Avery Carr, Gord Perks and a determined core group stayed the full two hours in the rain to contribute to building a better Parkdale. Photo by Jack Gibney.
Despite the cold and rainy weather, about 50 Parkdale community members braved the elements and participated in the first of two walking tours regarding the West Queen West Planning Study.
“The main goal of today is to get people thinking,” said Avery Carr, the project lead on the West Queen West study with the City of Toronto.
“We want ideas from the residents as we walk, to think about the various elements of the study and what needs to be focused on and improved upon and to get them thinking about their vision for the future of this street.”
An additional goal of this study is to update the current zoning bylaw which is out of date and provide more protection for the street from future development.
Carr was joined by Ward 14 Councillor Gord Perks as well as City of Toronto staff in the transportation, urban planning and community development departments.
In order to properly envision the future of Queen Street, participants of the Saturday afternoon walking tour were tasked with travelling from Dufferin Street to Roncesvalles Avenue, while considering various improvements and problem areas. Participants were asked to focus on six areas: built form, which focuses on building heights, setbacks and stepbacks; the streetscape; transportation, including parking; the heritage attributes of the street; the character of the area; and public spaces.
The tour began in the amphitheatre at Queen and Dufferin streets and was immediately pointed out as a public space that could use some more trees and could be better utilized. One attendee spoke out to say it was nothing more than a concrete skate park.
As the group travelled south, Senior Community Planner Dan Nicholson spoke with community members about improvements along the street and was approached about public spaces.
“As we put more and more people in the neighbourhoods, the streets serve as public spaces and there’s relative few opportunities in a mature area like this to create new parks,” Nicholson told The Villager.
“We need to use the streets and small spaces to the best of our advantage and get the most use out of it.”
As the Nov. 8 tour progressed suggestions of removing planters and replacing them with the similar frames around the trees found on Roncesvalles Avenue was brought up as well as preserving the front facades of the two-storey buildings along Queen, which are not well kept.
At one of the stops at Queen Street and Close Avenue one resident, Christine Irving of Queen and Triller Ave., pointed out the problem of the lot that used to be home to a gas station.
“It’s an eye sore and a waste of space,” she said.
“They (the city) talk about beautifying the neighbourhood and this looks derelict.”
Irving suggested taking down the fence, repaving it and donating some the sculptures she and other artists have created to brighten up the corner and suggested other community groups with interests in gardening could find a use for it.
“Just give us the opportunity to take care of it,” Irving said.
Although Perks admitted he himself hates that corner, he said nothing can be done with it.
“It would be lovely to get rid of it but there are legal problems in Canadian law that incent oil companies to pave, fence and forget old gas stations,” Perks explained.
Another issue that was brought up with unanimous agreement is the volume of cars that backs up Queen Street from Dufferin to access the Gardiner expressway during rush hour. The suggestion of better timed lights was mentioned.
As the walking tour came to a close, Nicholson told The Villager the next steps for the study, which include continuous work with the community over the next several months:
“We’ll collectively come up with a plan, draft a zoning bylaw and come up with design guidelines for the streetscape program,” he said. “That will then go before the community and then council who will make a decision on it.”
By the end of the tour Perks was not only pleased with the turnout, but also the number of suggestions the community came up with.
“I must have heard 100 good ideas today,” Perks said at the end of the two and a half hour walking tour.
“It just reminds me that the best way to study a neighbourhood is to walk through it and it was great having all these people out.”
For more information about the West Queen West Planning Study, visit www.toronto.ca/planning/westqueenweststudy