Yonge Street BIA plans for arts, pedestrians

Downtown Yonge BIA and city hall want to make Toronto’s main street into an around-the-clock arts and culture hub with more space for pedestrians and less for vehicles.

The prospect of turning Yonge into a permanent pedestrian mall—at least between Gerrard and Queen—is one of the plan’s underpinnings.

DYBIA Executive Director Mark Garner revealed the results of a 7-month survey called Yonge Love at a news conference in November. Using social media and face-to-face interviews it asked some of the street’s 42 million annual users what they want Yonge to look like.

“As Yonge St. revitalization moves ahead in the next few years The Yonge Love views and comments will help shape the vision of this iconic public space,” Garner told media.

He said some views “rang loud and clear” that Yonge should be human-scale, walkable with more parks, public art and public space for cultural programming. What the Yonge Love campaign told us, unequivocally, is that Yonge St. needs to be more pedestrian friendly.”

Garner said Bay, Church and Jarvis can handle overflow traffic if Yonge between Gerrard and Queen becomes a pedestrian mall. He indicated the DYBIA would release a detailed action plan for Yonge by early December.

Garner said small retail will be preserved in the Yonge makeover as new development occurs. “You’ve got to have the high density, the high-square-footage places as well as the small independent.

“We’ve got to do some risk management around it and make sure the small independents are here as well.” Downtown Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the city is “very committed” to working with the DYBIA to make Yonge’s vision happen. “We’re going to continue this very strong partnership that we have with the Downtown Yonge BIA.”

The city has the opportunity in 2016 to put Yonge’s vision “through the design machine,” Wong-Tam said. “We’re going to be redesigning Yonge Street to reflect everything you have told us you want in the street.”

Wong-Tam said making Yonge more pedestrian-friendly will extend from the waterfront to Davenport. She said that over her past five years on council she has set aside $31 million to revitalize Yonge. “Councillor (Pam) McConnell who is my colleague to the south of us is doing the same thing for her section.”

Wong-Tam said the revitalization will be done piece by piece and will “piggyback” on water main work. “There is no big closure of Yonge St. We have over 30 development applications along Yonge St …When the opportunities arise and the developments are going to be built we’re not going to return the street in the same condition we found it.”

Visit www.yongelove.ca for videos and project plans.