Residents, developers, the province and the TTC have been hungrily eyeing the old bus depot on the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton for a decade.
The barren and unused lot is in the middle of one of the city’s major centres — some would say soon to be second only to Bloor and Yonge in importance and scale — but those looking to see a change here are going to have to wait longer still.
“It will be at least another year before we get it thought through to the point that we’re ready to consider transferring it,” said Lorne Braithwaite, CEO of Build Toronto.
The site has been identified as a key priority for the city’s arms-length development group, charged with monetizing underused municipal property. The group will take ownership of whatever portion of it remains once the TTC finalizes its plans for a new station to cater to the future Eglinton Crosstown line.
The mayor and Build Toronto have touted the space as being a crown jewel property, the kind of thing that could both stimulate the hub at Yonge and Eglinton and put a formidable amount of money into city coffers.
“It’s one of the premier sites certainly in Canada and maybe even in North America,” Braithwaite said.
But residents here have told the mayor and Build Toronto to take a cold shower.
A balance must be found, they’ve argued, between intensifying the hub and over saturating an area surrounded by low-density residential neighbourhoods.
Councillor Michael Walker has been leading that charge and called Braithwaite’s prediction that it will take a year before anything moves on the site “very optimistic.”
“Until the TTC’s needs are met we can’t even proceed to the next stage of putting (the TTC lands) out to market to some third party for development. That, quite frankly, in my opinion, is two to three years away,” Walker said, adding the character of that development will be tightly restricted.
In 2002, the councillor formed the Yonge and Eglinton Focus Review Working Group, which included input from planners and community leaders, to look at what should become of the intersection. Some of the results of studies and discussions conducted by that group made it into law in February 2009.
“I put a cap on of 40 storeys, over the violent objections of the mayor. (He) was successful in preventing me from doing it in the new Official Plan so I did it in the transfer documents. I put a strata agreement in it,” Walker said.
Walker, who is set to retire in October, has had a long history with this space and recalled similar development stories in past decades.
“Back in 1990, the TTC was trying to flog things,” he said. “Myself and councillor Kay Gardner dragged it into the long grass.”
It was then that Walker first started haggling over zoning and height restrictions for the corner.
“We never got past that. It got slowed down and then the 1990–1991 recession took hold and everybody walked away,” he said.
The longtime councillor admitted that despite his efforts to cap and control development here, he’s saddened to be leaving office without seeing any major changes to such a valuable and important space.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get this process started during my term but we’ll have a successor. We also have brilliant people in the community who will offer input. On the basis of my experience with city planners and these brainstorming sessions we’ve had about the future, I think we’re going to have a real synergy that takes place.
“I think we’re going to have real progress and come forward with that shining city centre on the hill at Yonge and Eglinton.”
Ward 22 candidates weigh in
“What is your vision for the future of the TTC lands and the hub as a whole?”
“We need another hub for the midtown area. If it were properly planned it would include transit, pedestrians and cycling. It (also) needs green space, trees, foliage and grass. If we were to develop this space I would want it to include a public space that the whole community could use.”
– William Molls
“I don’t want to design buildings for them, it’s not my role, but whatever it would be would have to compliment the neighbourhood rather than impose upon it. I’d strive to arrive at a memorandum of understanding between the city and the local residents.”
– Josh Matlow
“We need at-grade space. We need something you can see from the intersection that gives us a meeting place, a place to eat your lunch and a place for the throngs of people that are going to be using the new subway on Eglinton. This is the geographical centre of the city and we need open space.”
– Chris Sellors
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