Emery Village leads the way in public/private partnerships
It all started with a gun incident a few years ago at Emery High School. It was then that the community and I decided which direction we were going in, and what would become of the place where I grew up. It was then that the businesses and residents banded together and rose up to say ‘not here, we want a different course’.
From ratepayers to school board trustees, from teachers to concerned citizens, everyone who was a leader wanted to know how to improve our community? That was the watershed moment when Emery Village was born. That moment was the ideal time to initiate its rebirth. Our work is a prime example of how a grassroots effort takes shape. It took eight years, but we finally created the Emery Village BIA.
I knew that this BIA was going to do more than just hang flower pots. It was going to change minds and create a sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging; in short, a new identity. How people feel about themselves is what they project out into the world.
We have a great community here and we are really building it into something that is making all of Toronto proud.
The Emery Village BIA introduced an innovative private public partnership in their official plan, which allows growth with costs picked up one-third by the BIA, one-third by the developers and one-third by the city. At a time when private/public partnerships weren’t being championed, Emery Village was leading the way.
Let’s talk bottom line: zoning was changed to allow for more investment and alter a landscape that saw 40 per cent of residents under the poverty line. Now, some homes in Emery Village sell for over $700,000. At Sheppard Avenue and Weston Road, we took steps to redevelop the old Woolworth land and the old Workers’ Compensation lands and the land around “Tony’s Ballroom” property.
By rezoning industrial lands and allowing more commercial space along arterial roads,we have also allowed more residential and given more families a reason to move in and in the process invited more businesses. Weston Road is a key access point to the 401 and Finch Avenue is a major access road. These are advantages, as well as the natural beauty of the Humber River, along with our excellent bike trails and lovely residential homes.
I also see new opportunities for pedestrian walkways, exhibits and shops at Finch Avenue and Weston Road, a gathering place that will attract the entire city and will live on beyond us.
As much as we pay homage to our pioneer roots in Emery Village we have become the new pioneers for this new century.