A Short History of a Long Street

Yonge Street has been a site of significant civic importance since long before it’s initial construction by John Graves Simcoe in 1794. While not only the world's longest street, Yonge St might be Toronto’s most important street, reflecting our history and changing demographics across its many evolutions. 

Initially part of the major First Nations portage route Carrying Place Trail, Yonge St has been the site of political rebellions, home to new immigrants, a symbol of Toronto the Good, and later a gathering place for Toronto’s artists, musicians and bohemians. Yonge Street was always a hub of innovation. From Toronto’s first subway system, first theatre to show a motion picture, first shopping mall to where first cocktail bar was located. Far from its experimental heyday as a pedestrian mall in the 1970s, the downtown portion of Yonge Street of today boasts dangerously crowded sidewalks, diminished storefronts and an outdated public realm. 

It has been over a hundred years since the built form and shape of Yonge Street was redesigned to reflect its evolving uses. We have the opportunity to change that. 


Why yongeTOmorrow, Now?

Yonge Street and the surrounding area has seen massive population growth in the last decade. Downtown Yonge is home to over 175,000 people, about the size of the City of Burlington. As more downtown residents and commuters walk and use the streets as public gathering spaces, there is a growing demand to re-imagine how we use our streets. Some of the goals of yongeTOmorrow include:

  • Wider sidewalks
  • Better wayfinding
  • Bicycle lanes 
  • Street trees and parkettes
  • Benches
  • Patios 
  • Public Art
  • Car-free streets

The City of Toronto is mandated to replace a failing water main that is over 100 years old and buried directed under downtown Yonge Street. This will require major construction and provides the opportunity for the city to redesign the street with these new priorities front and center. With limited space in the current street design, the Yonge Street of tomorrow must be redesigned to create a complete livable community space.

This is the opportunity to bring one of Toronto’s most historic and culturally important streets back onto the world stage. This is the moment to mobilize huge public support and think boldly about the future of this iconic city street. This is the time for yongeTOmorrow.

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