Founded in 2010, Yonge Street
has covered growth and development during a remarkable period of Toronto’s history.
While cities south of the border have struggled with how to rise from the ashes after the global financial collapse of 2008, the main challenge I’ve faced as Development Editor (and before that as Managing Editor and Civic Impact Editor) has been choosing which of the myriad of projects unfolding across the GTA to write about. Yonge Street
has never had to scramble for story ideas; it’s had to be strategic about sifting through a deluge of them to find projects that are the most innovative, the most engaged in creating a city bursting with public spaces and civic pride. A condo of less than 30 storeys hardly seems worth writing about these days, unless the development meets an incredible LEED standard, creates new parkland or otherwise makes a unique contribution to the community that will host it.
Projects like Diamond Corp’s The Well
, covering seven and a half acres at Front and Spadina, the redevelopment of Honest Ed’s Mirvish Village
, Daniels Waterfront – City of the Arts
on the site of the old Guvernment night club and, just last week, Menke Development’s purchase and redevelopment
of 11 acres of provincially owned land on the waterfront will be transformative not just in their districts, but for the city as a whole.
And that’s just the private sector. Government-backed partnerships to redevelop Regent Park
, the central waterfront
and the West Don Lands
have already rendered those districts unrecognizable to someone who hasn’t visited lately. And by “unrecognizable,” I mean that thoughtfulness and smarts have swept aside decades of neglect.
Sometimes the rapidity of the GTA’s growth can be worrying. The towers going up like dandelions along Yonge Street from Dundas to Bloor could turn our adorably ramshackle main street into something like a Bay Street wind tunnel. The towers going up on Church Street could make the Village a much less affordable place for young LGBT people just starting out. Liberty Village and the Queen West Triangle have seen their share of uninspired design.
But over the last six and a half years I have seen an increasing conscientiousness among the top developers, and an increasing diligence and vision among city planners (shout out to chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat
). To my taste, at least, the projects unveiled in the last three years have been better designed and more thoughtfully integrated into their neighbourhoods than what went up in Yonge Street
’s first three years. Given the opportunity, clear expectations and useful community feedback, many developers want to build beautiful buildings and to create resilient, accessible and diverse communities. The latter has become a sales feature.
The increasing amount and quality of public interest and public consultation have pushed our leaders to do better. There has been more collaboration between government and the private sector to build small-business incubators, community hubs, affordable housing, recreational facilities, green space and even schools into new projects. These have been years when great ideas can become reality.
I can sympathize with those who complain, “Not another freaking condo!” The number of wallet-emptying floor-to-ceiling-window glass boxes in the sky is no measure of a healthy, thriving city. But little by little, the bar has been raised. I’m proud Yonge Street
has been part of that conversation.
Writer: Paul Gallant