A few days ago I came across this great article in the National Post outlining the rethinking and possible future for the Yonge and Eglinton area.

Yonge Eglinton Centre

Yonge Eglinton Centre

By Allison Hanes, National Post

City planners have put the finishing touches on a grand vision for Toronto’s vibrant Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood, including a new street and piazza-like pedestrian promenade, along with low-rise residential housing and office and condo towers.

While the crossroads of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue is already an established neighbourhood with many amenities, it is expected to undergo a building boom in the coming years – particularly with the transformation of a former Toronto Transit Commission bus yard sitting vacant just west of the corner.

The plan, to be tabled at tomorrow’s meeting of the city planning and growth committee, sets out ground rules to govern that development through changes to the official plan, zoning bylaw amendments and enshrined urban design guidelines.

“I think it’s a good report,” said Councillor Michael Walker (St. Paul’s), in whose ward the majority of the land ripe for development lies. “And we get a park!”

While towers, limited by zoning to a height of 40 storeys, would crop up along the thoroughfares of Yonge and Eglinton, the park would take form in a pie-shaped greenspace on Duplex Avenue marking the transition from urban density to single-family homes.

A new north-south side street, splitting the block between Yonge and Duplex, would serve the dual purpose of containing the footprint of any new buildings while diverting vehicle traffic away from the residential neighbourhood, said Joe Nanos, a manager in the city planning department who authored the report.

It will also likely be the entry point for a new bus terminal that will link the proposed midtown underground light rail line along Eglinton and the Yonge subway line.

“It’s a more proactive approach to planning as opposed to reacting to development applications,” Mr. Nanos said of the report. “It’s setting the vision out at a higher level and then working out the details as development come in.”

The plan is the culmination of years of consultation with the local community and stakeholders in the wake of a nasty neighbourhood fight starting a decade ago over the Minto Midtown – a pair of highrise condo towers south of the intersection.

Councillor Karen Stintz (Eglinton Lawrence) said that if passed intact, the set of proposals would go a long way in reestablishing trust between the city and residents of the area.

“I’m pleased. There’s some areas that need to be strengthened to honour the work that the community and the planning department has done over the last few years,” she said. “I think the community has an expectation that this framework will be implemented as agreed to and they need certainty that their involvement over the last several years has provided a meaningful contribution.”

Mr. Nanos said the metamorphosis would likely be done in phases, with the transit infrastructure sure to act as a catalyst for the timing of different projects.

There is aleady an application to build three-storey townhouses at Duplex and Berwick avenues, a block southwest of Yonge and Eglinton, which would be crowned with a 17-storey residential tower.

The maximum height of buildings would angle downward under the proposed guidelines the farther away they are located from the thoroughfares.

The plan also calls for an east-west pedestrian promenade linking the unnamed new side street to Yonge, along which new retail space, sidewalk cafés and welcoming streetscaping would define and unite the different purposes of the neighbourhood.

There is also a recommendation that Yonge and Eglinton be designated a zone eligible for tax incentives city council approved last summer to encourage construction projects that create jobs in knowledge-driven industries.

After a boom in new condo buildings in recent years, Mr. Walker said it is crucial that the hub not slide into being solely residential but maintain a vocation as an employment district.

“It’s not healthy to have this just be residential with some stores and some restaurants and some bars,” he said. “We want people to work there as well as live there.”


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