The much-discussed Eglinton Connects project is one step closer to fruition after the City of Toronto's Planning and Growth Management Committee adopted Part 2 of the Planning Study’s Phase 1 Implementation Report on Thursday.

Eglinton Connects will transform the street. Image by City of Toronto. Eglinton Connects will transform the street in anticipation of the Crosstown LRT. Image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The Eglinton Connects Planning Study, which has been underway for two years, aims to improve transportation and create a vision for a 19 kilometre section of Eglinton Avenue in anticipation of the Crosstown LRT, due to open in 2020. A plan with 21 recommendations was adopted by City Council in May. The recommendations put emphasis on creating a ‘complete street' with a mix of greenery and transportation options, including separated bike lanes, wider sidewalks and planters. The project, if approved, will also encourage the creation of new laneways to ease congestion on Eglinton and implement zoning bylaws to support mid-rise development. The Study Area excludes Yonge and Eglinton as it already contains specific planning controls.  

Eglinton Connects Study Area stretches 19 kilometres. Image by City of Toronto.The Eglinton Connects Study Area stretches 19 kilometres. Image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The first part of the Phase 1 Implementation Report was approved by City Council in July and included the necessary Official Plan Amendments (large pdf) to reflect new land use, streetscape and laneway policies. The second report discussed at the Planning and Growth Management Committee on Thursday dealt with the necessary implementation measures regarding mid-rise buildings. It did not include some of the more contentious aspects of the Eglinton Connects proposal, particularly separated bicycle lanes and rear laneway allocations.

Zoning changes for certain sections of Eglinton. Image by City of Toronto.The zoning bylaw will be changed for certain sections of Eglinton. Image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Despite adding density to Eglinton in order to accommodate growth, no zoning or land use changes are recommended for 45% of the 19 kilometre length. These areas include open spaces, apartments and the single-detached neighbourhood between Bayview Avenue and Laird Drive. About 26% of the corridor, mainly in the centre and west end of the Study Area, will see the type of intensification that is desired by the City, which will be secured through changes in the zoning bylaw to permit mid-rise buildings as-of-right. The result will be an increase of the current height limit, mostly between Keele Street and Duplex Avenue. This would eliminate the need for constant rezoning applications by developers. The proposed height limits, based on the 2010 Performance Standards for Mid-Rise Buildings, range from four to eight storeys, which would result in a one to three storey increase for many sites.

Planning and Growth Management discusses Eglinton. Image by Marc Mitanis. The Planning and Growth Management Committee discusses Eglinton Connects. Image by Marcus Mitanis.

In addition to increases in height, building setback provisions will be refined to accommodate wider 4.8 metre sidewalks along Eglinton. Ground-floor retail will also be required in certain areas to activate the space, predominantly within mid-rise buildings where commercial uses would be in demand. Since the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will bring higher-order transit to the corridor, there is also a proposal to reduce minimum parking requirements for new developments, particularly between Weston Road and Kennedy Road. Minimum height, setback and other restrictions around LRT entrances are proposed to be removed as these issues have already been resolved with Metrolinx. Finally, Urban Design Guidelines specific to the Eglinton corridor have been created to address various public realm issues, such as gaps between buildings and design elements for ground-floor retail.

Eglinton offers a diverse range of streetscapes. Image by City of Toronto.The 19 kilometre Study Area offers a diverse range of streetscapes. Image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

A motion by Councillor Karen Stintz to clarify some matters surrounding the project was adopted at the meeting. There were concerns that homes would have to be expropriated in order to accommodate rear laneways, but the adopted motion now clarifies that this is untrue; new laneways will only be created as a result of new development. A second motion by Councillor John Parker was adopted which asked the City to conduct an additional public meeting in Ward 26, after concerns about lack of public engagement were raised by the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations in Toronto. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat noted that public engagement is crucial throughout the process and that providing detail and clarity in the reports is extremely important to ensure the City can, if it comes to it, win cases at the Ontario Municipal Board.

A depiction of what Eglinton Avenue could look like. Image by City of Toronto.A depiction of what Eglinton Avenue could look like. Image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The upcoming Phase 2 Implementation Report will include measures related to tall buildings, Site and Area Specific Policies and Secondary Plans. The Implementation Reports will eventually lead to a City Council vote and if approved, Eglinton will be another step closer to its transformation. 

For maps, reports and more information, visit the official website of Eglinton Connects. For details about the Phase 1 Implementation Report, click here. Check out the associated Forum link to stay up to date on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and leave a comment below to let us know what you think about Eglinton Connects.