Local business silent on Yonge project
Multilingual materials fail to prompt response from main street
As the new cityscaping project to reconstruct Yonge Street in North York gathers community feedback, city staff is having a hard time reaching local business owners.
A recent drop-in event for REimagining Yonge, hosted by Toronto Transportation Services, on Oct. 10 yielded around 300 attendees. Staff presented design options and solicited feedback on whether to remove two traffic lanes and install a bike lane on Yonge or to change the road structures on parallel Doris Avenue and Beecroft Road instead. Days later, staff hosted a meeting for local businesses.
“We actually hand delivered invitations to pretty much all the small businesses on Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch,” said Jeffrey Dea, manager of City of Toronto Infrastructure Planning.
His team handed out materials in Chinese, Farsi and Korean and had translators on hand, anticipating many of the business owners would not speak English as a first language. In the end, one business showed up.
“We just haven’t been able to connect with the business owners, and it’s not without us attempting to make the connection,” Dea said.
When asked about this project, one local business owner voiced his approval and another was skeptical.
“If the sidewalks get bigger, then more people can walk by and increase our business,” said Shri Ponnuthurai, who manages the Frog: A Firkin Pub near Sheppard Avenue and Yonge. He had been invited to the meeting but did not attend.
Joe Choi, general manager of Sushi Moto just up the street, disagreed.
“There’s a shortage of parking. People get frustrated. They don’t come.”
He didn’t go to the meeting and wasn’t even sure if he got the PARK HOME AVE. invitation.
“My opinion isn’t going to do anything,” he added. “As a business owner, we just suffer. Whatever the politicians say, we just follow.”
The issue of parking has been a sore spot for opponents of the project. Yonge has 255 curb lane parking spaces, which are available during off-peak hours.
“One of the things we continue to hear is the impact to street parking on Yonge Street,” said Dea.
Toronto Transportation Services found 14,000 publicly accessible spaces within the study area and is looking for opportunities to make up for loss of spaces on side streets.
“I think there’s a perception that parking is going to be removed from Yonge Street and there’s not going to be any parking for people who want to go to local businesses, and that’s just not the case.”
The next open house REimagining Yonge will scheduled for December.
A rendering of one design option to transform Yonge Street