Illustration by Chloe Cushman/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
The sound of metal on concrete and ceaseless honking horns, congested streets and caged walkways, dust in the air and in your hair: these were just some of the joys Torontonians became all too familiar with during the seemingly century-long Mink Mile makeover. After endless delays, millions in cost overruns, and bringing much shame during TIFF, the stretch of Bloor Street between Church and Avenue is finally functional, and, dare we say, looks pretty good, too.
The revamp has been an interminable eye sore on what is supposed to be the country’s most fashionable shopping mecca, à la Champs Elysees—or more realistically, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
To achieve a high-style look, the plan was to widen sidewalks by at least four feet on each side, pave them in granite, and plant a whole lot of trees, special London plane trees alongside. To top it off: chic scramble crosswalks at Bloor and Bay and Bloor and Yonge, whose revamps were timed to coincide with the road redevelopment. And this was all supposed to be completed by the end of ‘09.
Then came the snag—sorry, snags.
There was the asbestos lining the pipes; the subterranean retail storage space that contractors insisted wasn’t there…until they dug into it; the quickly abandoned excavation near subway support beams; the telephone ducts with live wires too close to the surface; and, of course, there was Toronto Hydro’s lowering of transformers, which slowed the whole thing down for about a year. Oh yes, and there was also a lawsuit in there somewhere.
Construction on the twenty-five-million-dollar beautification project began in 2008. It has been a joint effort between the City, which fronted the cash, and the Bloor-Yorkville BIA, whose members will repay twenty million dollars over time. Former councillor Kyle Rae helped push the project through council, and Four Seasons Site Development won the bid for the work. After the original deadline whizzed by, the blame began whizzing around between the various players.
In November, ahead of (the latest) schedule, the road reopened. There is still some hydro work going on at Church, cordoned off with those familiar wooden planks, but the swankiest part of Bloor Street is almost complete.
So in the end, it’s overdue and over-budget, but it’s done. Stay tuned for the official opening in the spring and the unveiling of 1.3 million dollars in artwork. You never know—once the resentment has subsided, the strip may make the Heroes list next year.