About the Market

Kensington Market has long been an important tourist, hangout, and shopping destination.  

Cherished by Torontonians and visitors alike, this thriving mixed commercial-residential neighbourhood is well known for its independent spirit, colourful shopfronts, vibrant murals, charismatic locals, family-friendly Pedestrian Sunday events, and over 240 unique and eclectic businesses.  

This richly multicultural, open-air marketplace meets all needs: fresh produce, cheese, meats, bread & deserts, bulk spices/nuts/sweets, flowers, restaurants, cafes, bars, live music, local fashion designers & acclaimed vintage clothing, art, music, bike & skate shops, electronicspet supplies, home-wares, and many specialty items from around the globe.

Early history

George Taylor Denison, after serving in the British militia during the War of 1812, purchased an area of land in 1815 from Queen Street West to Bloor Street, roughly between where Augusta and Lippincott Streets now run.

Denison used the area now known as Bellevue Square Park as a parade ground for his volunteer cavalry troop, which he commanded during the Upper Canada Rebellion. This troop later became the Governor General’s Horse Guards. The Denison estate was subdivided in the 1850s when houses were built on small plots for Irish and Scottish immigrant labourers coming to Toronto.

Many of these houses still stand today. These homes have been inhabited by many waves of immigrants in the decades that followed.

Housing found closer to the market area tend to feature retail at the front of the house.

The “Jewish Market”

During the early twentieth century, Kensington become populated by eastern European Jewish immigrants and some Italians, who were moving out of “The Ward”, an overcrowded immigrant-reception area between Yonge Street and University Avenue.

A cluster of densely packet homes and stores, Kensington Market was one of the city’s poorer, but always colourful, neighbourhoods.

From the beginning, the market sold items imported from the homelands of the various immigrant communities. It became known as “the Jewish Market”. Many Jewish merchants operated small shops, as tailors, furriers and bakers. Around 60,000 Jewish people lived in and around Kensington Market during the 1920s and 1930s, worshipping at over 30 local synagogues.

In the 1960s there were plans to tear down the densely packed small houses and replace them with large, apartment-style housing projects, as was done to neighbouring Alexandra Park.

These plans finally came to an end with the election of David Crombie as Mayor of Toronto. Crombie was strongly opposed to the massive urban restructuring plans that had been in vogue in previous decades.

Recent development

Today the neighbourhood is one of Toronto’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, a noted tourist attraction and a centre of Toronto’s cultural life.
In November, 2006, Kensington Market was proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada.

About the BIA

The Kensington Market Business Improvement Area (BIA) was formed in 2009 and represents over 240 businesses. Kensington Market is 1 of 73 BIA’s throughout Toronto and is the voice of our business community.

Although Kensington Market is a mixed-use community, the commercial portion of Kensington Market includes:

Augusta Ave. from Dundas St. to College St.
Nassau St. from Bellevue Ave. to Augusta Ave.
Baldwin St. from Spadina Ave. to Augusta Ave.
St. Andrews St. from Spadina Ave. to Kensington Ave.
Kensington Ave. from Baldwin St. to Dundas St.
College St. (S side – laneway E of Augusta, to laneway W of Augusta)
Bathurst St. (E side – Dundas St. to Nassau St.)

Kensington Market is easily accessed from all directions by foot, bike & public transit, and with ample local on-street and lot parking.

What is a BIA?

A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial property owners and tenants within a defined area who work in partnership with the City to create thriving, competitive, and safe business areas that attract shoppers, diners, tourists, and new businesses. By working collectively as a BIA, local businesses have the organizational and funding capacity to be catalysts for civic improvement, enhancing the quality of life of the local neighbourhood and the City as a whole.

Board of Management

The Kensington Market BIA is run by a volunteer Board of Management elected from its members (who either owns a commercial or industrial property or have a storefront within the BIA area).

The Board is nominated at an Annual General Meeting and, once approved by City Council, serves a four-year term concurrent with the term of Council. The Board works on behalf of its BIA members and meets regularly to develop budgets, set priorities, implement capital improvements, plan festivals, and promote its business area.

Board meetings generally take place the second Wednesday of each month at the Red Pepper Spectacle Arts office at 160 Baldwin St. Unit 10.
If you would like to attend one of these meetings please contact our Coordinator at kensingtonmarketinfo@gmail.com or check out our Minutes and Meeting pages for some basic information.

There are subcommittee meetings that meet for discussions/planning in greater detail than Board meeting time allows for. These subcommittees include Marketing, Street Events, Heritage, and Streetscaping/Masterplanning. 

Check out our Minutes and Meeting page for details or email our coordinator.

The BIA has a coordinator -- Cassandra Alves, who manages the day-to-day operations of the BIA.

2016-2018Board of Management

  • Gwen Bang, Lola, Chair
  • David Beaver, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky --  Secretary + Treasurer 
  • Martin Zimmerman, Zimmerman's FairlandVice Chair
  • Mike Layton, City Councillor  City of Toronto
  • Abi Hod, member, Hot Box, Roach-0-Rama
  • Cece Scriver, member, Courage My Love
  • Mike Shepherd, member, Big Fat Burrito
  • Anthony Aarts, member, Planet Traveller
  • Ryan Johnson, member, J Poison Records and Clothing