Visioning study gets underway
On June 16, nearly 80 Beach community residents participated in the first of a series of meetings that comprise the Queen Street East Visioning Study. The meeting, held at the Fire Academy on Eastern Avenue, was facilitated by Nicole Swerhun, an independent facilitator, and also included several City staff from the planning and development divisions.
The exercise was requested by Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon and approved by Toronto and East York Community Council earlier this year as a result of community pressure to enforce current development guidelines, which were defined in 1987.
The lack of clarity and enforcement around these guidelines, along with Queen Street East being identified as one of the stretches to be intensified under the City’s latest Official Plan for development, resulted in many Beachers demanding an overhaul of those guidelines to keep future developments on par with the Beach character and culture.
James Parakh, Senior Urban Designer at the City, presented a series of slides that demonstrated some of the current guidelines, which in his opinion and that of the City, is antiquated and too vague.
“Statements such as ‘buildings will contain both strong vertical and horizontal elements’ are vague and need further definition,” said Parakh, suggesting the current seven-page document be scrutinized and expanded in detail. St. Lawrence, he said, has a development guideline document that is 80 pages.
To further confuse things, Queen Street East was divided, back in 1987, into four sections, each with its own sub-area development guidelines. Part of the study is to re-evaluate such separation and perhaps amalgamate all areas into one.
The City has also suggested that the strip of Queen Street between Coxwell and Woodbine be included in the study. Residents at the meeting had mixed feeling about this, and some made strong objections to it stating that people in that area “aren’t really Beachers.”
Part of the four hour-long meeting was dedicated to identifying properties and characteristics on Queen Street that the residents either like or dislike. Green dots and red dots were placed on blown up photos of buildings on both sides of the strip.
Identified strongly as a ‘like’ were the fire station just east of Woodbine, as well as the stretch between Willow and Silver Birch for its old town feel and affordable housing.
‘Disliked’ were the car dealership at the corner of Wineva, and the Beach Mall which residents feel is too long of an unarticulated facade.
Some of the participants would also like to see wider sidewalks, the elimination of some of the old electrical posts, and the removal of sidewalk ‘obstacles’, such as planters, which are often full of garbage. It was suggested that Queen become more pedestrian friendly in order to attract more tourism.
A priority expressed by a few was to ensure that any new developments cater to people with low income and that a certain number of units are available to them.
Areas of great tree density were well liked by participants and it was suggested that the tree canopy along Queen be increased.
Restaurants and other food outlets appear to be valued by Beachers, and the need to preserve grocery stores and coffee shops is something that the participants agreed upon.
“We all want the small town feel of the Beach to stay intact,” said Gia Canalli, a long time resident. “We want all new developments to stay within the guidelines of three to four storeys, that’s the major point.”
Canalli also suggested that the community consider starting co-ownerships as a way to keep developers out and still intensify the area.
As for including the stretch of Queen from Coxwell to Woodbine, Canalli said that “we need to change it and make it more ‘Beachy’. It looks pretty sad right now because it looks like an upper-class condo slum.”
Serge Bernique, a resident in the Beach Triangle, argued that since the physical beaches extend to Coxwell along the lake, it only makes sense to include Queen Street from Coxwell to Woodbine in the study and count it as part of the Beach.
Another Beach resident, Barbara Suzuki, suggested that Queen Street should be blocked to vehicle traffic and that only streetcars, bicycles and pedestrians be allowed.
“It’s a radical idea, and I haven’t quite thought of the ramifications, but it would be the ideal thing,” said Suzuki.
Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon was also in attendance.
“I think there were lots of great ideas. People seemed to enjoy participating in the ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ exercise,” said McMahon. “It’s a great opportunity for community input.”
At the end of the meeting, residents were asked provide any additional input by the end of the month.
“I thought it was a very successful introductory meeting. There was a lot of community enthusiasm and a lot of intelligent commentary,” said Ray David, Director of Community Planning for Toronto and East York.
David hopes to deliver a report based on the visioning study back to City Council in the early fall.
“This is very characteristic of what is happening city-wide, both in the old city of Toronto and in the new amalgamated city,” said David. “There are many areas experiencing development, some of them for the first time and that always has a catalyst effect for these kinds of exercises, and it is a good community opportunity.”
Additional feedback from residents may be sent to Kate Green, Independent Facilitator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 416-572-4365, or by mail to 720 Bathurst St., Suite 308, Toronto, ON, M5S 2R4.
Residents interested in applying to the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, a multi-stakeholder forum for discussion of approaches, concepts and alternatives as part of the Visioning Study, can request a form from Kate Green through the same contact information above, or download forms from councillormcmahon.com/?p=809. The deadline to apply for the committee is June 29.
4 Responses »
Have your say- leave a comment below