The City is holding some last-chance public consultations on Eglinton Avenue's post-LRT future.
Scene: 5 p.m. on a sunny afternoon in the future. It’s time to wind up the workday at one of the firms calling the city’s latest “innovation cluster” home. After a short stretch in a park that used to be a Walmart, you wander to the neighbourhood’s main drag to run a few pre-dinner errands. You marvel at the streetscape before you: tall trees, mid-rise developments, wide sidewalks, and commuters whizzing by in the bike lane. Out in the middle of the road, an LRT glides by on a vegetation-filled track bed. To think this humming, green streetscape along Eglinton Avenue was once Scarborough’s grey “Golden Mile” of industry…
This scenario could come true if the long-term visions in the City’s Eglinton Connects planning study are implemented. Over the past year, the project has looked at landscape and infrastructure improvements to Eglinton Avenue to complement the Crosstown LRT, which is scheduled for completion in 2020. Officials involved in the project foresee Toronto’s “centre of gravity” moving north when the transit line is finished.
A final round of consultations on Eglinton Avenue’s future will include three public sessions, the first of which occurred at George Harvey Collegiate Institute, near Keele Street and Eglinton Avenue, Monday night. Attendees browsed a 40-foot-long map, which included the Eglinton Connects recommendations for reconfiguring Eglinton between Jane Street and Kennedy Road. A prominent feature was a bicycle lane running mostly at sidewalk level along the entire stretch, giving cyclists a straight route across the city. Sticky notes were provided, so people could place their concerns on the map. Those concerns ranged from fears about developers sneaking in too-tall buildings, to commentaries about the unused TTC property at Eglinton subway station. The map is expected to be posted online shortly.
The Eglinton Connects plan’s 20 recommendations were organized under three themes:
Building Eglinton: Rezone properties to allow construction of mid-rise buildings along most of the corridor, with high-rises permitted at major hubs and intersections. Entrances to underground LRT stations should be integrated into neighbourhood-appropriate developments above them. More rear laneways and landscaped areas should be built to ease the transition from taller buildings to existing residential areas. Create more public spaces like parks and plazas. Recognize heritage properties with conservation districts.
Greening Eglinton: Green up the corridor by planting large trees along the street to grow a shady canopy. Provide better links to existing recreational trails and the city’s ravines. On the surface portions of the LRT, plant vegetation along the tracks.
Travelling Eglinton: This is based on the “complete streets” theory, which calls for planners to provide enough room for cars, bicycles, transit, and pedestrians. Dedicated bus lanes would be removed, travel lanes realigned, and current on-street parking levels retained. Wider sidewalks and protected cycling lanes would be built. In neighbourhoods designated as “Main Street Character Areas,” streetscape elements could include street furniture, patios, and gateway markers.
The study also includes six focus areas where the changes would ideally be more radical. Current big-box retail areas like Westside Mall and the Golden Mile would, City planners hope, be replaced by new developments made up of commercial, recreational, and residential properties. Smaller sites, like the Metro supermarket at Bayview and Eglinton avenues, could be chopped up with new streets, assuming the owners of the properties could somehow be brought on board.
Before and after a one-hour presentation, attendees at Monday’s consultation were free to quiz City and project officials. There was a brief general Q&A session, where concerns raised ranged from questions about funding sources, to whether the proposed 90-centimetre buffer between the street and the bike lane would be sufficient for piling snow during winter clearing.
There are two more sessions coming up: tonight (October 8) at Forest Hill Collegiate Institute (730 Eglinton Avenue West) and tomorrow night (October 9) at Jean Vanier Secondary School (959 Midland Avenue). Each will run from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. If you can’t make it, an online survey is available. The study report is supposed to be completed by the end of 2013, and a final presentation is expected to go before city council next spring.