Comstock: A small town is moving Downtown this year

By Michael Comstock – 

2.1002288.comstock2010 brings in a new year that will be special and memorable for people living in the city. It will be a year of real change for 40,000 to 45,000 people moving into newly completed Downtown condo units.
Being able to cycle or walk to work, live amongst the cultural attractions and entertainment Downtown is what drives the popularity of living here. This coming year’s huge number of new city-core residents has been generated by the high condo sales during 2006 to 2008; then the investment traders and gullible bankers let us all down. Those buildings are finally being completed. It is like a small town. Belleville has 45,000 residents. Everyone will feel some of the impact.
I became part of the irrational exuberance in 2006. We are moving into a 530-unit twin tower monster in the summer. And I am full of excitement and anticipation even though it is only six blocks from where we have lived for the past 12 years. I know several local people who are also moving into this building. That ripple effect will build the number of “new Downtowners” way past 40,000.So maybe 50,000 new residents will be moving Downtown. The towns of Timmins or Welland represent that number of people!
Even if you’ re staying put, everyone Downtown (Bathurst to The Don River, Yorkville to the Lake) will feel the swell of fellow customers at restaurants, in the bank, at the Market and in the parks. Many units will be available for rent and this might drop the cost to rent, for this year anyway. In becoming more densely populated we are taking advantage of existing sewers, watermains, streets and transit, etc. The existing shops will enjoy the increases and new shops in the ground floors of these condos will add services. Where the city planners have been failing to meet our current needs, these added users will create stress. Parks like Berczy Park and St. James Park are worn down and need rejuvenation. In looking only to each individual condo development, instead of the whole local area, the city has approved postagestamp, north-side, loadingdock parkettes. Not real parks for kids and dogs. Unfortunately, due to the Street Furniture Deal From Hell, we will see even more of those $3,000 sea-foam green-topped, miss-shapen trash bins.
Before Christmas George Smitherman spoke to the Board of Trade luncheon about the need for Toronto to look at itself as part of a region. We should be looking at economic development measured in good new jobs as a region, so that we all win when a company opens in Oakville, Whitby or Toronto. The waste management water and sewers, roads and transit systems are obvious services that must be designed to work for the greater Toronto region, not just the city. We should be looking at Toronto growing jobs, not just residents. Taxes drive business out of the city. People living Downtown are commuting to the suburbs; a reversal.
Going back in time to the pre-Mike Harris idea of smaller scale governance, it will be important that we can look to community councils to accurately solve more of our local issues. While Go Trains and a tollroad system must be regionally designed and administered locally Downtown, the TTC fails to provide affordable transit. Within the core short trips cost the same as fares of commuter trips from suburbia several kilometres away. An adult Metropass must be used for 49 trips a month or tokens are cheaper. Whenever you take a few days off work, you will lose money. In order to “save” $10 a month you have to buy an entire year of monthly Metropasses. Don’t take a vacation or get sick during that year.
The political potentate of the TTC has decreed the sale of every condo unit must now include a Metropass for the year. Not that we all need or can use one. The 530-condo buyers in my building will pay $630,000.This surpasses the Rogers Cable’s negative billing as a power trip at the citizens expense. Being run by someone without business or marketing experience, the TTC fails to feature clean, friendly service or attract new or occasional riders. It is like the restaurant with one item on the menu, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. How it might fare under regional governance is unknown but at least amateurs won’t run it. Hopefully the voice of Downtown will be heard when 30,000 new neighbours move in this year. Here’s to a happy Twenty- Ten, with many new places and happy new faces.