PARKDALE: Queen St. W. and O'Hara Ave., looking east, spring 2002.

look at both postcards at once

THERE USED TO BE MORE BANKS THAN CHURCHES IN PARKDALE. Today, there's a few less of the latter, but a lot less of the former. It's not unusual to find yourself buying your groceries or shopping for cheap notions in what was once an august banking establishment. Every spring, we buy plants for our deck from the store on the left, in the onetime Union Meat Market building that's lost its little peaked roof, and had its brickwork covered in the usual, depressingly popular pink and white stucco panelling.

The left side of Queen has remained almost intact, though, with the occasional unfortunate aluminum facade over the old bricks. The right, or south side, of the street has been utterly changed, and in spots quite decimated.

The Bank of Commerce, whose Greco-Roman pillars and pediments seemed as permanent as war, is long gone, in its place a Dollarama, which has a certain poetic symmetry, but nothing more. Further down the street the moderne police station is still there, but the police moved out years ago - ironically, just as crime in the neighbourhood was on the rise. Today, it's home to the B.I.A. and an artist's centre. The neighbourhood has reached that interesting stage where it hosts just a few more artists than criminals. It's all uphill from here, right?

Further along - don't worry, you can't see it, but it's there - is the local library, a mostly charmless brick-bunker-with-clerestory-windows next to a fountain that hasn't worked in years. A neighbourhood revitalization program is supposed to bring it alive again in the next couple of years.

The Dollarama is new, a welcome tenant where there was once the world's worst-run BiWay. In a neighbourhood like Parkdale, you take what you can get, since anything is better than vacant storefronts.