When it comes to the future of Eglinton Avenue, Patrick Saavedra tends to see the cup half-full.
The resident of Greenbrook Drive knows transforming the avenue, considered one the city’s major connectors, into a tree-lined street-scape accessible to all forms of traffic and housing a future transit line will mean major upheaval for the area.
But the trained architect, who moved back to Toronto following seven years in Washington, DC, liked what he heard from city and Metrolinx officials at a design workshop at York Memorial Collegiate Institute seeking feedback from residents on the future of the western portion of the avenue Tuesday evening.
“I’m trying to be positive about things because there’s going to be short-term pain for long term gain, and I hope most of the people here today recognize that,” said Saavedra.
Saavedra was one of an estimated 100-plus people who turned up at the high school for the first of three Eglinton Connects design workshops. The consultations are part of city avenue study proceeding in conjunction with the Metrolinx’s work on the 19-kilometre Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown Light Rail Transit line (LRT), which is to travel from Black Creek Drive in the west to Kennedy Station in the east along Eglinton Avenue.
After hearing a short presentation, residents were invited to take part in breakout sessions dealing with various elements of re-developing Eglinton, from making it more accessible to allowing for more high-density construction.
Also at the workshop, Metroloinx shared early station designs for the Crosstown LRT which begins operating in 2020.
The preliminary station designs covered stations located along the Crosstown’s westerly portion, from Black Creek to Eglinton West station, which will be located under Eglinton.
The design concepts for Keele, Dufferin and Caledonia and Oakwood were limited to structural details such as the placement of entrances, exits and elevators rather than more ornate elements which Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson said would be completed by a private sector design firm following a public tendering process expected to kick off at the end of June.
Once the winning bidder is awarded a contract, it will flesh out the designs currently 30 per cent complete based on work done by Metrolinx and the TTC before the transit agency handed off all Crosstown planning to Metrolinx. The TTC has agreed to run the line and other LRT lines Metrolinx will build on behalf of the province.
Robinson said all the designs shown at the workshop, including a stop at Oakwood Avenue, will remain on the station’s final map. Oakwood station had been in doubt until late last year when then-provincial transportation minister Bob Chiarelli confirmed its inclusion.
“This is the final list and nothing will be taken away,” said Robinson during the workshop.
In addition to the station plans, residents had a chance to provide feedback for the city’s ongoing study on Eglinton. The city looking into the feasibility of amending local bylaws to allow for development of mid-level residences at specific intersections as well as making Eglinton more accessible to all modes of transportations including walking and cycling.
City planning manager Lorna Day said feedback from the workshop series would be followed by two more rounds of consultations to inform a report to city council due next year. Should city council give the okay, applications for new development could come as early as 2014.
Day called the consultation process unprecedented for the city and said the plan was to proceed cautiously and in an incremental fashion.
“The plan is start with the vision for Eglinton and turn the screws a little bit at a time and see how it goes,” said Day. “Change is not going to happen overnight.”
Complicating the process is Metrolinx’s work on the Crosstown, which Day said was a challenge necessary for a city starved for transit expansion.
“It’s bit of a risk because we’re making some decisions without knowing the full vision,” she said. “We’re working collaboratively with Metrolinx and city is grateful for that process.”
Nick Alampi said he was encouraged by the ideas for Eglinton, but the president of the York-Eglinton BIA said he would wait to see the final recommendations before throwing his full support behind the plans for transforming the avenue.
“I think at this present time the right people are at the helm,” said Alampi who pointed out the Oakwood station designs as a welcoming development. “It’s exciting that there’s a plan to bring in new development into an area where there’s never been.”
While development could convince local business owners to redevelop their properties to encourage a new breed of customer less reliant on the automobile, Alampi said remaining issues like the removal of street parking along the avenue remained a concern to Eglinton West business owners.
“There’s a balance, we understand that,” he said. “The most important thing for us is finding a harmony that doesn’t injure the current establishments. We don’t want to see one group overpower another.”
Representatives for York South-Weston including city councillors Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio attended the workshop along with local MPP Laura Albanese and a staffer for federal MP Mike Sullivan.
Two more workshops are planned for Feb. 26 and 28. For more information on the consultations visit www.toronto.ca/eglinton. To view the Crosstown station designs online visit www.thecrosstown.ca