There will soon be another reason to visit Queen Street West.
Besides the shopping, the bars, and restaurants, one of Toronto’s most popular downtown neighbourhoods is also getting free public WiFi.
The free WiFi is part of the Queen St. West Business Improvement Area’s (BIA) new parkette plans for two streets in the area: Denison Avenue and Ryerson Avenue.
The permanent plan is part of a jointly funded project with the City of Toronto.
“I’m actually quite surprised that we seem to be the first ones in the public realms doing this. It seems to me to be something we should have done a long time ago,” said Spencer Sutherland, executive director of the Queen St. West BIA.
Sutherland told Daily Hive that the BIA’s streetscape project has been in the planning for five years, and having public WiFi was something that was always on the agenda. The project finally came along after a review of the usage of some streets along Queen West.
“A parkette by its nature is when we’re able to reclaim some space from transportation and put it in the public domain,” Sutherland said. “When a street was originally created, it might have been a two-way street, then converted into a one-way street, and now we review those one-way streets and we say ‘hey, we don’t need that much space for the cars, so let’s absorb some of that space as a sidewalk, expand the sidewalk and create what we call a parkette.’”
And in the Queen West neighbourhood, after a review by the BIA, the Denison and Ryerson Avenues locations were the two approved by the City to construct new parkettes.
The new public features are costing about $450,000, which is being paid for by the BIA along with the City.
With everything now approved on both ends, the construction is almost underway. The project includes two phases, which Sutherland said should begin in May. The first phase will include sidewalk reconstruction, and the second phase, which is set to begin in July, will be the construction of the parkettes.
“The parkette construction will have all the infrastructure put in place and we’ll add the connectivity presumably in September,” Sutherland said. “If all goes well, we’re planning to have it done before the [Toronto International] film festival at the beginning of September.”
But besides TIFF, this particular area along Queen West has a lot of pedestrian traffic. It is home to a lot of take out restaurants, which was a point identified by the BIA when they were looking at the location for potential parkettes.
“When we created the parkettes, we specifically wanted to create an outdoor space to serve as an extended area for people who might be going to the local restaurants, they have somewhere to go and sit down and eat their food. We figured that providing WiFi made sure that these parkettes actually get used,” Sutherland said. “The more services we provide, the more willing and motivated people will be to come enjoy the new public space.”
And it is true. As once said in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.”
Especially if it includes free WiFi.