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Density done right

April 16th, 2015 · No Comments

Infrastructure is the key to Green

By Terri Chu,

I ran into many neighbours at a recent community consultation for the Honest Ed’s redevelopment project. Westbank unveiled its plans, which consist entirely of rental units with a strong emphasis on the key buzzword of the day, “microretail”.

I heard barely any complaints about the rental-focused development, though a few people did object to the 29-storey height. On the environmental front, they said mostly the right things though details are murky at the moment. Very little has been done in terms of detailed plans as most of them are still conceptual. Included in the plans are my personal favourites: combined heat and power and urban agriculture (despite being token small plots). I am concerned about how much energy-sucking window area will be allowed, but have been assured they will stick to the 40 per cent maximum threshold.

I look forward to having higher density in the area, despite the existing car parking issues. It will be an accomplishment if the developers can encourage more people to live car-free and walk across the street and primarily take transit. Given how convenient Bloor Street is, this is certainly a possibility.

The Bloor-Danforth subway line is not nearly at the capacity that the Yonge line is, so I view development along it as a good thing. Let’s make sure we use the existing infrastructure that we have, not just build new (underused) lines. Density has been an issue for neighbourhood businesses as evidenced by the empty storefronts along Bloor Street. In the recent past, a home in this neighbourhood might have housed a half-dozen people, but it now typically houses two or three.

As gentrification takes hold, multi-unit homes are increasingly being turned back into single-family ones. Without adequate density, it is difficult to maintain walkable communities. Businesses need people to thrive, and one individual can only eat so many muffins.

More concerning than the Honest Ed’s project to me is the 80-storey project east of us at the old Stollery’s location at Yonge and Bloor. While the Danforth line still has some ways to go before reaching anywhere near the ridership that the Yonge line enjoys, Yonge-Bloor is already a dangerously busy station. Adding 80 more storeys in an area before existing infrastructure to service it is in place seems to me counterintuitive.

If done right, in theory the complex could provide everything that people need and its existence in and of itself relieves people from the need to travel. Not executed right, we are putting more people on an overtaxed subway system possibly encouraging frustrated riders to take the car instead. I can’t say Toronto’s development boom was “done right” given the need for Liberty Village residents to crowd source their own bus service.

I’d like to see bigger, grander plans for transit, waste, sewage, electricity, and then for those bigger plans to go ahead together as opposed to the piecemeal method of infrastructure we have been seeing of late. Letting development occur, then figuring out how to service it later hasn’t been serving us well. Toronto has tremendous opportunity, however, since a lot of development work is still going on. Anyone who has read my previous columns knows that I am a huge fan of district energy.

Unless there is a grand plan that involves more than just one developer, ambitious projects like that don’t just happen. As residents of Toronto, I think it’s important that we show support for good projects so developers know that we will not stand in the way of responsible, community-focused developments.

I think it’s also important we let the City know that we want to see a bigger plan in place and not just a hodgepodge of condos here and subways there (if they were correlated I might be less upset).

Good city planning needs engaged citizens to be part of the process.

I was heartened by seeing the turnout at this event but clearly there’s still a ways to go. Don’t be shy about writing your councillor and asking “what about the infrastructure?” Until we say it’s important, it isn’t.




Tags: Annex · Liberty · General