A subway extension, a new light rapid transit line and a new GO Transit station will bring more than public transit to North York.
Business leaders in an area bounded by Sheppard Avenue on the south, Steeles Avenue on the north, Dufferin Street on the east and Keele Street on the west are hoping the routes will usher in a vibrancy to an area that has struggled for years to establish an identity.
They are in the process of setting up the new Dufferin Finch Business Improvement Area (BIA) to unite businesses in a common goal of improving the neighbourhood and attracting more customers, said Dr. Lew Pliamm, chair of the BIA steering committee,
“We’re trying to revitalize the area,” he said. “We need an identity. We don’t have an identity.”
Business fees collected by the BIA will be used to directly benefit the business district.
The city matches BIA funding for capital improvement projects.
Business owners in the Dufferin Finch BIA want to capitalize on the momentum that will be created when new subway stations open at Sheppard Avenue and Chesswood Drive, Finch Avenue and Keele Street, York University, and Steeles Avenue east of Jane Street as part of the extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina line from Downsview into York Region north of the city, Pliamm said.
In addition, they are looking forward to a new Finch light rapid transit line that will run from the BIA’s western border at Keele Street to Humber College, he added.
A GO Transit station at what will be the new Downsview Park subway station at Sheppard and Chesswood is also part of the emerging transportation hub, Pliamm said.
“This is becoming a second Union Station. That is huge for North York,” he said, adding new public transit routes will bring thousands of commuters a day through the area while the subway stations will attract development.
“We were a backwater of industrial sites and now we’re going to be a new area. All of a sudden, all these people are going to be commuting through our area and moving closer.”
Pliamm, who owns the Polyclinic medical centre on Dufferin north of Finch, has his own stake in improving the area.
Three years ago, he and his partner Alaa Tannous bought a former Coca Cola bottling plant at 2 Champagne Dr., which runs south off Finch, west of Dufferin. They are doubling the size of a hockey academy that had been running in the building and constructing a 7,400-square-metre (80,000-square-foot) medical centre with more than 50 doctors and a variety of clinics and medical services.
York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza said the BIA will restore a “better, stronger, more vibrant and cleaner economy” to the area.
The neighbourhood has faltered with the fallout of Canada’s manufacturing sector that once dominated the neighbourhood.
“It has gone through a very difficult period. When we had the manufacturing letdown of the early ’90s, a lot of plants, a lot of factories, a lot of manufacturers moved out of the district,” said Perruzza, who sits on the steering committee.
As a result, the former city of North York changed the zoning bylaw to allow expanded uses in the neighbourhood, which introduced businesses like used car dealerships and massage parlours to the area, Perruzza said.
The area has also struggled with high vacancy rates, he said.
In addition to sprucing up the area, the BIA will focus on weightier issues such as illegal dumping and security concerns, Pliamm said,
In fact, the BIA is looking to hire a security company that will patrol the area with one car during the day and two cars at night.
Perruzza is looking forward to the improvements the BIA will bring to the neighbourhood.
“It is quite exciting. It’s really is a grassroots movement. It’s coming from local folks, the businesses in the area,” he said.
“People are feeling a sense of hope.”