Yonge Street Revitalization (Downtown Yonge BIA/City of Toronto)

Discussion in 'Design and Architectural Style' started by dt_toronto_geek, May 15, 2009.

  1. dt_toronto_geek

    dt_toronto_geek Superstar

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    There has been some debate about the state of Yonge Street downtown, roughly from Bloor down. Some advocate running some of the businesses off the street, yet others suggest near total gentrification of the strip.
    I've been very anxious to open a thread to discuss this area for some time now. I'm very passionate about Yonge Street, I think it's one of our great walking streets which attract tens of thousands of people every day to shop, eat, walk, people watch, parade and protest.
    Like other great walking streets in our city Yonge Street offers something for everyone; everything from tons of great eateries, tattooing, computer shops, hair salons, art supplies, psychics, bargain stores, adult entertainment venues, alternative clothing shops and on & on. On top of these businesses house hundreds of apartments on 2nd, 3rd & 4th floor levels of many 19th & 20th century buildings. Many of the businesses along this street would not and could not survive in a high rent shopping mall, nor would many of them even fit into that type of atmosphere. That's what makes Yonge Street (along with other great outdoor shopping strips) unique, and that's part of what I love about it.
    There's no doubt that some of the buildings are rundown and in need of some TLC. Paint hides original brick in some cases and attempts to modernize some storefronts hide what once was (see Sam The Record Man thread as a recent example).
    Recently, comments were made that everything except 2 or 3 buildings should be bulldozed between Bloor & Charles Sts. which is what finally set me off.
    Finally, Yonge Street north of Bloor is just as walkable, and just as unique only generally the businesses are more high end to reflect the neighbourhoods they run through and buildings are usually, but not always, better maintained.
    So I start off the thread by asking, what should be saved in this area? And let's discuss Yonge Street, south of Bloor.

    Click on the thumbnail to enlarge, then click again on the image for full size.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2009
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  2. PukeGreen

    PukeGreen Active Member

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    I don't know what the solution is for Yonge St. I've been walking around downtown for years and I have to say it is one of my least favourite streets. In general I plan my walking routes to avoid it, often without even realizing I'm doing it. There is just something sad and decrepit about much of Yonge south of Bloor. I think it is unfortunate that Yonge is one of the best known strips for visitors and forms many people's impressions of "downtown Toronto" as a whole.

    Why are the businesses along that strip almost universally sad? Things like money lenders, discount shoe stores, dollar/junk stores, and money changers are not markers of successful neighbourhoods. The dodgy massage parlours and scary looking "Internet Cafes" embedded above them don't help matters. Sure some of the buildings themselves are historic and even attractive beneath the grime, but they are not being used in a way that shows them off. However I disagree that tearing them down and replacing them with giant condo developments with ground floor retail would change anything. The problem isn't the buildings, it's the way they are used

    I find it surprising that even in areas where the surrounding neighbourhoods are nice, Yonge St. itself is not. For example, King St. West the financial district, while King St. East is extremely gentrified with beautiful historic buildings and churches. Yet the strip of Yonge between King and Queen is still grimy with dollar stores, discount electronics, depressing fast food outlets and vacant storefronts lingering for months at a time. Why?

    This thread might also be a place to address something else that's bothered me a lot since the 90s, and that is what I perceive as the failed attempt to integrate the Eaton Centre with Yonge St. In the 90s I recall millions of dollars and several years of construction taking place to "open up" all the stores along the eastern edge of the mall to the street. Brick walls were replaced with glass, doors and street front signage was added, etc. However within only a few years the vast majority of those doors were locked and pasted with "this entrance not in use" signs. The windows facing the street are mainly blocked with merchandise displays. Only Eggspectations and 102.1 seem to use the street as a primary entrance, and neither of those are exactly flagships.

    So once again the mall is cut off from the neighbourhood and shoppers are required to go through the inside. The street outside continues to suffer from this, including the eastern side, where only a few large destination chains seem to survive (Urban Outfitters and Pier 1 come to mind). Why did this attempt to integrate fail (or am I off base thinking it did) and is there anything else that could be done to help the situation?
     
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  3. Uncle Teddy

    Uncle Teddy Senior Member

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    PATH and the Eaton Centre sucked away all the life from this strip.

    Harder to protect from theft if you have two entrances. Especially if you can grab something and run off down Yonge Street.
     
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  4. balmoral

    balmoral New Member

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    Who "owns" Yonge St?

    Great topic and discussion. I have long been greatly confused by Yonge St. and though (small) sections have their charm, collectively it is a blight. My question relates to who owns all of the decrepit two to three story buildings, and why did the owners not take advantage of the development boom to either cash out or develop their property themselves. I don't understand why our core avenue (that runs along our busiest subway line) has seen virtually zero vertical growth in the last five years. And by vertical growth, I don't necessarily mean 1Bloor - more Yonge north of Summerhill to south of St. Clair, where 8-10 story residential succeeds in creating a decent street wall and street life (despite some dubious architecture.) Hopefully someone has the answer!
     
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  5. unimaginative2

    unimaginative2 Senior Member

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    The first thing I'd do is get rid of the zoning restrictions that have prevented new nightclubs and bars from opening on Yonge Street. It was the heart of Toronto's nightlife and I think it's quietness at night is a lot of what detracts from the street. I wouldn't like to see it gentrified into a Bloor Street.
     
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  6. Mustapha

    Mustapha Senior Member

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    Yonge street is quite a mix of businesses and the buildings that house them. Always has been, ever been thus, going back decades. I spoke to my dad about this; in the 50s it was a place where you could stroll, buy a hat, get a coffee, shop for a camera. A look at pictures from any period confirms this.

    When I was a teen there was a Japan Camera where the sidewalk artist and plastic bucket drummers do their thing now outside the Eaton Centre. I spent a lot of time and money in that shop.

    Yonge street is a magnet this way. It can't be fixed. But you can enjoy it.
     
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  7. TrickyRicky

    TrickyRicky Senior Member

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    Just a couple of comments. First, re: sad shape. Perhaps but here's the thing, Yonge Street has never been LESS sad in my adult life. I think people often forget their reference points when discussing change over time.

    Second, I personally intersect with Yonge but actually rarely stroll down it, maybe 2 times a year. Of course this is not my immediate neighbourhood so this makes sense to a degree. It actually doesn't figure prominantly in my mental imagery of the city any more in the same way as say, Bloor, College and Queen do.
     
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  8. egotrippin

    egotrippin Senior Member

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    Yonge Street is awesome. Sure, some of the buildings should be cleaned up a bit, but its diversity is what I love. It really runs the gamut from the worst to the (almost) best, and for that I love it. My only real complaint really is the state of its sidewalks and street. Repave it, fix the scars from the savage utilities work, and throw in some more greenery.

    Not everything has to be "pretty" to be enjoyed. If Yonge St. is redeveloped, the entire thing will become the vacant black hole of lifelessness that is the east side of Yonge from Queen to Dundas.
     
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  9. dt_toronto_geek

    dt_toronto_geek Superstar

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    Dubious architecture is being generous for some of those buildings, but I think they fit in better in midtown Toronto than downtown.
    The problem with highrise growth on the east side of Yonge is there's very little depth in behind many of these old buildings save for taking out City Parks. There are some opportunities on the west side of Yonge but they can be limited there too. The proposed project known as 606 Yonge (http://www.urbantoronto.ca/showthread.php?t=7297) is an excellent example of how existing heritage buildings can be saved, get a good cleanup and a hot looking highrise set back in behind.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2009
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  10. dt_toronto_geek

    dt_toronto_geek Superstar

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    How less sad? The state of some of the buildings or businesses? There are more dollar stores, nail salons and tattoo parlours than there used to be, but then all of the arcades are gone as are most of the book stores that were so common for decades along with pubs and cinemas.
    What has really blossomed in the past 10 or so years are the number of eateries that can be found. There must be at least a dozen Thai restaurants from Bloor to College plus Mediterranean, Greek, gourmet pizza, Indian, Caribbean, Fusion, Suchi, Middle Eastern and old standby's like McDonalds, Wendy's etc for those who want to challenge their gastrointestinal tract at 4am.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2009
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  11. Eug

    Eug Senior Member

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    I miss the arcades. :(
     
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  12. HiRiser

    HiRiser Active Member

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    strange such disdain for Yonge Street. I think it's got so much character, I love this street. There's such a mix of old, new short, tall, ugly, pretty buildings. On good weather days there is so much activity esp on busy intersetions, Bloor, Wellesey, College, and Dundas. What other North/South streets in Toronto carries such mix.
     
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  13. dt_toronto_geek

    dt_toronto_geek Superstar

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    Me too. Being a movie lover, I miss the cinemas mostly. I practically grew up in the Yonge Street theatres in the late 70's & early 80's sneaking into R rated movies when I was 14 or 15 years old. If something was in it's 8th month at the University, or if I'd seen everything at the Imperial Six & Varsity there was the Biltmore, Rio, Yonge & Coronet grindhouses (which were a blast!), The Plaza Cinemas, The Uptown Cinemas/Backstage, The Town Cinema & the New Yorker when it was still an independent cinema. I skipped the Eaton Centre Cinemas and the Cinema 2000 after being in those places once or twice.
    It was homework on Friday night then usually most of Saturday and Sunday watching movies in this area for years and of course Rocky Horror at the Roxy on Saturday nights. It's sad to see them all gone.
     
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  14. adma

    adma Superstar

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    And the irony is that you can blame the subway ROW for said parks--but if earlier patterns pertained, said subway might have *enabled* air-rights-style high-rise growth...
     
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  15. Torontovibe

    Torontovibe Senior Member

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    The Rio was a cool place. For 1 price, you could watch 4 movies until 4am. I loved that place when I was a young punk. (lots of kung fu lol) Young St. had lots of fun nightclubs too. Back in the 70's and 80's it was Toronto's Entertainment District.
     
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