Af­ter years of con­struc­tion, mid­town de­serves more

Yonge & Eglin­ton should de­mand a pub­lic space fit­ting its new role as north of Bloor city cen­tre

Bayview Post - - News - KAREN STINTZ Karen Stintz is a for­mer city coun­cil­lor, elected in 2003, and was a chair of the TTC. She lives in Ward 16 with her fam­ily.

Nearly 100 years ago, the Toronto Tran­sit Com­mis­sion, then named the Toronto Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion, pur­chased nearly 10 acres of land at Yonge Street and Eglin­ton Av­enue. Since the TTC did not need all the land to op­er­ate its buses, street­cars and then the sub­way line, it be­came a land­lord along the way.

As a way of bring­ing ad­di­tional rev­enue to the TTC, long-term leases were signed with ten­ants and many are still op­er­at­ing to­day. The cur­rent ten­ants in­clude the Cana­dian Tire Of­fice, the Cine­plex Odeon Theatre and park­ing com­plex, and the Man­darin.

In ad­di­tion to the ten­ants, the TTC owns the cur­rent stag­ing area for Metrolinx and the bus bays that op­er­ate onto Du­plex Av­enue.

When the leases were ne­go­ti­ated, the Yonge sub­way had opened and op­er­ated from Union Sta­tion to Eglin­ton. Although there were some apart­ments in the area, it was not an em­ploy­ment hub, so the city lead­ers of the day likely used the 100-year lease to en­tice cor­po­ra­tions to lo­cate at a tran­sit hub. To­day, the land is some of the most valuable in the Greater Toronto Area and a sig­nif­i­cant re­de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity.

Although the TTC has col­lected $75 mil­lion in rev­enue, the rents are be­low mar­ket rates.

The leases are up for re­newal in 2021, which is also when Metrolinx ex­pects to com­plete the Eglin­ton Crosstown LRT. The tim­ing cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for the City of Toronto to con­sider these 10 acres and en­gage in some city build­ing.

Var­i­ous city agen­cies have at­tempted to sort out the long-term leases. Ini­tially it was the Toronto Tran­sit Com­mis­sion, then Build Toronto and now a new city de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion, CreateTO.

In 2016, Toronto City Coun­cil directed CreateTO to work with the ten­ants and come back to coun­cil with the cost of buy­ing out the leases.

Two years later, Don Log­gie, the lead for de­vel­op­ment at the new agency ad­mit­ted there is not much to re­port. Although dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing, ten­ants are not in­ter­ested in ter­mi­nat­ing the cur­rent leases.

In spite of the de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­nity that ex­ists, it is un­likely the city will be able to ter­mi­nate these leases in the next three years, ex­cept for one par­cel that will be re­turned to the TTC in 2021 — the for­mer bus ter­mi­nal cur­rently be­ing used by Metrolinx in the con­struc­tion of the Crosstown. Once the stag­ing site is no longer re­quired, it be­comes sur­plus land.

The next op­por­tu­nity won’t be un­til 2070 when all the leases ex­pire.

The city may try to de­velop the smaller por­tion of the site, but do­ing so would miss out on a big­ger op­por­tu­nity. The air rights over the par­cel have also been sold.

In light of the chal­lenges, the city has an op­por­tu­nity to com­pletely re­think how that space should func­tion for mid­town. The land cre­ates a per­fect op­por­tu­nity to add park­land to an area that is lack­ing in green space. It could also func­tion as a civic square with ur­ban art that draws peo­ple to the area.

When the leases are ter­mi­nated in 2070, the city will have an op­por­tu­nity to re­think the de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial. Be­tween now and then the great­est use for the for­mer bus ter­mi­nal is a pub­lic space that of­fers a lit­tle respite from the con­struc­tion that has dom­i­nated the area for the last 20 years.

Bus lands at Yonge and Du­plex are key to mid­town’s fu­ture

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