Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood in Downtown Toronto. The Market is an older neighbourhood and one of the city's most well-known. In November 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Robert Fulford wrote in 1999 that "Kensington today is as much a legend as a district. The (partly) outdoor market has probably been photographed more often than any other site in Toronto."
Its approximate borders are College St. on the north, Spadina Ave. on the east, Dundas St. W. to the south, and Bellevue Ave. to the west. Most of the neighbourhood's eclectic shops, cafes, and other attractions are located along Augusta Ave. and neighbouring Nassau St., Baldwin St., and Kensington Ave.
The market resisted the recession of the 1980s partially thanks to a floating population of students attending George Brown College, which was situated where the Kensington Lofts are today. George Brown College sold the property in the mid 1990s and without the extra student traffic, many stores were victims of the recession of the mid to late 90s. In addition, many Portuguese store owners were by that time too old to continue working their small shops, which led to abundant vacancy, and invited a new wave of immigrant entrepreneurs. Businesses like La Perola, El Emporio Latino and El Buen Precio took advantage of the growing wave of Latin American immigrants, and opened the door to offering ethnic street foods. Jumbo Empanadas was one of the first ones to spice up the flavors of the market from a cart; later moved into a basement close to Nassau, and then to its current location. All other Latin shops started selling their Pupusas, and by 2000, a young couple of entrepreneurs opened the first taqueria in Canada, calling it "El Trompo". All this movement lead to a rebirth of Augusta Ave. However, there were seedy spots whose patrons scared away the fiercest yuppies. A Nike store tried to open up in the market and the community rejected it very strongly by dumping dozens of running shoes splattered with red paint in protest for the treatment Nike's workers receive around the world. Eventually such businesses (both too seedy and too mainstream) transformed or moved out. The Nike store was a tremendous corporate failure. Today the neighbourhood is a noted tourist attraction, and a centre of Toronto's cultural life as artists and writers moved into the area. Land prices in the area have increased sharply, but despite its increased appeal to professionals, Kensington still remains a predominantly working class, immigrant community.
In November, 2006, Kensington Market was proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada.
The area is filled with a mix of food stores selling an immense variety of meats, fish and produce. There are also several bakeries, spice and dry goods stores, and cheese shops. Stores sell a wide variety of new and used clothing, and there are discount and surplus stores. It is also home to many restaurants covering a wide variety of styles and ethnicities. A unique architectural feature of the neighbourhood is the presence of extensions built onto the front of many buildings (which would be against by-laws in other places).
In recent years, the neighbourhood has seen a small explosion of upscale cafés, restaurants and clubs, replacing many of the older ethnic businesses. There has been much speculation that Kensington's long history as an immigrant working class neighbourhood is near its end.