Community has say in building livable Yonge-Eglinton

On June 3, I attended the Midtown in Focus public workshops at North Toronto Collegiate Institute.

The City of Toronto’s purpose for the meeting was to get feedback on issues such as parkland and public realm strategies, preservation of Yonge-Eglinton’s cultural heritage, infrastructure, municipal services, transportation, affordable childcare and youth services, water needs, and location of future development in the area.

The event was well-attended, with representatives from the city, local BIAs, residents’ associations, the Midtown Planning Group, local condo board members, the Midtown Hub Group, Cycle Toronto Midtown, Walk Toronto and Heritage Preservation Services.

The Midtown in Focus study was adopted by City Council in 2014, with a view to improving the area to make it safe, attractive and more livable and workable as Midtown grows over the next several years, and is helping to assess and make recommendations for upgrades and improvement to promote future growth in the area. 

Paul Farish, a senior planner with the city, said, “Midtown has it all” and is a “very valued, very special neighbourhood”.

There is a reason people want to live, work and invest here, and that the City is working to sustain the quality of the community, he said.

Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, who initiated Midtown in Focus with former Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz, said, “I believe that infrastructure, along with social services, needs to keep up with the pace of growth in the Yonge-Eglinton community.”

Matlow told the group at the open house that development should be a contributing factor but that there needs to be a “real focus on quality of life in our community,” and that “the focus should be on people, not condo development!”

After the initial presentation, everyone was invited to attend workshops, giving them the opportunity to participate in group discussions and have their say on what is most important to them in their neighbourhood.

Some of the things that were reported as most crucial to local residents building height restrictions, wider sidewalks where appropriate, apartment building set-backs to provide green space and open spaces between buildings. The consensus was that Yonge Street needs deeper buildings rather than taller ones in order not to cast more shadows.

Some were opposed to aligning offset intersections, despite Paul Farish saying it would help eliminate confusing traffic lights, such as where Soudan and Roehampton meet Yonge, and would allow for more bike lanes and resting spots.

Many would like to see less street parking but more parking lots, such as on Dunfield south of Eglinton, as well as more signage near some traffic lights and intersections.

A few participants wanted more patios and outdoor seating, provided that it does not interfere with pedestrian traffic, and it was also important to them that the cultural history of the neighbourhood be preserved.

Midtown council called for

Uses for the former bus barns at the Eglinton station were also discussed, with proposals to add green space.

Ward 25 councillor Jaye Robinson said, there should be a Midtown council and argued for a downtown relief line as “critical to this community.”

André Le Roux from the Sherwood Park Residents’ Association has been involved in the Midtown in Focus project since its inception. He said it is important that future condominium and large building tower projects in the neighbourhood have the ground floor available to the public.

Others echoed the sentiment that they would like to see varied stores and commercial space at the bottom levels of buildings. It was agreed the neighbourhood does not need another mall, already having the Yonge-Eglinton Centre.

Although some mixed feelings were expressed during the workshops, overall, residents and representatives were happy the “city has finally got it.”

Feedback from the  meeting will be considered when the plan for midtown goes to council late this year. In summer the city will be holding several consultation events.

You can help shape the future of the city’s mobility strategy for Midtown. Take five minutes to complete the Midtown Travel Survey.