$51.1 million REimagining Yonge project has been delayed again

Doug Ford and councillor John Filion butt heads over proposed plan


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A rendering of the proposed plan

After a long and heated committee meeting involving sparring councillors and passionate remarks from 16 community members, REimagine Yonge, the $51.1 million streetscape redevelopment plan spearheaded by Ward 25 councillor John Filion, will have to wait at least one more month before Toronto City Council reaches a decision on whether to move it forward.  

During a Jan. 19 meeting of council’s public works and infrastructure committee (PWIC), 16 of 26 registered speakers were able to air their thoughts on the proposed plan, which would see the six-lane stretch of Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and Finch Avenue reduced to four lanes, making room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. 

Concerns over traffic congestion and calls for further consultation were repeated issues from those who opposed the idea. Ward 7 councillor Giorgio Mammoliti repeatedly suggested that the project be opened up to a citywide vote in the municipal election in October, saying, “I believe that if councillor Filion were to bring this into the election in October then he would lose the election.”

Former Etobicoke city councillor and presumptive mayoral candidate Doug Ford vehemently opposed the project. When asked by Filion whether he had read the full report, Ford replied, “I don’t need to read a staff report to see they’re going to destroy Yonge Street.” 

He accused Filion of ramming this project through council before proper consultations had been carried out. 

Those who supported this streetscape plan included representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation and two local neighbourhood associations. They reiterated the need for safer sidewalks, bike lanes and more vibrant and accessible retail, and pointed out the numerous consultations city staff held with the community. 

“[Transforming Yonge Street] will be of tremendous value to most local retailers and businesses such as [mine and] my wife’s …” said local business owner Pedram Rahbari, explaining that more traffic does not translate into more pedestrians. “Not only does the massive volume of traffic not benefit streetside retailers, it is detrimental to their business.” 

A strict 3:30 p.m. dismissal time was imposed, forcing the meeting to end before the last 10 people, including councillor Filion, had their chance to speak. In the end, the committee voted to pick up discussions on Feb. 27 before sending recommendations to city council. 

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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