Corp Comm Connects

Communities want to have their say in Toronto's 30-year plan
Oct. 26, 2021
Mark McAllister and Meredith Bond

The future of how the City of Toronto is built up and laid out over the next 30 years is currently up for discussion as City Hall reviews its official plan for things like housing and transit.

Toronto is expecting to welcome 700,000 new residents by the year 2051 and more than 450,000 new jobs so the most important question city staff will be reviewing is how to accommodate this growth.

The neighbourhoods of Mount Dennis and Riverside are just two areas of the city where lots of change has already taken place.

Mount Dennis
The area surrounding Weston Road north of Eglinton has slowly been battling back in recent years and is now looking for investment and development after seeing employment opportunities diminish.

“The industry left. The industry moved to Vaughan and Mississauga,” said Mount Dennis Community Association President Mike Mattos. “We lost tens of thousands of jobs. The community collapsed.”

In 2000, crime rates increased, and storefronts were left empty, but growth has slowly progressed over the last ten years. Mattos said he thinks the community has come out the other side from the Eglinton Crosstown construction better than some of the neighbourhoods further in the middle.

Mount Dennis is where the westerly terminal of the light rail transit will be located and is expected to open in 2022. But where the neighbourhood goes from here is still up in the air.

“We thought we had an Avenue study with midrise,” said Mattos. “We had a vision of the area looking like Roncesvalles or College Street where we would have buildings six to 20 stories along the side of the street. Setbacks, bicycle paths, and that’s what we were getting.”

There is currently a planning project in effect within the city called Picture Mount Dennis Planning Framework Study that is working to leverage the investment made in public transit, and a final framework is expected by the end of November.

Mattos said the most important thing over the next 30 years is that the people who live in the community still want to be here. “We’re not saying there can’t be some nicer homes added to the mix. But anyone living here now should see a future here.”

Riverside is also a neighbourhood concerned about being taken over by high-rise residential buildings.

The neighbourhood is east of the Don Valley Parkway and bordered by Gerrard Street East to the North, Eastern Avenue to the south and Logan Avenue to the East.

Executive Director of the Riverside BIA Jennifer Lay says while they hope to grow, they want to keep the “small town in a big city feel,” that Riverside currently has and “retaining and enhancing the character of the community.”

One of its most popular spots, the Broadview Hotel, recently underwent a renovation where it was “completely reimagined by keeping its historical character.”

“I think it’s important when you’re looking at increasing the density to consider how you’re going to maintain the existing character of the neighbourhood with spaces for small businesses that are affordable,” said Lay.

Planning experts say the most important thing the city can do right now is to get community input for these plans.

“This has to be done bringing in the voices of all the sectors that contribute to making the city,” said Urban Designer Ken Greenberg. “Obviously, the public sector voices, and the private sector voices, the philanthropic centre but really important is civil society.”

The review “Our Plan Toronto” will have a series of public meetings and focus groups over the next year to try and get people from across the city involved. An online survey is already available on the city’s website.