Revitalizing town core a challenge
How to balance heritage and growth are key to the successful redevelopment of Richmond Hill’s village core. A new plan is underway, and residents got their first look on Jan. 27. It will be up for public consultation at a Town of Richmond Hill Council meeting Feb. 3.
The town’s downtown local centre secondary plan covers the area between Levendale Road and Harding Boulevard along Yonge Street.
“The priority would be to unlock some of the inherent potential that the downtown has,” said Patrick Lee, the town’s director of policy. “In terms of being a place to live, work and play and obviously promoting some residential and retail intensification would be key in achieving those goals.”
The area in question includes the historic centre of the town.
Mehrdad Sabouhi, chair of the Village of Richmond Hill BIA, is against the idea of a suburban village modelled after, for example, Unionville in Markham.
Some buildings, he said, are nearly 100 years old and are an impediment to attracting new businesses.
“New developments are the only way downtown Richmond Hill can survive. We do not have [much] foot traffic.”
Another thing Sabouhi is concerned about is parking.
According to Lee, the town continues to look at parking reductions as part of the new plan. He acknowledges the town will have to grapple with attracting new development while trying to preserve the village’s history.
Ward 5 councillor Karen Cilevitz said the town should target mid-rise condo developments, such as the Renaissance near Yonge Street and Major Mackenzie Drive.
“I will maintain the mantra that I say to every developer and for every council meeting: respect our official plan,” said Cilevitz.
Both Lee and Sabouhi are in favour of moving traditional property lines back from Yonge for new buildings, to give space for restaurant patios and cosmetic installations. Yonge is a major artery, Sabouhi notes, and should look like it. Lee hopes the secondary plan will be passed by council later this year. —