February 11, 2020
By David Nickle, Toronto.com
It is, according to Toronto-Danforth Coun. Paula Fletcher, the biggest and most comprehensive planning study of its kind: a review of more than six kilometres of one of Toronto’s best-known roadways, Danforth Avenue, between Victoria Park and Broadview Avenues.
“There’s nobody in Ontario who doesn’t know where the Danforth is,” said Fletcher.
And on Jan. 27 at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, that seemed to be the case, as hundreds of residents and stakeholders descended on a public open house for the “Danforth Complete Streets and Planning Study” — or the “Danforth Study” for short.
The Danforth Study has a broad reach. Three city departments are involved: Economic Development and Culture, Transportation Services, and City Planning. They are performing, respectively, an Economic Analysis and Retail Study, a Complete Street Design and Implementation Plan, and a Comprehensive Planning Framework.
In layperson’s terms, the study is looking at how to help retail businesses along the stretch and improve street safety for all users. It’s also exploring what should be built there in the future.
Attached to the Complete Street Design and Implementation Plan is a controversy that publicly, at least, threatens to overshadow the entire enterprise: whether to narrow the street for automobiles, to make room for separated bike lanes running east and west.
For Billy Dertilis, president of the Danforth Mosaic BIA (a.k.a. the Danny BIA), those bike lanes could be one part of a solution that would bring life to some of the quieter stretches of the road.
“I hear from people in the past generation — they look back to the days when there was a tram on the Danforth,” he said. “That streetcar — you could ride it, jump off and jump back on and you could see the stores as you went by. Those were livable, viable stores that were a community. And once the subway came, it was more of a transport corridor.”
Dertilis sees other elements adding to a revitalization.
“It’s been a really long time since there’s been an infrastructure upgrade. There’s been no resurfacing. We have trees in boxes on the street that don’t work,” he said. “We have within the next few years (an opportunity) to really beautify it, make it a complete street — make it livable and make it walkable.”
Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford has his eye squarely on the transportation safety.
“There are a tremendous amount of young families in my ward and road safety is top of mind for those families,” he said. “They want to have safer streets when they’re walking on the Danforth. This is a conversation but it’s a broader conversation.”
The Danforth’s status as a transportation corridor, served by the Line 2 subway, also makes it a potential area for growth.
Fletcher foresees that growth as relatively modest, “a more European-style street that has six to eight storeys along the Danforth.”
East-end resident Mark Richardson is a volunteer technical lead with housing advocacy group HousingNowTO. He said there’s potential for more intensified housing on the Danforth.
“If we give people alternative ways to get onto the Danforth, we’re going to have better housing, for transit, for retail. And we’re about to spend billions of dollars putting an underground Ontario Line at Pape and Danforth — it’s not going to be eight storeys above a billion-dollars’-worth of infrastructure,” he said. “It’s going to look like Main and Danforth — not Pape and Danforth.”
Mary Fragedakis, a former Toronto councillor now in charge of the Greektown BIA at the western end of the study area, said the community is going to see more development one way or another on the Danforth, as Toronto’s downtown is building out.
“It’s a great place to live and other people have clued into the fact that we’re a desirable place to be. And you may have noticed we have a housing crisis,” she said.
Fragedakis said the housing influx will end up being a good thing for the Danforth.
“We’re interested to see from the planning framework, what is going to be the permission allowed, in terms of heights,” she said. “In our area of the BIA we’re allowed four storeys as of right now. How high can we go — how high should we go?”
The planning study is still in early phases. The city is completing its consultation phase on the study scope and identifying issues. In the spring, staff will develop design concepts, and consider a pilot project for bike lanes along the Danforth. Final reports will be ready in late summer and final implementation is slated for the first half of 2021.