Councillor Josh Matlow

Village Living: The fight over urban land


November 22nd 2013

Alanna Kelly

Village Living Magazine


The community along Eglinton Avenue has a few lessons to learn when it comes to the impact that the Crosstown Light Rail Transit will have on them.


With construction well underway on the only LRT in Toronto, local residents and businesses need to start looking at how to handle the traffic and construction conducted on the urban land. “I told people the truth I think it is something exciting and something we should celebrate, but I also don’t believe that we should pretend the construction period is going to be anything other then difficult,” Councillor Josh Matlow said.


Metrolinx Eglinton Crosstown is a 19-kilometre LRT that will run along Eglinton Avenue connecting west to the east. More than 10 km will be underground and the transit service will be 60 per cent faster than the current bus service along Eglinton. “While construction will be difficult, it is the growing pains for much needed infrastructure improvements,” Councillor Joe Mihevc said. The Eglinton Crosstown, to which the Government of Ontario committed $8.4 billion, is to be completed in 2020.


Local St. Clair Avenue West business owner and resident Andrew Fishman said what the St. Clair community can offer to Eglinton Avenue is a handbook of wisdom from what they lived through with the right-of-way streetcar. “I don’t wish this on them, but I think that there is going to be tremendous pain felt by business owners in the upper village,” Fishman said. “I think what would be amazing would be to put together a forum of business owners from St. Clair West and Eglinton West and call it a wisdom share, where the businesses can look back on St. Clair and what they experienced in that transition period to offer some information to the businesses on Eglinton.”


Matlow said the Eglinton Crosstown is an LRT project that throughout midtown is entirely underground, while St. Clair Avenue West’s line has a streetcar above ground that impacted the community. “It was over budget and took years longer then it needed to and it had an awful effect on many businesses and some people lost everything … There is a lot to learn from them,” Matlow said.


Spokesperson Malon Edwards said Metrolinx has partnered with the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and its Enterprise Toronto agency to provide workshops specific to local businesses to assist them in business practices and customer retention during construction. “Metrolinx will be using signage to increase awareness about various project elements, but also improve ease of access for vehicles and pedestrians through construction areas,” Edwards said.


Fishman said the signage is “great but what are they really doing, how do we prepare stores to take actions that will make it easier for consumers to work with them and not just abandon it and go somewhere else.” Matlow is listening to residents and business owners to make sure everything is being done to keep Eglinton attractive to customers across Toronto but said Metrolinx needs to hear from them as well. “What Metrolinx plans to hear from people who actually live and work on the ground everyday will be incredibly informative to them. It will help them design plans to not only help our community, but to make sure traffic flows in an effective way,” Matlow said.


“We need to look not just in Toronto but look at other projects around North America and the world, where there have been other major street disruptions where there needed to be Shop Local campaigns,” Matlow said. “The residents need to ask Metrolinx to look at past transportation projects to learn what went right and what went wrong to make the businesses thrive.”


“We are never going to be Bloor or Queen Street, it’s just not realistic. If we all band together and we all work together then, yes, I think we can all benefit collectively together by promoting a larger area than just our two blocks on St. Clair or two blocks on Eglinton,” Fishman said.


Matlow said the Eglinton Crosstown will connect Torontonians through dozens of neighbourhoods across the city and it will give people another option of travel as opposed to the over-crowded Bloor line. “A vibrant and successful main street will make a community more livable, will increase property value, and quality of life. When you see shuttered up stores it has the opposite effect,” Matlow said. “The more you shop local, the fewer cars need to be on the road… therefore less traffic.”


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