How do you preserve a neighbourhood that's unique but ever-changing?

That's the question the city will be tackling over the next year as it moves one step closer to designating Kensington Market a heritage site. 

Community members met Thursday night with city officials for the last in a series of consultations to discuss exactly that. And while the details have yet to be worked out, the city will be moving forward to nail down the specifics over the next 12 months.

"Developing a heritage district for Kensington that's classic Kensington ... will be a little chaotic," said Ward 20 Coun. Joe Cressy at the meeting, citing the area's inimitable cultural and physical heritage. 

'You have to recognize a place like that'

But, he added, "It's happening."

That's good news to Ossie Paval, who has run a coffee shop in the area since 1963.

"I think they should stop dragging their feet. They've been promising it for years. You show me another site that deserves it in Canada," he said

Kensington Market

The area, known for the technicolour artwork on its buildings' facades, fruit-vendor canopies spilling onto the sidewalk and the weird and wonderful spray-painted cars doubling as planters, is anything but static. (Shanifa Nasser/CBC)

"Which one has a bigger history of welcoming newcomers? There's more races that have been in this market, lived here, worked here, shopped here together than anywhere else in Ontario. But they've done it with harmony. You can't find that. You have to recognize a place like that."

Influx of bars into area threatens character, say some

Paval notes that in recent years more and more liquor licenses have been acquired in the area and he worries it's becoming less of a market, and more a bar strip.

"The entertainment is slowly choking this market to death ... If they don't do it, this market will cease to exist."

Kensington Market

This painted facade is a signature feature of many buildings in Toronto's Kensington Market. (Shanifa Nasser/CBC)

Alfonso Segovia, who runs a food court in the neighbourhood, agrees, adding doing nothing to preserve the area's character could mean losing it altogether. 

"Kensington Market's always been kind of a mom-and-pop business area ... If you have more expansion then I think you're going corporations are going to walk in and that's going to change the whole aspect of the market."

But the project isn't without its challenges, as Tammara Anson-Cartwright, program manager of Heritage Preservation Services, notes.

The area, known for the technicolour artwork on its buildings' facades, fruit-vendor canopies spilling onto the sidewalk and the weird and wonderful spray-painted cars doubling as planters, is anything but static.

'Layers of history'

"It needs to be dynamic, it needs to evolve but what do you keep that keeps the essence of the place at the same time?" Anson-Cartwright said of the challenge. "Do you preserve it as artwork in time or do you allow that use to continue?"

Tammara Anson-Cartwright

Tammara Anson-Cartwright, program manager of Heritage Preservation Services, says the project isn't without its challenges. (CBC)

Once a mostly Jewish area, many note its unique character has only been enriched by the influx of Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Caribbean and so many other cultures that have made Kensington their home.

"There are layers of history here and so what we are seeking to do as a city is not freeze Kensington Market in time but manage growth and change so that it retains that historic and heritage character that we all love."

Whatever the preservation plans entail, many, like Howayda Tanious agree Kensington cannot be lost.

"This is the heart of Toronto," she says. "So definitely we need to keep it."