Toronto’s Miamification

Toronto is most often compared to New York though it has at least as much in common with less glamorous Great Lakes cities like Chicago. Toronto is also compared to London, Los Angeles (SoCal as a parallel for the GTA) and still other places (“Vienna surrounded by Pheonix” etc.).

But what about Toronto’s Miamification?

Toronto’s waterfront-condo skyline looks more like Miami’s than New York’s. The increasingly extreme contrast between Toronto’s ever taller, gleaming and prosperous waterfront strip and the stagnant and exploited areas of the inner suburbs is like Miami Beach vs. “the real Miami”.

Like Miami, Toronto is endlessly diverse but the diversity has certain polarities. Some groups are much more likely to be found in the city center and it’s high-status sites of social mixing. Toronto is only getting more diverse over time. This is handy in obscuring the steep verticality of its mosaic.

A preoccupation with elite mélange* as opposed to New York-style particularism or Canadian museum-multiculturalism is more like Miami. The old Toronto ethnic clichés are fading fast, what place do they have in the era of “Instagram face”?

Like in Miami, a balcony view including the waterfront is a status symbol and the resulting Instagram upload often includes a status-seeking someone in the foreground. In New York the skyline speaks for itself because it actually looks incredible, the ultimate Instagram-status.

Toronto’s development of a USA-style (now Canadian enough right?) underclass could equally be evidence of “Manhattanification” but the unaccounted for shock of this development has surely bypassed anything previously entertained.

Downtown Toronto’s strange, spotty, half-attempted purple-blue neon aesthetic (which, in fairness, makes sense as something to layer on top of Toronto’s varied greys for lack of any other good ideas) is Miami Vice.

Every summer the Toronto waterfront does its best Miami imitation. Queens Quay and Marine Parade Dr. stand in as Ocean Drive pantomimes. Toronto is home to a newly elevated boating trend at the level of youngish-culture (like almost everything else I’m talking about this is mocked in Toronto-memes: “If she posts this *picture of the front end of a small yacht* focus on yourself”).

The new conspicuous consumption that’s evident in Toronto is experienced alongside the new ambiance of crime. We’re a global headquarters for high level criminality, you can encounter “mob nights” fairly easily just walking around, we host global drug kingpins and untold money is laundered into Toronto.

A lot of this overall “vibe shift” has its material basis in the changed Toronto economy, including the run up in house prices and the low-key mania that has accompanied it. Some of the most incredible impacts of this and other related changes are psychological. And Miami just makes for a better fantasy than Toronto, doesn’t it?

*One prominent Toronto man remarking on local change referred to the “Toronto blend”.

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