About Us

About the Palmerston Area Residents Association:

Overview of PARA

Palmerston Blvd street lights

The Saga of the Aftermath Cafe

In Memoriam – Allan Reynolds

The Palmerston Area Residents Association (PARA) is a volunteer organization of residents committed to strengthening and preserving the stability, distinctive character and quality of life in the Toronto neighbourhood bounded by Bloor and Bathurst, College and Clinton Streets.

Neighbourhoods are what make this city great. We must value what is distinct about our neighbourhoods, recognize that which has value beyond its cost. There is no reason, for instance, that we should not preserve the century-old, cast-iron street lamps on Palmerston Boulevard — those lamps are about the history of this city, they are about beauty in public spaces. The passion with which the residents of the Palmerston neighbourhood defended the original lamps is an example of the powerful, physical connection we feel to our neighbourhoods.

–Mayor David Miller, Inaugural address, December 2, 2003

PARA came to life close to thirty years ago as the Markham Street Residents Association when local residents became concerned about the impact of a decision by the City to reverse the traffic flow on Markham St. Over time, the Association took on a broader range of issues and extended its range as far west as Clinton Street.

PARA has been involved in a number of activities over the years to promote the quality of life in the neighbourhood. These have included:

  • Intervening in applications to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (ACGO) for liquor and outdoor patio licences from bars and restaurants on College Street. A College St Committee has been formed to focus on issues related to the quality of commercial life on the street.
  • Getting involved in planning issues around zoning changes and Committee of Adjustment applications.
  • Lobbying for restoration of the once-threatened historic street lamps on Palmerston Boulevard.
  • Opposing liquor licences for taverns on Harbord St near Harbord Collegiate.
  • Providing an annual bursary to a student at Harbord Collegiate Institute.
  • Organizing a summer picnic in Healey Willan Park.
  • Organizing a neighbourhood clean-up as part of the Mayor’s Community Clean-up initiative.
  • Distributing periodic newsletters to keep residents informed.
  • Launching a new information website.

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Palmerston Blvd street light


Palmerston Blvd Street light


One of the defining moments for PARA was the fight to preserve the famous and well-loved street lights on Palmerston Boulevard, probably our area’s single most distinctive feature. The single pole-top lamps, or “light pillars,” consist of upright standards of decorative cast iron (cast in a foundry at the foot of Church Street) and smooth glass globes. The lights were installed during the construction of homes on Palmerston Boulevard, 1905 to 1910, and are a classic element of the Edwardian aesthetic.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, lights in the same or a similar style were installed on some of the nicer streets throughout North America. Within the last ten years, other instances of this model of lights in Toronto — on Chestnut Park in Rosedale, Ardwold Gate near Casa Loma and in Allen Gardens — have mostly been removed by the city and destroyed. Palmerston Boulevard’s 64 lights are the largest group of original lights in Canada from this time that maintain their original integrity. We came within a hair of losing them.

Despite the lights’ being registered on the Toronto Historical Board Inventory of Heritage Properties in 1973 to guarantee their survival, the city announced in November 2003 that the Palmerston lights would be removed, scrapped and replaced with aluminum models, very dissimilar to the originals. This scheme made no attempt to match the Edwardian aesthetic of the existing lights, obey the directive of the 1973 City Council or respect the wishes of residents. The argument by the city was that the historic lights “did not meet lighting standards” and that maintenance of the existing lights could possibly be costly.

Two PARA members, Johnny Lucas and Neil Wright, were outraged and canvassed the neighbourhood to determine the opinions of residents. People in the area made it clear that they too wanted their lights to stay, as did a very large number of non-residents.

Using the skills from their own “daytime jobs,” PARA members engineered a media blitz timed to fill that void in municipal news between the elections and the swearing in of a new mayor and council. All Toronto papers, radio, local and even national TV news picked up the story. The new mayor, David Miller, raised the banner as well and cited the battle to save the street lights in his first inaugural speech.

But this was not the end of the fight. City staff took council’s resolution as instructions to merely preserve the wrought iron bases and announced that new globes would be more than double the original size — the brightness a blinding three or four times as much as the Edwardian planners anticipated — and that each light standard would be removed and reinstalled in a different location.

Due to the continued vigilance, exceptional stamina and general pigheadedness of a few PARA members, the wishes of residents, rather than city staff, prevailed. Eventually, and after a several false starts, the wrought iron lamp posts were removed, sandblasted, repainted, rewired and reinstalled in their original locations. Residents cheerfully put up with the mess on their front lawns knowing it was for a good purpose. Some even redesigned their landscaping when asked so that the bases of the lights would not be buried. The new globes are the size of the originals (two inches smaller than the ones that had been in use over the past 50 years).

One by one, in the early winter of 2005, the Palmerston streetlights were lit up. Work was complete by December 31, 2005, and PARA was finally able to celebrate one of its proudest success stories.
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Flash back to the spring of 2006. Aftermath Café, which was on the southwest corner of Harbord and Manning Streets, applied to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for a liquor licence. Located across the street from Harbord Collegiate Institute and in near proximity to two other high schools, these premises with a liquor licence was unthinkable. Uncaring, the owner pushed hard. As it had done on three previous occasions, PARA got involved in tandem with the high school and Councillor Joe Pantalone. Meeting frequently with officials and taking the case to the media, this coalition was instrumental in preventing alcohol from reaching the shelves of this business. But this victory wasn’t the first fight to protect the neighborhood.

In 1992, under the name Twins, the owner had applied for a liquor licence, but withdrew after PARA spearheaded a campaign of community protest. Not to be deterred, a different owner at Mimmo’s, a café across Harbord St on the northwest corner, then applied for a liquor licence. But this time it went to hearing before AGCO, where it finally lost in the face of public objections led by PARA. Then in 1998, Twins applied again; an AGCO hearing was held at PARA’s insistence. AGCO decided that it was not in the public interest to grant a liquor licence to this location, primarily because of its nearby school neighbors.

PARA keeps a close eye on this history-laden intersection, as it does on the College St. stretch.
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In Memoriam

Allan Reynolds

May 29, 1947 – January 15, 2013


Speeches from Allan’s family at the lane naming ceremony:


Tribute from the PARA Executive

“He always made time.”

The board members of the Palmerston Area Residents’ Association (PARA) are deeply saddened by the passing of Allan Reynolds, the tireless chair of the board for the last four years, who died suddenly at his home on Euclid Ave on Tuesday evening, January 15.

Allan Reynolds was a kind, generous and sociable man who spent countless hours working on behalf of the residents of the Palmerston-Little Italy area. Much of this work was thankless and invisible to many, even to people on the board. He represented the interests of area residents on many community issues and helped to develop workable solutions to conflicts big and small. He exuded genuine warmth and was a natural conciliator.

City Councillor Mike Layton recounts how, after a trying day at city hall when nothing seemed to be going right, he went to an evening community meeting feeling at a very low ebb. He ran into Allan and engaged him in chat. Allan listened attentively to the Councillor’s woes and offered quiet sound advice which defused Layton’s frustrations and allowed him to function well for the rest of the meeting. Allen’s ability to genuinely listen was one of the secrets to his effectiveness.

“Allan was very good at bringing people together and finding common ground, “ observes Angela Surdi, who worked frequently with him in her role as constituency assistant for Councillor Layton. In a number of situations which roused the ire of residents in the area — such as the licensing of Ici Bistro on Harbord, the noisy Fringe Festival street parties in Honest Ed’s parking lot, the loud fundraising events at CSI, and the big box store development on Bathurst St south of College — Allan helped to craft sensible solutions which made all sides of the issues feel they had been heard.

This conciliation work required attendance at many long evening meetings; never once did Allan lose patience with the process. Allan could be counted on to quickly respond to emails, day or night. He was gracious in all situations and went out of his way to thank others and give credit when it was due.

As Surdi observes in a comment that could be Allen’s life motto: “He always made time.”

The untimely passing of Allan Reynolds is a huge loss to PARA and, the Palmerston-Little Italy area and the PARA board echoes Angela Surdi’s heartfelt assessment: “There was no one who was so committed to bettering his community.”

The board of PARA extends our sincere condolences to Allan’s family, wife Joan and sons Christopher and Andrew.

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