The Globe and Mail‘s Alex Bozikovic describes how the plans for redeveloping Honest Ed’s actually seem quite forward-thinking, even exciting in their ambition.
“There’s no place like this place… anyplace.” That’s one of the many slogans hand-painted on the facades of Honest Ed’s; and the plans to redevelop the discount store, and the adjacent group of buildings called Mirvish Village, will live up to that slogan in ways Ed Mirvish wouldn’t have expected.
On Tuesday night, the developer that owns the 1.8-hectare downtown Toronto site, Westbank, and its architect, Vancouver’s Gregory Henriquez, presented their plans at a public open house. While the project’s design is in flux, the plans include several surprises: 1,000 rental apartments, many of them family-sized, and no condominiums for sale; a permanent public market; and retail space largely divided into small units that mimic the scale of existing storefronts on Bloor Street.
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The project, which has not yet been submitted to the city for approval, would raze Honest Ed’s. Mr. Henriquez’s office has designed new buildings that form solid street walls along Bloor and Bathurst and along Lennox Street to the south. They would incorporate three towers of 29, 22 and 21 storeys. Behind them would be a low, glass-roofed Mirvish Village Market (selling food and crafts). To the south, two pedestrian-only laneways would cut the block, lined with small retail and live-work spaces filled with the help of the Centre for Social Innovation.
The promise of about 1,000 rental apartments is dramatic news. Developers have recently begun building rentals in Toronto again. According to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp, about 1,100 were built in the region from 2013 to 2014. This would add 1,000 in one place – and Westbank promises half will be two-, three- or four-bedroom units.
The plan would leave intact most of the houses and small commercial buildings on Markham Street. These would become destination restaurants, expanded discreetly and served by a bike valet service that connects to an underground bicycle shop and service area. Ms. Rosenberg imagines Markham Street with one consistent swath of paving, integrating the road and sidewalk and with an 11-metre space for patios. (Her firm has three ideas for what it would look like, including one inspired by the crooked floors of Honest Ed’s and the colour-field painting David Mirvish showed at his gallery on Markham Street in the 1970s.)
Alex Butt and Vincent Panepinto had an informative and photograph-heavy essay in NOW Toronto describing the decline of the motel strip along east-end Scarborough’s Kingston Road. Apparently these motels have shifted away from hosting travellers and are now housing Toronto’s homeless.
Kingston Road, also known as Highway 2, has been integral to the Scarborough area since it was established in 1817, its name signalling that it was the sole route connecting Toronto and Kingston. What was then a post road for mail coaches turned into a bustling thoroughfare for automobiles moving between Toronto and eastern Canada.
Like Route 66 in the U.S., Kingston Road was marked by the 50s and 60s heyday of motor hotels. Cars were relatively inexpensive, easier to drive and safer than ever before. The newly introduced options of air conditioning and power steering made the prospect of a road trip more appealing for young couples and families looking for a little adventure. You could cruise through Pickering and have a refreshing cocktail in the grassy courtyard of the Lido Motel, enjoy the soda fountain and in-room television at the Avon, grab a medium-rare hamburger in the spacious dining room of Andrew’s Motel or take a dip in the outdoor pool at the Roycroft.
The Paragon Motel boasted 42 fully modern units, a convention hall, restaurant and children’s playground. Built in 1949, it became the Wellington Motel in 1973 and the East Side Motel in 1987. The east half of the property is now the Comfort Inn.
But completion of Highway 401 changed the way Canadians travelled by car. And while Kingston Road still stretches to Pickering, the motels that lined the street became more redundant with each passing decade as chain hotels and service stations popped up along the former superhighway. The amorality of development means that the prosperity of one area may force another to flounder, and by the 80s the Kingston strip had noticeably decayed.
Spacing shares a report arguing that biking is really taking off in Toronto, especially in some downtown neighbourhoods. (Some are close to mine, even.)
Although we don’t know exactly who has started to bike in the last few years, we do know just how much things have changed. And they have changed a great deal: Our first hint came when the Toronto Cycling survey released in 2011 by the city’s Transportation Department showed that 29 percent of Torontonians were utilitarian cyclists. Next, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation and Share the Road released their 2013 survey results, showing that 5.7 percent of Torontonians cycle regularly. Most recently, in September of 2013, Cycle Toronto, working with the Toronto Cycling Think and Do Tank, measured the number of cars and cyclists using College St. at Spadina during afternoon rush hour. What we found was extraordinary: approximately equal numbers of cars and bikes used College at this time on the two study days – though the bikes used only a fraction of the road space, of course. That’s a 74 percent cycling increase on this street in just three years.
Finally, an analysis of the National Household Survey data from 2011 shows astonishing figures for cycling mode share in some census tracts – nearly 20 percent in Seaton Village near Christie Pits and in Dufferin Grove, with other areas of the west end following closely. These figures are for work and school trips only, so the total share of cycling trips might be even higher.
So now we know for certain – Torontonians are getting on their bikes in unprecedented numbers. These increases seem even more significant considering the poor curbside conditions, general lack of separated lanes, meager painted bike routes, and shortage of bike parking, especially back in 2011 and 2012 when most of these data were collected. Way to go, Torontonians – we know that the more of us who cycle, the safer it gets, and so we expect collision rates to be declining and emissions and commercial vacancies to be going down, while fitness, disposable income and business revenues increase.