Toronto Star

Untangling ‘spaghetti junction’

Etobicoke’s messy Six Points interchang­e and vacant lands finally getting attention with massive new scheme


If the late Jane Jacobs had nightmares, they looked like this.

Standing in the parking lot of the old Westwood Theatre at Kipling and Bloor, you see a couple of small storefront­s in a mostly deserted building. Off to your left is an abandoned dump where the city used to empty its trucks of filthy, salty snow. Behind you is the Six Points interchang­e, a nightmaris­h series of ramps and roads that twist and turn and confuse even long-time west-end residents. Giant stretches of vacant land sit forlornly between the ramps, serving mostly as collection spots for coffee cups and fastfood wrappers and other urban detritus.

It’s going to take a few years, but Toronto council this month endorsed a massive plan that calls for an entire new downtown focus in this long-neglected corner of the city.

Called the West District Design Initiative, the scheme features three major components.

The Six Points ramps and bridges — known as the “spaghetti junction” — would be reconfigur­ed into a pedestrian-friendly intersecti­on that gives better access to the Westwood Theatre lands and provides the chance for new developmen­t on a traditiona­l grid-like road system. A new YMCA would be built and parkland added.

Raggedy bus bays at Bloor and Islington would be dragged down to create space for new developmen­t that gives the area more of a traditiona­l urban look. Mississaug­a Transit’s terminal would be pushed west to Kipling and the area will given a new, polished look with added trees, better paving materials, improved lighting and new street furniture.

The old Etobicoke Civic Centre at Burnhamtho­rpe Rd. and Highway 427, which is now surrounded by acres of grey parking lots, would be redevelope­d; likely with both office and residentia­l buildings with a higher density than now exists. A new civic centre would be built along Bloor, probably near the Kipling station.

“We’re looking at all three properties together to see how we can move things around and make some money and get some assessment growth,” said Toronto councillor Peter Milczyn, who helped push for the changes. “We want to knit these various pieces together. We’re looking at everything from roads to subway stations to bus terminals to recreation­al facilities, as well as parks and residentia­l, retail and office space.”

North York has its downtown, although it’s hardly what some imagined. Scarboroug­h has something of a central focus. Downtown Toronto has been given a facelift at Yonge and Dundas. But Etobicoke has sat quietly on the sidelines, waiting its turn.

“It’s something I wanted to do when I was in Etobicoke prior to amalgamati­on,” said Toronto councillor and former Etobicoke mayor Doug Holyday. “We’ve wanted to do something for a long time but it’s always been just out of reach. “We built Dundas Square in downtown Toronto at considerab­le cost. But there hasn’t been much thought given to Etobicoke.”

“Etobicoke has never had a central focus,” Milczyn said as he drove a reporter around the area. “We’re getting residentia­l developmen­t already, so we don’t need that as much as we need offices, employment lands and community facilities. This is the biggest chunk of city-owned land outside the port lands, so we can do a lot with it.”

SNC Lavalin already has committed to beefing up Bloor and Islington with a new headquarte­rs building.

Milczyn said discussion­s are underway with a “major public institutio­n” about joining the company in the area.

“It makes sense if we do it the right way,” said Holyday. “I do worry about the costs. I’d like to sell the civic centre and use the money for the rest of the project but I’m afraid someone on council might have other plans for it. Milczyn and Holyday agree the Bloor-Dundas Six Points junction at Kipling is a mess. “The roads take up a lot of room,” Milczyn said. “It was all planned in the 1950s and built before the subway was extended. That was the edge of the city when it was built. It’s now all surrounded by developmen­t, and it doesn’t work on any level.” “I used to have a business in the area and I had a hard time myself telling people how to get there,” Holyday said with a laugh. The redevelopm­ent will cost around $37 million, but some of that money would’ve had to be spent to fix up the existing system, anyway, Milczyn said. By creating new space for developmen­t, the city will be able to sell off some one and a half hectares and use that cash to help pay for the road work. Redevelopi­ng most of the old civic centre site — some historic elements will almost certainly be kept — could raise $36 million, Milczyn said.

Not everyone is enamoured of the redesign of the 2.8-kilometre strip.

“It’s simply not necessary,” said Terry Reardon of the Islington Ratepayers Associatio­n. “I’ve been in the area for 30-odd years and there’s never been a hold-up around the Six Points interchang­e. Even people who support the changes admit the extra traffic signals will mean a slowdown.”

Reardon says people who want to avoid the signals will start using side streets more often and that traffic will increase on Bloor west of Kipling, which is primarily a residentia­l street.

Asked if he didn’t consider the current interchang­e an eyesore, Reardon chuckled.

“It works. It might be ugly but roads aren’t there to be beautiful.” Reardon said residents want parks and community space on the old theatre lands, not more condos. He also said they worry that some of the units are “fairly low-priced and we could have another St. Jamestown unless there are lots of activities for the kids.”

“It’s a good idea to redevelop Six Points,” said Peter Quach, owner of Thyme 4 Pizza on Dundas W. “It would probably help businesses in the area. Right now, people travelling eastbound have to make a Uturn to get to some of the businesses. It’s very dangerous.”

 ?? PHOTO ILLUSTRATI­ON ?? A composite of two photos shows the Six Points interchang­e in Etobicoke where a massive revamp is slated, including developmen­t of the old Westwood Theatre site, below.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATI­ON A composite of two photos shows the Six Points interchang­e in Etobicoke where a massive revamp is slated, including developmen­t of the old Westwood Theatre site, below.
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