TORONTO’S IMMATURITY COSTS US THE MAGIC OF THE MATADOR

You can’t put your arms around a memory, the song tells us, and this is true.

The Matador’s famed sign in 2002. Richard Lautens *p66 x / TORONTO STAR

You can’t put your arms around a memory, the song tells us, and this is true.

It’s still nice to have a keepsake in your possession, however. Something physical, something concrete. Something you can touch. A memento. The box in which those memories were gifted, as it were.

The Matador was — is, I should say, since it seems premature to pronounce the 103-year-old ballroom at 466 Dovercourt Rd. completely dead just yet — a catalytic “container” for the memories of countless Torontonians. Hazy memories, a lot of them, to be sure. But memories nonetheless. And those memories have value.

When it became common knowledge this past week that the Matador was sold last Saturday to a “private buyer” with connections to a prominent local condo-development company after a heroic, nine-year effort on the part of former owner Paul McCaughey to reopen the one-time Dovercourt Assembly Hall and First World War-era dance hall as a public venue of some sort, a lot of those Torontonians with fond memories of the place were understandably baffled, saddened and worried for its ultimate fate. We know what happens to sacred spaces in this city when they’re sold: they become condominiums or a drugstore. Or both.

Maybe the Matador will be fine. Maybe the new owner is a dreamer, too. I’d love to talk to him about his plans. But I know for a fact there’s an offer already in from someone on at least one other property along the adjacent block to the immediate south on College St., and when one takes into account the amount of real estate the Matador “footprint” occupies behind that strip — kitty-corner to the busy West End YMCA — it’s easy to make assumptions. And if it goes the way everyone assumes it will and the Matador and everything around it are subsumed two or three or four years from now into a stylish and shapely new four- or five-storey luxury condo, that’ll be a bummer. That’ll be the city of Toronto’s failure.

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