A packed community meeting called Imagine the Danforth took place on May 11, giving members of the community a chance to hear some fresh ideas for future planning in their area.
The Danforth East Community Association hosted the event, which heard from Paul Bedford, Toronto’s former Chief Planner and professor at University of Toronto. Last year his students spent four months focused on the East Danforth area and he took the top 10 ideas from his class and presented them at the meeting.
The meeting was standing room only, including every politician that represents the area and community members of all ages.
Architecture science students presented their vision for development of the Danforth East streetcar yard, which includes a community garden as well as shops and an inviting walkway area. Their ideas aim to protect the historic site and provide services for locals.
Bedford presented slides that encouraged the community to look at how other places in the city and around the world had adapted to change when looking at how to plan and build for the future.
Many of them demonstrated ways to bring more jobs, business and affordable housing to this area of the Danforth. Some of the ideas helped to make the street better aesthetically but also more viable in the future as we see Toronto grow in development and population.
Some ideas addressed how to make the walkway to the Coxwell subway station feel safer with plants, lighting and murals. Among other ideas were ways to give the Main to Greenwood stretch of the Danforth its own identity.
Newcomer Catherine Friis-Gallagher just moved to the area last December and said she found this meeting brilliant.
“Being proactive about a community regenerating and revitalizing the area around them is really special. I think it’s awesome that so many people turned out and there are already so many great ideas,” she said.
“I have just had a child so being a part of where my child is going to grow up is really important to me.”
Pop-up shops were a topic of discussion at the meeting. The temporary stores occupy empty storefronts and help to increase foot traffic in the community.
Gay Stephenson is the community economic coordinator at WoodGreen Community Services and helps to organize pop-up shops in the area.
“This meeting was fantastic. It’s more than I had hoped for. It was filled to capacity, we had every single politician in the neighbourhood even though there are six of them. The presentations and ideas from students were so innovative, inspiring and thoughtful and it just makes me excited about what the future holds for our neighbourhood,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson added that people should take home the idea that residents can bring change to their neighbourhood.
“I’d like them to want to feel like they can really make a difference. I think that is the message that really came through from a former city planner like Paul Bedford, that residents can really make a positive difference in their community,” she said.
The city has initiated a planning study of the Danforth, set to begin in 2016.