Massive development at Yonge and Eglinton raises some questions

Is this progress at any price?

john sewellPost City Magazines’ columnist John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto and the author of a number of urban planning books, including The Shape of the Suburbs.  

Cavorting nakedly, the Princes of Big Money and the Princess of Land Use Planning  dance wildly together, here at the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton.

Prepare the marriage hymns, oh mighty mayor and beloved councillors. Prepare the wedding ceremony you beasts of the OMB, and oh foremost minister of municipal affairs prepare the excess zoning order they will desire as a wedding gift.

This is no provincial wetland of 50 acres longing for a flat factory roof in far-off Pickering. This is the centre of a city where buildings should reach the very ceiling of the sky, not those squibbles of the past, built by those minor forefathers of misty time from the 1960s built things to be forgotten, tiny eight- or 10-storey structures for offices and so forth.

Clear them away, that 600,000 square feet of cement and wiring and carpets and windows, all that detritus no longer needed.

Pull down that old cinema, that bus terminal that reminds one of a 1960s airline terminal in the USSR.

Push them all away to some landfill in the distance so we can get on with the future. What is the past but a mirage when the future is at hand with its limitless opportunities? Huh??

And the future will bring some 600,000 square feet of office space, yes, the same as we have just put in landfill, but this will have the smell of the new.

And you might ask, since this is the corner of two main subway lines, why not more office space? Because the Princes and Princess think this is enough.

It produces exactly the kind of financial return modern times dictates, and what could be more important than that?

And yes, there will be apartment towers, four of them with 2,700 units, since the Princes and Princess believe in more new towers with small apartments.

Yes, those towers could fit onto the existing land without demolishing the old buildings but not in such an attractive fashion as is possible once the site is cleared of that awful old stuff.

Some might say there is enough construction at this intersection, but they would be mistaken.

There is no intersection in the city where more construction is not needed if we are to become a real world-class city, where sidewalks can be skewed by construction hoardings to ensure everyone gets a good physical and mental workout making their way around.

Dear reader, I was contemplating the future city as Yonge and Eglinton writ large. Would that not be the closest to the most desirable thing you could imagine? The views from those towers would be magnificent, looking out to see other towers in the near and far distance, a literal plethora of towers all around.

And the Princes’ mantra is very pleasing: location, location, not “proverification.”

It captures the intensity of the moment while producing a healthy return; although, its meaning is unclear.

It’s what the city needs at this time, n’est-pas?

The Princess of Land Use Planning is, I agree, looking a bit tawdry nowadays as she makes her way throughout the city, somewhat like Mr. Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone woman, but it is always good to see her dressed up for the dance she’s been called to at Yonge and Eglinton.

As you can hear her saying under her breath as she cavorts with the Princes, “Save the last dance for me.” And one can only hope it is indeed the last dance.

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