When MPP Mike Colle takes a mental stroll down Eglinton Ave., he sees pokey one- and two-storey buildings, gas stations, parking lots. In his mind it boils down to a whole lot of potential.
Now, after decades of neglect, the Liberal MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence says the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT, still eight years from completion, is already transforming the neighbourhood he loves to boost.
“We need more people living on Eglinton. It’s the forgotten middle of Toronto. For decades nobody ever paid attention to it. Now this gives us a chance to pay attention. This is a chance to give it some light and some investment. The transportation is really the catalyst. And it’s already happening,” said Colle, who cites the redevelopment of the 50-year-old China House restaurant at Bathurst St. into a condo that sold out in a couple of weeks.
How Eglinton looks once the Crosstown is running will depend on a two-year city planning exercise called an avenue study that begins community consultations Thursday at the Fairbank Memorial Community Centre on Dufferin St.
The $1.3 million study, which will eventually go before city council, is the first step in envisioning what Eglinton will look like after the Crosstown is built, how it will be zoned, what kind of buildings and public spaces will be encouraged.
Avenue studies typically focus on one or two kilometers of a street. But this one, like the ambitious 26-kilometre, $6 billion Crosstown line itself, will be unprecedented. It will traverse 14 wards through the tunnelled west and central portions starting at Black Creek Dr. and at street level from Laird Rd. to Kennedy Station in the east, said Toronto director of Transportation Planning Rod McPhail.
It will look at all kinds of potential development — from retail and residential to public realm issues such as what to do with the bus lanes that will no longer be required in the Dufferin-Keele area.
Should that space accommodate more traffic, wider sidewalks or bike lanes?
Midrise development will likely replace some of the one- and two-storey shop fronts.
Most of the lots along the western and central portions of Eglinton are too shallow to accommodate highrises, said McPhail. But there will be exceptions.
“For instance where the Spadina subway and the Eglinton LRT are going to cross, there are two Green P parking lots, a police station with all surface parking. Maybe we could have some bigger buildings there,” he said.
TTC chair Karen Stintz, like Colle, sees lots of opportunities for midrise development west of Allen Rd.
“We will see some redevelopment before construction is complete. I think there’s already interest,” said the city councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence (Ward 16).
But, Stintz said the avenue study is also key to protecting the character of city neighbourhoods.
“That’s the importance of doing the avenue study before the development applications come in,” she said.
Most development potential will be around stations, which are being built about a kilometre apart, said McPhail.
That’s music to Colle’s ears.
“Most of our intersections are more like Buffalo than anything,” he said. “We need a complete revitalization where there are workplaces and living places on those corners.”