bloor Street to the north. The neighbourhood is approximately 100 years old; many houses, churches and commercial buildings in this neighbourhood were built between 1909 and 1914. According to the 2006 census, Roncesvalles Village had a population of approximately 16,000. This has probably increased by about 1000 since then.
In my opinion, Roncesvalles Village is a perfect Jane Jacobs neighbourhood. It is a bit separated from the rest of the City, giving it a real village feel, but it is still very connected by transit to the rest of Toronto. It has an unusually high concentration of artists (double the city average). It also is blessed with nearby amenities (High Park, Sorauren Park, Lake Ontario/Sunnyside) and facilities such as the Revue Cinema, Hugh's Room, live music venues on Roncesvalles, and the High Park Club.
The deep interconnection between the small businesses on Roncesvalles and the surrounding community are exceptionally positive and create great synergies in the neighbourhood. This synergy has deep roots in the old Polish community on Roncesvalles and continues with the newer businesses on the street.
The community has always been activist and involved, also. Lacking a church of their own, the Polish community established St. Casimir's Church in the early 1950s. That community also established its own Credit Union and an old age home called Copernicus Lodge, all on Roncesvalles Avenue. Additionally, they erected the world's first monument commemorating the Katyn massacre of World War II in 1980 at the foot of Roncesvalles.
This community engagement continues. A community group called the Revue Film Society banded together to save our beloved local movie theatre in 2006. It has operated as a community-run not-for-profit cinema since late 2007. Another community group, the Build Wabash Society, is dedicated to creating a community centre in Sorauren Park, and many different collaborations exist between local businesses and local schools, sports teams and charities (such as an annual toy drive in support of our local women's shelter, the Redwood.)
In terms of community groups and organizations, the three residents associations: Roncesvalles-MacDonell Residents’ Association, High Park Residents’ Association and Sunnyside Community Association are active in the neighbourhood and collaborate with the Roncesvalles Village BIA, particularly in the formation of a group called Roncesvalles Renewed, which helped develop community priorities and assist designs for the reconstruction of Roncesvalles Avenue in 2009–2011.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA is a very active part of the community, supporting local groups and collaborating with small community festivals, events like Earth Hour and Jane's Walk, as well as engaging the community in BIA-operated events such as Roncy Rocks! and the Roncesvalles Polish Festival. Other significant local groups include the Roncesvalles Village Historical Society and Roncy Works, a local volunteer group dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of the main street.
While Roncesvalles Village has always been a great neighbourhood, much of what makes it great is not by design but rather an organic development. That having been said, the recent redesign of Roncesvalles was spearheaded by a group called Roncesvalles Renewed, comprising numerous community members and supported strongly by the Roncesvalles Village BIA and staff and politicians at City Hall. The redesign of Roncesvalles has been a tremendous success and incorporated the input of numerous local professionals who volunteered their time and expertise to develop designs for expanded pedestrian realms, new planting beds, and much much more.
In a recent issue of GridTO, Roncesvalles Village was called "the most perfect corner of Toronto we have left." Roncesvalles Village is a model of how different groups of people can come together to make a community work. It is diverse, safe, vibrant, artistic and I am proud to have called it home for nearly a quarter century.