Eaton Centre owner says pedestrian-only Yonge Street would be "damaging"

Feb 2 2021, 1:03 pm

Cadillac Fairview, the owner of Toronto’s Eaton Centre, voiced its objection to a part of the YongeTOmorrow plan that would see parts of Yonge Street turned into pedestrian-only zones, saying that it would be “especially damaging” for the Eaton Centre and surrounding local businesses.

In a letter sent to Toronto’s City Council, who will vote Tuesday on the approval of the plan, Martin Wray, Cadillac Fairview’s vice president of operations, asked that the councillors consider a revision and remove the pedestrian-only zones, as well as the planned bike lanes.

“We are aligned with members of our community and are eager to have an improved pedestrian experience and public realm; however, the pedestrian-only zones and bike lanes that are now part of the current preferred design concept would be especially damaging for CF Toronto Eaton Centre and local businesses,” Wray wrote.

“We request, in the strongest terms, that these plans be re-evaluated to maintain essential and continuous access along Yonge Street. Overall logistics are confusing and will not be adhered to, and there is no additional funding for long-term enforcement.”

These proposed changes to Yonge Street are part of the YongeTOmorrow revitalization plan, a large-scale redesign of Yonge Street starting at College Street and stretching down to Queen Street. The plan would also see sidewalks widened, traffic lanes reduced, and more space for restaurant patios created.

In his letter, Wray cites the financial difficulties that businesses have faced this past year and will continue to face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The planned construction, he says, will only further negatively impact them.

“We cannot take yet another hit by rebuilding the street in a way that completely undermines the commercial viability of our complex and neighbouring businesses,” he wrote. “No improvement of the pedestrian realm can result from failed businesses on the street.”

Wray also suggests that cutting out vehicular traffic on Yonge Street would “exacerbate congestion on other downtown north-south arteries, as well as the east-west streets at either end of the closed section.”

Vocal supporters of the $70.5 million YongeTOmorrow plan, which includes individuals such as the David Suzuki Foundation and City Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Josh Matlow, have said that the proposed transformation will be a positive change for the city, boosting business, creating safer biking conditions, and improving the overall quality of life for residents.

If approved by City Council, construction for YongeTOmorrow is expected to start in 2023 and continue into 2025.

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