One topic of discussion that never goes away is what the heck is the city doing with the vacant public land on the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton? The old TTC bus station — unused for years, dangerous to trespassers, the ultimate eyesore — shows no signs of betterment. Possibly no other place in the city needs to be redeveloped more than the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton. Unfortunately, it is a good example of an unfocused, undisciplined and overwhelmed city government.
The construction on the underground Eglinton Crosstown transit line is about to start and this particular property is not in the discussion enough. Ideally, the substructure for the new transit line would be built at the same time as the substructure for the new bus station. Ideally, any other underground structures like parking garages or retail concourses would be built simultaneously. If this major construction project is not managed properly by the city, we will miss out because the right people are not thinking ahead.
Since 2009, after years of dialogue with the local community, the stage has been set for this property to be redeveloped. All the specific city planning rules were put in place: the new zoning bylaw for the southwest corner prescribes how tall and how dense a new building can be and how it transitions into the surrounding neighbourhoods; the new official plan directs the type of new building(s) and comments on what the design elements should be; and the TTC’s plan directs the building of the new, subsurface bus station that is required. Lastly, the whole parcel of land was transferred to the city’s redevelopment corporation, Build Toronto, to make something happen.
Build Toronto has the task of redeveloping this property and many other public properties across the city. This public corporation is charged with commercializing some key city real estate. In essence, it is the city’s developer. It can sell or lease property and enter into a joint venture with a private developer to develop the property. City council gives direction to Build Toronto depending on whether the city wants to keep the land for future generations or if it wants to make a quick buck and sell off the land now. In most cases, at least in the past, the concept was to keep the land in the city’s control by leasing it to another developer or doing a joint venture. There is plenty of reason to do a joint venture especially on such a prime piece of real estate.
Build Toronto has been in control of this public land since mid-2009. What is it waiting for? Alarmingly, there is no mention about this property on Build Toronto’s website to invite partners. Further, there is no up-to-date info on the city’s website either for this property — there’s not even up-to-date info for the Crosstown transit line project. I can only hope that the next 10 years for this property will not be like the last 10.
I’m not holding my breath.
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