The City of Toronto is announcing today that the project for revitalizing the high-end shopping strip along Bloor West from Church Street to Avenue Road is finally going ahead (it was originally proposed three years ago). The project includes widened sidewalks with a special new design, and new street trees with a special irrigation system. Some public art will probably be included too. A lane of parking will be removed to accomodate the new sidewalks.
The original plan was for the city to contribute $10 million dollars to the project, which would be matched by the Bloor-Yorkville BIA (Business Improvement Area) and possibly by other funding sources (originally it was hoped that upper levels of government would contribute, but their reluctance is what delayed the project).
In Spacing‘s pedestrian issue, we published an analysis of the original project, although details may have since changed.
So the city is spending a major chunk of money on making a swanky shopping district for Toronto’s wealthy even swankier. Here is the question. Is this:
a) a good thing, because the city is putting a real investment into expanding and improving the pedestrian realm in one of the most heavily travelled pedestrian areas of the city, or
b) a bad thing, because the city is devoting a significant amount of its scarce cash to pandering to the wealthy while it neglects many more pedestrian areas used by average-income people where this cash could make a bigger difference.
(For perpective — the city’s yearly sidewalk improvement budget is less than half the $10 million first proposed for this project: $2 million a year for adding missing sidewalks, and $1.6 million to the Urban Design Section of City Planning to make a small number of sidewalks a bit nicer than standard every year).
I, personally, don’t know what to think. I kind of think both sides at the same time. I’d like to hear other people’s opinions.