Construction work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will begin in our area in the months just ahead of us. It will continue over the coming years, with a targeted completion date of 2020.
Although the Crosstown is a Metrolinx (Province of Ontario) project, it is being carried out in close cooperation with the City of Toronto.
Most significantly, the city planning division has embraced the opportunities created by the introduction of high-order transit to rethink the development potential of the Eglinton corridor along the full length of the new LRT line — all 19 kilometres, from Mount Dennis in the west to Kennedy Road in the east. The Metrolinx LRT project is called the “Crosstown”; the city’s urban renewal project is called “Eglinton Connects”.
The Eglinton Connects vision calls for Eglinton to become Toronto’s central east-west avenue — a green, beautiful, linear space that supports residential living, employment, retail and public uses in a setting of community vibrancy. Its goal is to balance all forms of mobility and connect neighbourhoods and natural valley systems to the larger city and the region.
The aims of the project have been honed at more than 60 public consultations over the past two years, including technical advisory meetings, open houses and public workshops. Some of those events have been convened in our area, most recently the open house that I held in Leaside on March 18.
The recommendations arising from the studies are expected to be released in the form of preliminary reports to city council committees this month. A final report is to be produced in June. What can we expect?
We already know that the recommendations will feature a host of public realm initiatives that will include the following:
[indent]• Connections: a diversity of means of making connections — including streets, lanes, cycling routes, walkways and passageways;
• Destinations: public gathering places and places of interest;
• Edges: features aimed at making the various elements “porous”, so that buildings and open spaces maximize the opportunities for interaction between activities inside and outside;
• Wider sidewalks;
• Protected bike lanes;
• Parking capacity to be maintained;
• Real street trees that will grow up to be big; not lollipops;
• Relocate hydro below grade;
• Street level retail;
• Public art;
• Rezoning to promote mid-rise development — not towers, but not undersized buildings, either;
• Rear laneways (to be created as properties are redeveloped);
• New developments that connect directly to transit.
[/indent]Certain focus areas will be singled out for particular attention. Two of these are in our neighbourhood: city planning staff are already getting ready to take a close look at the areas around Bayview and Laird, with a long-range vision in mind; this process will include consultations with our community well beyond the timelines for the reports described above.
How will all the changes be financed? Some (but not all that much) will be paid for out of the Crosstown project budget itself.
Some will be financed by charges imposed on property owners as development opportunities are pursued.
Some will simply be built into the conditions that will be brought to bear as construction permissions are granted.
I have invited the city’s chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, to come to Leaside Gardens arena on April 9 to discuss the new approach she has brought to the planning function at city hall.
Expect her to have something to say about the Eglinton Connects project and what it will mean for our community.
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