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Toronto studying how to make Yonge Street pedestrian-friendly

Wider sidewalks, street furniture and a more bicycle friendly environment — that’s Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam’s dream for the future of Yonge Street.

The Ward 27 city councillor, along with Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA, Ryerson president Dr. Mohamed Lachemi, and Gary Switzer, CEO of MOD Developments, gathered at Yonge and Gould on Thursday to kick off Phase 1 of the Yonge Street Environmental Assessment.

“This environmental assessment study, which will be paid for by the city of Toronto, is really an accumulation and next step of work that has to be done in order for us to achieve all the great things we want to achieve on Yonge Street,” Wong-Tam explained.

The project will look at making Canada’s longest street pedestrian-friendly from Queen Street to Davenport Road through the addition of wider sidewalks, street furniture, public art and better lighting, as well as more trees and planters.

The area of study will eventually stretch as far south as Queens Quay, Wong-Tam explained.

She said the goal of the project is to make “a much more attractive street, a safe street and a street that welcomes everyone.”

And it’s a goal Wong-Tam said the people and businesses in the area have given the green light.

“We’ve been told by the business community and the residents along this street to give them something great,” she said. “We have been told to aspire to more than we could possibly imagine.”

According to the Downtown Yonge BIA, 42 million people walk north and south on Yonge Street on an annual basis.

“Within a kilometre of where we stand right now, there’s 70,000 residents. People live in this neighbourhood and more and more are coming in the future,” Garner explained.

“That is a dramatic change from the past and one that’s transforming Yonge Street and the entire downtown.”

The downtown portion of Yonge Street has remained virtually unchanged for the last 100 years and Wong-Tam said she’s inviting people from across the globe to submit their ideas for redesigning the iconic street.

“We want to send out a call to the big, creative, urban thinkers across this city, across this country, North America and abroad. We want you to come and bid on the RFP (request for proposal),” she said. “We want you to help us re-envision what Yonge Street will look like in the future.”

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