Planning group looks to head off overcrowding

With more and more condominium towers going up in midtown Toronto, it can be expected that sidewalks will become a little more crowded, park benches more full, and free space ever more sparse. But the newly formed Midtown Planning Group is looking for ways to ease that congestion.

The group is studying how the public realm is planned in the Yonge and Eglinton area, which some estimates suggest an additional 20,000 people will call home over the next 15 years.

“We’re looking at ways to create breathing room in a neighbourhood that’s facing enormous development pressure,” says Ward 22 councillor Josh Matlow, who initiated the group and, along with fellow midtown councillors Jaye Robinson and Karen Stintz, brought it to city council.

Councillor Matlow said the group wants to ensure new developments don’t simply serve the interests of the developer but fit into a plan that contributes to the neighbourhood.

The group is studying ways to improve Eglinton Park, and to make narrow sidewalks more accessible, as well as planning future
public spaces.

The community doesn’t want to be always on the defensive when developers come forward with proposals, Matlow says.

“We want to have a clear vision of what we expect as a community,” he said. “That way, residents are part of writing the narrative, rather than always having to respond to developers’ interests.”

Roehampton Avenue resident Terry Mills, himself a 20-year architect and planner, says the Midtown Planning Group is doing a
good job. But he has some ideas of his own, particularly in regards to the cluster on Helendale Avenue, which connects to the west side of Yonge Street just north of Eglinton Avenue.

“Everything from the library up to Yonge on Helendale is made up of three development projects, so I’m trying to look at how
to combine the ground floor of all three with the idea that Helendale, which doesn’t have a lot of traffic on it … can be closed permanently for a pedestrian landscaped area,” he said.

Mills says it would then be ideal to build a lane just west of Yonge Street that runs north-south between Montgomery Avenue and Orchard View Boulevard to redirect retail-oriented traffic away from Duplex Avenue and the residential area immediately to the west. Developers could allow for the first floor of underground parking to be sold off as a paid public parking area for shoppers driving into the area.

The closed portion of Helendale Avenue at the ground level would be similar to the farmer’s market seen in the summer one
street south, on Orchard View Boulevard, Mills said.

“It’s basically a pedestrian space that can handle fire trucks, ambulance and police cars if necessary,” he said. “But it’s not open to general vehicular use.”

The Midtown Planning Group, a City of Toronto initiative, was started with the intention of being only a study, but Matlow says he wants to keep the group going.

“I intend to continue bringing everybody to the same table on a regular basis, because we work better as a community when residents are at the table,” he said.

About this article:

By: Shawn Star
Posted: Nov 5 2013 1:37 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto