City Centre Mirror
The opening of a new urban square on Orchard View Boulevard today, complete with music and a farmers' market, was a resounding success.
The as-yet-unnamed public space was launched on the easternmost portion of the street, which will be closed off to vehicular traffic until Thanksgiving as part of a pilot project.
The new urban square came about through collaboration between the Eglinton Park Residents' Association (EPRA), councillor Karen Stintz and RioCan corporation, with Apple Tree bringing together vendors to sell local produce, meat, prepared foods, baked goods and more.
Local residents and those who work in the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area filled the square throughout its opening day, and those in attendance seemed duly impressed with the space.
"The farmers' market used to be over at (Eglinton) Park, but having it here is way better for everyone involved," said local resident Michael Sahota. "It's better for the merchants because they have lots of people walking by and it's better for the people here because it's so convenient."
The farmers' market will take over the space every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Throughout the rest of the week, the square will include cafe-style seating and shade, as well as planters to help beautify the area. For Lydia Levin of the EPRA, the urban square is a necessary oasis in what is usually a congested part of the city.
"People will be able to come here off of Yonge Street and just sit and enjoy the space," she said. "Providing seating is important because there isn't really much of it around."
Levin noted the urban square was a hit from the moment staff began setting it up. Even before the merchants were in place, the square was full of local residents and shoppers who were thankful for the respite.
"The minute the chairs and tables came out, there were people here," she said.
Christine Langlois of the EPRA said the public can let the importance of the new open space be known simply by showing up and using it. In an area where such space is at a premium, and based on the popularity of the farmers' market on opening day, it appears the public will certainly make good use of the space.
"We hope that whether you shop in this neighbourhood, live in this neighbourhood or work in this neighbourhood, you'll take the opportunity to enjoy this space - your space," she told the crowd.
Lesley Stoyan, who started up the Apple Tree market a few years ago at Eglinton St. George's United Church along with her husband Chris Trussell, said the new location will be a boon to local vendors.
The market's original site at the church wound up being too small to encompass all the vendors and created traffic problems. The market later moved to Eglinton Park which, between waste cluttering the area during the city's 2009 garbage strike and the park's off-the-beaten-path location, proved unsustainable.
"When we were at the park, the community didn't come out the way we'd hoped," Stoyan said. "We put out a call for help to try to get more people out, so when (Stintz) called four weeks ago and asked 'how would you like to move to Yonge Street', we were really excited."
Stintz helped ring in the new urban square with a musical number, taking her grade four piano exam in front of cameras and crowds. She hopes the pilot project is a success, which will help make the urban square a regular fixture in the area.
"It gets local groups out enjoying the sun and enjoying the summer," she said.