By Al Ruggero
Evidence that the construction of the Finch West LRT is well underway is not news to any local resident or commuter along Finch Avenue West.
What may surprise many is that significant development is on the horizon following the completion of the LRT. Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), with the capacity to carry more passengers than buses or streetcars, are considered a higher order of transit, just below that of subways. Typically, high-order transit also opens the door to intensification and draws the attention of property owners, investors, and developers to build transit-oriented multi-level residential development. This is likely to happen along the Finch transit corridor and at the Weston Road intersection.
To understand the background, provincial and municipal governments generally shape the policies and processes that govern development. At the “street-level” what you see built includes the building type (hi-rise vs low rise, mixed-use or single use-commercial, residential, institutional or warehousing and manufacturing), lot coverage, density, driveways, parking requirements, distance from the roadway, are all the cumulative result of decisions, and approvals are just some of the considerations and constraints that precede the final build.
In a nutshell, the province lays out the “big picture” with the Ontario Planning Act and Provincial Policy Statements, including the Growth and Regional Transportation Plan. This is incorporated by the city as instructions to “rule,” such as in by-laws. The city also adds its own priorities, such as affordable housing, cycling, and planning designations - like the Emery Village Secondary Plan. The city also gets to name neighbourhoods, parks, and districts, often for their unique nature, culture, history or the type of land use and activity. In the case of the Finch-Weston area, it has been recently classified as a Major Transit Station Area in recognition of its emerging importance in the city’s drive for intensification and housing priorities along transit corridors.
Emery’s Employment District (Emery Village Business Improvement Area) is one of Toronto’s largest and has recently been included in the creation of Provincial Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ). Emery’s centre also happens to be located at Weston Road and Finch Avenue. From this busy intersection, commercial arterial roads connect-Toryork Dr., Fenmar Dr. to the north, Milvan Dr. to the west and Signet/Arrow Road to the east - like disjointed spokes from the hub. These important roads, where many of Toronto’s industries are located from Emery’s industrial core, also carry the commercial goods and services destined from and to the warehouses and plants. Without managing the way forward, conflicts are bound to arise between future residential and the existing commercial, manufacturing, and industrial land use nearby.
The Emery Village BIA is aware of the development pressures and the need to provide some guidance and consultation per our mandate to ensure the continued viability and further evolution of its employment base. Last year, the BIA’s Board of Management commissioned a study entitled Transit Hub & Finch West Corridor Land Use Study by Sean Hertel+Associates Urban Planning to look at the current development proposals, related studies, emerging planning policies and priorities with a view towards recommendations and engagement. Stay tuned.
We will keep you posted once the report is finalized.
(Al Ruggero is project manager for Emery Village BIA)