Imagine taking a stroll down Yonge Street, walking past Dundas-Square and not seeing a car in sight. Weird right? Well, that's what one Toronto Yonge Street project, yongeTOmorrow, aims to do after an increase in pedestrian demand in the area.
Every few years, right on cue, the city decides it must do something about Yonge Street. It’s not hard to understand why. For much of its length, it has become depressingly ordinary, a bit run down, vaguely tacky and, given expectations, hugely disappointing.
Rarely a destination street and currently not hip or cool, Yonge’s been off the cultural radar for a long time. Don’t confuse that with being dead though as there is always life on Yonge, but it isn’t easily packageable and doesn’t have just one identity. Like Toronto’s population, it is a diverse street.
It's long been Toronto's most iconic street — and its busiest.
But now, the city is looking to transform one particularly bustling stretch of Yonge from Queen Street to College Street, where pedestrians are often spilling off the narrow sidewalks due to lack of space.
Downtown Yonge is the epicentre of Toronto’s growth and change, with rising condo towers, increasing office employment, shifting retail patterns and a growing student population. But the street itself hasn’t kept up with the times. Downtown Yonge Street today looks much as it did 50 years ago: four vehicle lanes flanked by narrow sidewalks with little greenery and few places to stop and linger.
It’s a situation at odds with modern approaches to city-building, and one that may soon change. With Yonge scheduled to be torn up for water-main work, between Queen and College streets, Toronto will be facing a generational question. After decades of the roadway staying the same, what should come next?
Yonge-Dundas Square. College Park. The Eaton Centre. Then the street unfolds in theatres, soaring towers, and fine-grained 20th century retail, before reaching down to the Lake, and stretching past Bloor Street, midtown, uptown, out of town, and into a seemingly endless north. This is Yonge Street, Toronto's most famous thoroughfare, which forms the spine — and perhaps the heart — of the city. But it doesn't look it.
It was to discuss this radical transmogrification of the city’s biggest commercial street into some new kind of residential neighbourhood that a panel of eight urbanists gathered recently at Ryerson’s new Student Learning Centre at Yonge and Gould streets. Though Councillor Wong-Tam, the city’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, and Mark Garner, the head of the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area all spoke that night, Switzer’s voice stood out for its lack of pretense and illusion as much as for its passion.
The City of Toronto is carrying out a study that is focused on the section of Yonge Street from Queen Street to College Street. A number of opportunities to increase pedestrian space and improve the way people move through and experience Yonge Street are being considered.
To learn more about the City's study and have your comments and questions documented, contact the yongeTOmorrow project team: