New initiative invites Torontonians to dream big about the future of the city's main drag.
Yonge Street’s downtown strip has gone through some dramatic changes over the years—it’s been music hotspot, pedestrian mall, grotty underbelly, and commercial centre—and the landmark stretch continues to evolve, through residential development, turnover at the Eaton Centre, and the growth of nearby Ryerson University. But how do Torontonians, the people who travel Yonge on a regular basis, want the street and surrounding area to develop in years to come? That’s the question at the heart of Yonge Love, an ongoing initiative of the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area that invites citizens to share their feelings about Toronto’s high street.
“We want people to upload content [to Yonge Love’s website] of what they’ve loved about Yonge Street in the past, Yonge Street of the present, and what they would you like to see in Yonge Street of the future,” says Mark Garner, executive director and chief staff officer of the Downtown Yonge BIA.
Garner describes Yonge Love as an innovative, broad-reaching community consultation that will allow Torontonians to express what they think the street should look like. Those interested in contributing to the project can share written stories and images on the website, comment on articles and videos posted by the BIA and other contributors, record a video message at Yonge Love’s pop-up location (which opens July 10 at 11 a.m.), or enter the project’s Instagram contest by tagging Yonge-related photos with #YongeLove.
The aim is to gather as much information and as many opinions as possible from those who know Yonge best, in order to find out what makes it such a meaningful part of the city. “Yonge Street is the iconic street,” says Garner. “Everybody has had some sort of rite of passage on Yonge Street. It’s been the place for celebrations—the festival street. It’s a place for all Torontonians to come to.”
At the end of this year, the Downtown Yonge BIA will analyze the information its gathered and use it as the basis for their public realm and strategic planning work over the next five, 10, or 15 years. The organization has a long history of working with the City on public space projects, so its endorsement could go a long way toward shaping Yonge Street in the public’s image.
But what is it that the public wants? “Already, from launching, we’ve seen that people want wider sidewalks,” Garner says, touching on an issue the BIA has been championing for years. “I expect we’ll get into cleanliness issues, more programming, outdoor patios. All of these things will come up as part of the process.“
Toronto has evolved a lot—infrastructure has been developed, storefronts have changed, the population has grown exponentially—and Yonge Love will ensure that the public has a say in how the city’s most famous street evolves along with it.