Update (September 5, 2017)
Re-Imagining Yonge, the City’s plan to reconstruct the badly aging stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues continues as a critical infrastructure project for our community. Over the spring and summer, John and his EA Markus O’Brien Fehr, participated in fireside chats with over a dozen local neighbourhoods and condominiums in small “fireside chat” formats, sharing information on the project and hearing a wide range of views and opinions. One thought that most residents share is that Yonge Street is in urgent need of a makeover.
John continues to believe strongly in the “mainstreet” approach, removing a lane used for cars in favour of wider walkways and community space to encourage walkability, community health and safety and adding aesthetic features including trees, plantings, public art and street furniture. This plan would improve desirability for the commercial office sector, bring in new foot traffic for local business and potentially outdoor patios for local cafes and restaurants.
Another important part of the plan is better connecting our local neighbourhoods to the city’s emerging cycling network. City staff have been working recently on an alternate vision for Yonge than the one that was preferred in the 2016 EA. The previous preferred design had grade separated cycletracks integrated into an expanded pedestrian space. The alternate plan will specifically look at cycling on Doris/Beecroft instead of Yonge with additional analysis of traffic impacts.
While John is supportive of looking at Doris/Beecroft as a cycling alternative, he is concerned that making this change could eliminate many of the other “mainstreet” upgrades that have been proposed.
City staff will be reporting their findings, and will be inviting local residents to share their views, at additional public consultation sessions this fall. If you’re concerned with the outcome, John encourages you to attend:
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 – 5 PM to 8 PM (drop in) North York Memorial Hall (5110 Yonge Street)
Staff are expected to bring a recommendation to Council in January 2018 for a final decision on the future of the project.
Update (May 12, 2017)
Re-Imagining Yonge, the revitalization of Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues took a big step forward this week after staff recommendations were adopted by the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC). The staff recommendations for the project, resulting from the public consultation process and Environmental Assessment conducted in 2016, include a full reconstruction of the Yonge roadway, widening of sidewalks for pedestrian use and outdoor patios and cafes, substantial improvements to trees, plantings and street furniture, inclusion of cycling facilities – including grade separated bike lanes, a reduction in lanes from 6 to 4 and traffic flow changes in the Yonge/Sheppard area to make the local road network more efficient.
Earlier this year, this plan was in jeopardy when Council voted to remove funding from the detailed planning work scheduled in 2017. The PWIC decision will allow planning to resume both for the staff recommended plan, as well as an alternative plan that would seek to maintain 6-lanes on Yonge Street and place bike lanes on Doris and/or Beecroft instead of Yonge. Both versions of this plan will come back to PWIC and City Council at 30% design completion, likely in late 2017, asking for a single option to be selected. Design work could then be completed in 2018 with construction beginning in late 2018. John was pleased that this decision both restored the staff’s previous timeline for completion and allows the City to use the $2-million of federal infrastructure money that had been committed to the design work this year.
Part of the PWIC decision also asks City staff to do another round of public consultation on the plan, with particular emphasis on connecting with local businesses. Details of any further consultations will be communicated as they become available.
Update (March 20, 2017)
The City of Toronto continues work on a project to transform Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch Avenues. Re-imagining Yonge would create wider boulevards for pedestrians and cafes, separated bike lanes and a reduction in lanes of traffic.
This plan, which would provide a much more interesting and people-friendly streetscape for the local community and area businesses, has been endorsed by the large number of local residents who participated in the various community consultation sessions. It has the support of Toronto’s Chief Planner, other senior city staff, and a large number of leaders and members of the environmental, cycling, pedestrian and city-building communities. John sees it as much-needed action to provide a character and connective tissue to what is otherwise just a collection of high-rises.
Much of the costs of the project will go towards the long-overdue reconstruction of Yonge Street itself and sidewalks in the area. Large areas of both are currently in extremely poor repair.
This year’s capital budget contained money for detailed design work, including $2 million in federal infrastructure funding. But an unexpected motion at Council sidelined the funding before the project could even be considered by Council. I’m hoping all that can be corrected at the April 12 Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and at the subsequent meeting of City Council meeting.
For those who wish to support the project, to learn more about it, or to comment on it, I have organized a community meeting on Wednesday, April 5 at 7 PM in the Council Chamber at the North York Civic Centre (5100 Yonge). I hope you will consider participating to learn more about this important project.
Meanwhile work to complete the Environmental Assessment continues and is nearing completion. Over the next six weeks residents may notice drilling rigs on Yonge street collecting samples of soil, asphalt and underground conditions. Some minor lane reductions may be necessary during off peak hours.
Update (February 20, 2016)
Re-imagining Yonge hit a roadblock last week in the form of an unexpected motion as it worked through the City’s budget process.
John is working towards getting the project back on track and will soon be hosting a community meeting to update residents.
Update (September 15, 2016)
Over the spring and summer hundreds of Willowdale area residents have offered their thoughts on “REimagine Yonge”, the Environmental Assessment currently being conducted by the City of Toronto looking at opportunities to improve the streetscape and public realm along Yonge Street from Sheppard Avenue to Finch Avenue.
Residents at the last public Open House on July 25 had the opportunity to offer their thoughts as the City focused its scope on an option that would “transform” the streetscape. Residents interested in viewing the panels from this open house can access them here.
The City is moving forward with selecting a preferred design option. Their recommendation will be presented at the final public Open House on Thursday, September 29 in the main foyer of the North York Civic Centre from 5 – 8 PM. Details will also be posted on the City’s project website.
In order to accelerate the detailed design work that will follow in 2017, the City is also preparing to undertake geotechnical investigations along the Yonge Street corridor to collect soil, asphalt and groundwater samples. The drilling of boreholes in various locations will require short term lane closures on Yonge Street during the month of September and into October. John has stressed with Transportation staff that these must be well coordinated and occur, as much as possible, outside of rush hours.
Update (June 15, 2016)
John has been pleased with the many conversations with residents through the City’s open house on May 25. The City will be taking back the feedback they have received at the open house and at design charrettes on June 9 and June 11.
Residents are invited to attend the next public Open House on Monday, July 25 from 5 PM to 8 PM at North York Memorial Hall (5110 Yonge Street). More information can also be found on the project’s website.
Update (May 18, 2016) – City Launches REimagining Yonge Street
The City has launched its consultation process titled “REimagining Yonge Street.” Through this process the City of Toronto will evaluate opportunities to improve the streetscape and public realm for all users (pedestrians, cyclists, transit and vehicles) along Yonge Street from Sheppard Avenue to the Finch Hydro Corridor. John believes that a significant investment from the City in this area can help create a more unifying hub in the centre of our community.
The first information night is scheduled for Wednesday, May 25 as a drop in from 5 PM to 8 PM at North York Memorial Hall (5110 Yonge Street). If you are unable to attend this Open House, you can still submit comments via email, mail, or phone until June 8, 2016 through the City’s project website.
Original Post (April 2016)
High density population hubs usually contain vibrant pedestrian environments featuring attractive streetscapes, great restaurants, an array of culture, and attractive retail stores. At the moment, apart from the subway system, the North York Centre has few of the positive traits normally associated with a large, concentrated, relatively-affluent population.
Traditionally, Yonge Street has acted as a large concrete divide between communities. We’d like to transform it into a focal point which brings neighbourhoods together. The street already has several landmarks which do that, such as Mel Lastman Square, the Rose Garden, Toronto Centre for the Arts, the North York Central Library, Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre and soon-to-be-added features including a St. Lawrence Market-style Marketplace on the west side of Yonge north of Park Home Ave. and an amazing Family Resource Centre in the Sheppard Centre.
Responding to John’s repeated requests, the City has begun studying how to make the North York Centre a more vibrant and appealing area both for residents and for business. We are looking at rebuilding and widening sidewalks, creating bike lanes, beautifying the streetscape and allowing more opportunities for outdoor cafes and other retail improvements.
This analysis, which involves several city departments, is being co-ordinated through the office of the Deputy City Manager. An Environmental Assessment, through which alternative designs are examined, has begun with a first community information night scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, May 25 (5-8 PM) at North York Memorial Hall (5110 Yonge Street). Detailed plans should be in place by sometime next year, with construction to begin in 2018.
John looks forward to hearing your thoughts as materials are presented.