|One Bedford – 1 Bedford Rd
|Museum House on Bloor
This area has something for everyone, with world-class shopping, theatres, four professional sports teams at their home venues, nightlife, dining and cultural attractions. It is also home to a vibrant business community, making this a good destination for those who love to work hard and play hard. Many of the city’s most famous landmarks can be found within the heart of the Toronto Entertainment District, including the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, the Air Canada Centre, Canada’s Walk of Fame, Roy Thompson Hall, and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, just to name a few.
Last year, we wrote about Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s vision for a pedestrian friendly Yonge St. Today, we are happy to report that her vision has become a (temporary) reality. Here’s the scoop:
As part of the Celebrate Yonge project, for the next month (until September 19th), the main stretch of Yonge St. will be transformed into an urban playground designed by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. To make room for this venture, vehicular traffic between Gerrard and Queen Streets has been reduced to one lane for each direction of travel.
Evan Weinberg, Planning and Development Manager for the Downtown Yonge BIA has said that in planning the event, the BIA tried to identify a number of event spaces along Yonge St. to help people appreciate what it has to offer. Each block will have its own branding to highlight its specific features. The ultimate goal of the Downtown BIA, Weinberg says, is to create more space for more people to experience everything Yonge has to offer.
So, what can visitors expect? The strip will be decked out with a green oasis of trees, boulders, logs, grass, and soil. It will also feature a 30-seat amphitheatre built into the dirt, 3 patios, and a cedar fort. Some of the seating will be set aside for general public use, while other seating has been taken for private use, mostly by the pubs and restaurants that line the strip. This new set-up gives the city the opportunity to try out new licenses which allow servers to cross the sidewalk to serve alcoholic beverages.
The planters that line the streets are sponsored by the city’s carpenters’ union. They tell the story of who is building this city. Each box was planted by different landscapers, nurseries, and florists from around the city. There was a design competition for the planters, so expect some really high quality arrangements along the strip.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Yonge St.has been taken over and made into a haven for pedestrians. In 1971, parts of Yonge St. were made completely car-free for weeks. This happened on several occasions during the summer in the 1970s. It meant an increase of visitors to the “street mall” of up to 50,000 people a day. However, merchant support for the malls waned when complaints of shoplifting and vagrancy arose.
On the project, Wong-Tam had this to say, “We’ve really been working with our stakeholders to create a whole new unique street experience that will open up the street for people and try to turn Yonge Street into a premier destination and enhance what we already have there.”
Wong-Tam believes that because Yonge is Toronto’s most recognized street, we really should be putting our best face forward where it’s concerned. She says this is especially important given the upcoming 2014 World Pride celebrations and the 2015 Pan Am Games. Weinberg also points out the fact that there is an economic value in investing in the public realm. He argues that this kind of revitalization of public space attracts people to eat out in restaurants more and also to enjoy shopping the area more.
You might be wondering, as you read about all these not-so-distant future events, what we can expect from Celebrate Yonge where this year’s edition of TIFF is concerned. Weinberg says that the Celebrate Yonge Project has been working closely with the people from TIFF and has opened a café in front of the Elgin Winter Garden theatre, which will be turned into a red carpet for the 11 days that TIFF will screen films there.
While there have been concerns that the project will cause vehicle congestion in the area, Wong-Tam doesn’t think it will be a serious issue because studies have shown that Yonge St. is actually under capacity in terms of the amount of vehicular traffic it can accommodate. In fact, the studies show that Yonge Street’s four lanes can accommodate 1,500 cars per hour, but typically see an average of 500-550 cars per hour (at peak hours!). Moreover, for the same strip, studies show that people outnumber cars by a stunning 200 to 1!
On speculation of the likelihood of Celebrate Yonge returning in the future, Wong-Tam said it would depend on the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area’s decision. However, the Communications Spokesperson for the BIA, Abigail Gamble, has said that the Celebrate Yonge festival will likely be a one-time event, as making it an annual thing with Rob Ford in office and his “war on the car” campaign promise still very much alive, would be nearly impossible.
Countering this position and perhaps supporting that of Wong-Tam, is this quote by Weinberg: “We’ll look at people’s reaction, we’ll get feedback from the businesses, we’ll look at the numbers: we have pedestrian and vehicle counters at five different intersections. It’s from all of that that we can see what the next stage should be.” The BIA has set up several mechanisms to track the success of this year’s festival, including: traffic monitoring, pedestrian counts, and sales and media monitoring. We’ll be better able to speculate on the success of this venture once these numbers are released, so stay tuned!
Do you have a comment about either the past or present pedestrianization of Yonge St.? We’d love to hear your stories, so please leave them below!
The Fashion District is known for being comprised of shops that sell their clothing straight from the manufacturers. is a great place to get discounts on local fashions, fabrics, leathers and furs. There are many outlets as well as many bridal outlets in the area. Also, with its close proximity to the Toronto Entertainment District and the Harbourfront, there is plenty of entertainment and recreation nearby. This makes it an ideal location for work and play – with great restaurants, sporting venues, theatres, nightlife and many office buildings nearby.
In late March of this year, the City’s Committee of Adjustment overturned an earlier decision and decided to allow the subdivision of a new plot of land at the foot of Yonge Street for development. The owners of the land were granted permission to demolish a small one-storey structure appended to the north side of the Toronto Start building, construct a parking facility into the eastern portion of the building, and sever the existing parking lot on the northern half of the site from the property, allowing it to be sold for development.
It has recently been rumoured that Vancouver-based Pinnacle International Realty Group has purchased the parking lot adjacent to the Toronto Star building located at One Yonge St. The Toronto Star building will not be affected by the purchase and planned condominium development. Indeed, the newspaper has options that could include the extension of its lease at the building for at least another twenty years.
The proposed project is expected to include up to three “iconic” towers.
The deal is expected to close in the coming days and the price tag for the building is expected to far surpass the $40 million that the Thomson family holding company purchased the property for in the year 2000. Current rumours suggest that the price could be over a quarter of a billion dollars, which, if true, would make it one of the biggest development deals in Toronto’s history!
Two Pinnacle projects exist inTorontoas of now – Pinnacle Centre at Yonge St. & Harbour, and Pinnacle on Adelaide at Adelaide & John. The Pinnacle on Adelaide project is under construction as we write this.
The folks at Urban Toronto believe that the redevelopment possibilities at One Yonge Street provide a good opportunity for improving the area south of the Lake Shore and east of Yonge. Indeed, they argue that the site is practically on the water and provides a great opportunity for a highrise that offers residents totally unobstructed views of the waterfront and east Toronto.
What do you think of this new project? Would you be interested in living next to the iconic Toronto Star building? Leave us your comments below!
The Financial District is one of the most densely-built areas inToronto. It is the site of numerous banking companies, corporate headquarters, high-powered legal and accounting firms, insurance companies and stockbrokers. The ‘Big Five’ bank towers are connected in the underground by the PATH system. The PATH is lined with retail shops, restaurants and services. Much of the businesses found in the PATH are only open during the working week hours, though the doors to the PATH system stay open during the evenings and on the weekends.
The Fort York neighborhood is bordered by the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railway tracks to the north, Lakeshore Boulevard to the south, Strachan Avenue to the east and Bathurst St on the west. The neighborhood is serviced by the Harbourfront Streetcar, which feeds into Union Station and Exhibition Place. As the area is still being converted into a mixed-use neighborhood, there is not yet an abundance of stores or cafés in the area. There is, however, the nearby Coronation Park which provides leisure and recreation for residents of the area.