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NEWS: BIA behind green plan (Spring 2019)

April 23rd, 2019 · No Comments

BIA infrastructure improvements, parkettes construction to begin in 2019

By Meribeth Deen

Big changes are coming to Bloor Street: new sidewalks, new water-mains, new trees in the ground, and four new parkettes. At the recent Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Association AGM, BIA chair (and publisher of this newspaper) Brian Burchell told local business and property owners that, after years of planning, the City of Toronto is confident that the Bloor St. Greening Initiative will come to fruition in the coming year.

“We’re working with the city to co-ordinate construction efforts,” says Burchell. “The idea is to have work related to the greening project and infrastructure work done at the same time. The challenge is that the equipment and the expertise required to do this work is very different.”

Take, for example, the granite rocks that will be found in the parkettes.

“They’ve been quarried from Quebec and are the size of small cars,” says Burchell. “They are going to have laser-cuts in them to create seating areas even though they are technically intended as art installations.  Installing these will require large cranes to get them into the correct position.”

The parkettes are located on city-owned rights-of-way that abut Bloor Street at Robert Street, Major Street, Brunswick Avenue, and Howland Avene. Each parkette will have new trees and feature wood decking made from sustainably sourced wood that is infused with resin so it will last for decades, and a pollinator-friendy garden catering to the 350 species of bees living in the Toronto area as well as birds and butterflies.

Another challenging aspect to the project will be the removal of the planter-boxes on Bloor St. and replacing them with in-ground trees.

“First of all, we want to provide more space for pedestrian traffic,” says Burchell. “But also, these boxes are known as tree-coffins. There’s not enough space for their roots, which means the lifespan of the trees in those boxes is limited. By planting trees in the ground with space for proper root systems, we’re making an investment that will outlive us. That said, the engineering costs of making it happen are not insignificant.”

To complement the new bike lanes on Bloor St., the greening project will also increase the amount of bike parking by 30 per cent.

“This is one pillar of our greening plan. We are the only business improvement association in the city that endorses bike lanes,” says Burchell. “As a whole this project is about creating value out of providing non-commercial space in the neighbourhood. Simply put, we want to give people another reason to come to the Annex. Bike lanes are a part of that, but we’ve also done the research and we know that, contrary to popular belief, they’re actually good for business.”

With the pending construction, Burchell acknowledges that the board of the BIA is aware of its members’ concerns. The board has already made steps towards mitigating the effects of construction in several ways including helping businesses improve their e-commerce presence. The BIA has engaged the services of Digital Main Street, a City of Toronto consultant. DMS has been meeting with members and advising them how to better position their products and services on line. In addition, the BIA has sanctioned an aggressive construction schedule for the road work which will permit the contractor to work two shifts a day – six days a week if necessary – which will make the total time of disruption to Bloor shorter. 

At the AGM, Councillor Mike Layton assured the members that he would serve as a strong ally and advocate for the project, just as Councillor Cressy had been up until the recent ward redistribution. As a local resident, he said, he looks forward to assisting the work of the BIA.

For more information on the parkettes plan, please visit: www.bloorannex.ca/revitalization.

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