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"The Ignorant Fool"
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From the Star.



Now we'll all be able to walk the walk on Bloor St.
Jun 16, 2008 04:30 AM
Christopher Hume
Urban Affairs Columnist

Sometime in the next year or two, Bloor Street will finally start to look like what it is – a major urban destination.

After more than a decade of effort, local businesses and the city have hammered out a $20 million plan that will transform Bloor, from Avenue Rd. almost to Church St., into a precinct that is more pedestrian friendly than ever, with a vastly enhanced public realm.

The last step in the epic process came last week when the city approved bylaws that allow for widening the sidewalk and removing street parking.

And despite what you might think, local merchants were in favour of the scheme. Typically, it's business owners who oppose any proposal to limit vehicular access. Think of St. Clair Ave. W. and Kensington Market.

But as the Bloor Streeters understand, pedestrians are good for business. This has been borne out in cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Tokyo and Stockholm. In every case, merchants screamed that banning cars would kill their business, only to discover they were wrong.

Besides, there are only 54 parking spots on this stretch of Bloor, with 7,000 in nearby lots and garages. By getting rid of the street spots, the sidewalk can be increased significantly and 130 trees planted.

"It started about 11 years ago," explains Briar de Lange, general manager of the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area. "Then we discovered the city had this antiquated water system under the street, so they had to rip it up to replace it. That work is almost done now, and we can create a beautiful public realm."

Construction is expected to begin July 14.

By the time the dust settles, in 2009 or '10, the sidewalks of Bloor will be paved in granite. There will be a series of granite planters on both sides of Bloor, each with a tree and a yew hedge. And the poor plants may actually have a shot at survival; they will be provided with the room they need to grow roots.

Of course, Bloor has already undergone something of a transformation; when the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal opened at the Royal Ontario Museum last year, the area acquired an important public space. Though still unnamed, and largely unrecognized, the square in front of the new Bloor St. entrance can become a major gathering place. It's still waiting to be fully furnished, but that will happen.

"This is catching up," Councillor Kyle Rae (Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale) says frankly. "It's taken years; they started talking about it before I represented them. It's all about pedestrian improvement. Bloor Street is a destination. And to have businesses lead has been fantastic."

As Rae explains it, the landlords on Bloor agreed to pay a levy that will allow them to repay the city's $20 million loan over the next 20 years.

Though the money will be spent on one street, the whole city will benefit. Bloor, after all, is Toronto's most elegant shopping district, and a cultural hub, which means it belongs to everyone.

The 30,000 or so vehicles that use Bloor daily can still be accommodated, but now pedestrians will also feel welcome.

Reclaiming the city from the automobile won't be easy, but resistance is futile. Given that the age of cheap fuel is drawing to a close, it's critical we do everything possible to make Toronto pedestrian friendly. This is the first step of many. The fact it will unfold in such a popular precinct means the whole city will be paying attention. After so much time talking the talk, we'll be able to walk the walk.
 

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"The Ignorant Fool"
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
T,B
I know stunted trees in concrete boxes are one of your pet peeves, maybe these 130 trees planted will grow BIG!

And the poor plants may actually have a shot at survival; they will be provided with the room they need to grow roots.
:)
 

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I hope it looks like some of the nice areas in London, UK if its just some trees and granite what a bore. Ever since I've been to London my view of Toronto has changed a lot, and now I see why it never makes the cut for a "world class" city, and yes I said that term many hate, lol, but now I see what "world class" means.
 

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"The Ignorant Fool"
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Ever since I've been to London my view of Toronto has changed a lot ...
metroboi, I find that change in POV (point of view) very interesting.

Can you elaborate?
Is it the individual buildings, the sidewalks, the street retail or something you can put your finger on?
What in the ambiance of London struck you as positive or better than TO. By no means disputing your impression, just interested and trying to learn, as I have not been to London (in spite of my deceptive avatar!).
 

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London is a very beautiful city, and there has always been close attention to detail (with the exception of a lot of post war buildings) and aesthetics. We can learn a lot from cities like London, Paris and New York, but aside from striving to improve our city as much as possible we really can't lose too much sleep about the fact we are not London, Paris or New York. It is like looking at Ben Affleck, and being all bummed out because he is more handsome. :)
 

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"The Ignorant Fool"
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
posted by T,B
It is like looking at Ben Affleck, and being all bummed out because he is more handsome.
Or looking at your wife and coveting your neighbor's wife! :eek:hno:

I know it's wrong, but I'm only human!
 

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Anyone have any renders of this? Or are those renders posted eons ago basically what it will look like when it's finished?

It would be great to see actual paving stones instead of crappy concrete sidewalks outside of King and Bay for once in this city. I just hope city workers don't mindlessly start spraypainting on the location of underground lines the second it's finished for no particular reason.
 

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metroboi, I find that change in POV (point of view) very interesting.

Can you elaborate?
Is it the individual buildings, the sidewalks, the street retail or something you can put your finger on?
What in the ambiance of London struck you as positive or better than TO. By no means disputing your impression, just interested and trying to learn, as I have not been to London (in spite of my deceptive avatar!).
The streets are nice, lots of trees, sidewalks are nice (not filled in with tar when a block gets cracked like they do with T.O.. lol), a lot signs
posted everywhere showing you the direction of landmarks and areas to see, they have many squares to visit and filled with people all the time.

The nightlife is crazy and packed (as a gay guy, I have never been to so many clubs in my life in a city that were packed and 10x bigger than Toronto that were filled with young people 18-25, Toronto doesn't have that anymore since Boots, then IT and sadly 5ive closed down, Fly is nice but to curcuit for me)

The subways there go everywhere! I mean everywhere and if not that, national rail does! They have a card that you hold for a sec over a pad and lets you thru into the subway and the platforms show which train comes when and how long till next one, and all trains & buses tell you each stop (Toronto just added that and my friend told me London had that for years now)

I've been to 7 countries, with over 150 cities (I travel at least 4 times a year out of the country, and I don't include Buffalo trips, lol) and I must say London is by far my favourite city in the world right now. That's why I like it :)

Don't get me wrong tho, Toronto is great but it needs a lot of work. One pointer for anyone whose going to London, see Canary Wharf it use to be a rat hole and like the portlands we have today, if that doesn't look like that when its all finished what a shame the direction the city has gone with that.
 

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I hope it looks like some of the nice areas in London, UK if its just some trees and granite what a bore. Ever since I've been to London my view of Toronto has changed a lot, and now I see why it never makes the cut for a "world class" city, and yes I said that term many hate, lol, but now I see what "world class" means.
While it truly is a national pastime to have an inferiority complex when comparing Canada with other places it hardly is the reality.
Toronto can, and does stand with the "world class" (whatever that means)cities of the world.
My experiences in London were as with most places, mixed... overcrowded roads and tube, snobby people, extremely expensive, smelly, and outside of the key tourist places quite dirty. However the cultural attractions, architecture, pubs etc. were fantastic.
I have about 5 or 6 friends who have emigrated from London to Toronto and they keep telling me that they would never go back. Standard of living is "dismal compared to here" in their words.
 

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^^@ metroboi
It just seems that the things you count as world class are very superficial. If London didn't have polished sidewalks, transit niceties, and an overactive club scene, would it still be world class in your books? You're talking like a tourist, and you're observations shed no light on the depth of livability, culture or commerce, and nothing outside the touristy areas. Don't get me wrong, London is world class and Toronto probably isn't, but not because of the issues you've touched on.
 

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I am very hopeful that our harbourfront development will be more people friendly and pleasant than Canary Wharf.. no offence to London, they needed more office space, but if an intense office tower development like Canary Wharf were to be replicated here on the waterfront people would go through the roof. Not to mention that the buildings of Canary Wharf, while revolutionary for London at the time, (and even revolutionary for most Londoners today), look pretty "Toronto 1995" as built by Olympia & York.
London doesn't have the problem of being ignored by the government when it comes to funding, because there isn't the same division of powers in Britain between provincial and federal governments. London is the seat of power and gets proper funding the same way Washington, or most other civilized cities in the western world get support from their government. I would be willing to bet anything that the TTC gets less per capita funding than London's Underground, and by a long chalk at that, and probably most other transit systems too. The Big Dig in Boston is funded mostly by the American government. Fat chance we would get anything like that here in Toronto if our Federal Governments of the past 30 years are indicative of anything.
 

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London is a great city, one of my favorite in the world, and I like it for the reasons Metroboi listed and more, but I have to agree with TB. It's a shame that Toronto gets nothing from the feds, because if properly funded we could be so much more.

In a desperate way I'm starting to think we should start getting to a Hong Kong level of density in Toronto so that we have the density to just privatize all of our infrastructure and not rely on the feds, but I guess a lot of you here probably wouldn't be too happy with that :)
 

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^^@ metroboi
It just seems that the things you count as world class are very superficial. If London didn't have polished sidewalks, transit niceties, and an overactive club scene, would it still be world class in your books? You're talking like a tourist, and you're observations shed no light on the depth of livability, culture or commerce, and nothing outside the touristy areas. Don't get me wrong, London is world class and Toronto probably isn't, but not because of the issues you've touched on.
It's beyond that, they have many museums (far larger than T.O), and unlike Toronto, they're free in London, which is how it should be and donate if you wish. There are things way beyond the tourism issue about London I like, but overall I liked the city a lot. I prefer it over NYC in so many aspects.

The feds really do need to give more to the cities, and build better and more interesting buildings here. I think the waterfront being redone will lift the city far beyond it's potential, but the matter is many years away at this rate, maybe if we get something big in 2020 it'll speed things up... who knows ;)
 

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^^ Again, most of the things we love about cities like London go back hundreds of years. Most of those lovely squares and buildings were going up when Toronto was a handful of log cabins... nothing we can do about that. Museums are free in Britain because they are heavily funded, by the government and by the Lottery system. You cannot keep a museum open for free if you don't have this kind of funding. We can never replicate the wonderful architecture that they have. It is difficult to see the "charms" of our city when people live here, but they exist. My friends from England come almost every year and consider Toronto absolutely beautiful (not having been indoctrinated by the local "truism" that Toronto is ugly). There are different types of beauty, I guess... ours will have to be what we are creating today.. we cannot go back 500 years and recreate parks and grand buildings.
Having said that, London has its "ugly" parts, too, as do all cities. Tourists don't usually see those parts.
 

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Exactly, and that's what I loved many old buildings everywhere, also many and most of which were lit up, and I love that! lol

Glad they put bike racks at the ROM it was needed, looked kinda bare without anything there. I wish they wud light up the ROM like they did on opening night. Looked great!
 
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