Across the city, Torontonians are hungry for better transit. Starved for years by a lack of funding and political bickering, congestion is now hurting our region's economic performance to the tune of $6 Billion per year. It's no surprise then that with the Province of Ontario and Metrolinx's $8.4 Billion contribution to transit in Toronto, that communities across the city are looking to maximize the benefits of new transit in their neighbourhoods. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT, at $4.9 Billion, is the largest project currently being constructed, with 19 kilometres of new rapid transit set to come online in 2020.

The City of Toronto is taking a broad look at how best to leverage the Crosstown investment for communities along the route with the Eglinton Connects study. At the local level, residents are voicing their ideas, concerns and proposals in joint consultation with community groups, Metrolinx and City staff. At the western terminus of the line lies the Mount Dennis community. With the closing of the Kodak Plant in 2005 and its subsequent demolition, a large swath of land created both a loss and an opportunity for the community.

Former Kodak Plant and Adjacent Lands in 2002 with Building 9 Highlighted in Green, image courtesy of Google Earth

Vacant Kodak Lands and No Frills site with the Western BM Launch Shaft in the Background, image courtesy of Apple Maps

In desgining of the Crosstown LRT, officials decided to place the maintenance and storage facility on the newly vacant lands. The new yard would bring back some of the blue-collar jobs the area had lost, while acting as a catalyst to bring new prosperity and excitement to the community with new investment and neighbourhood engagement.

Through consultation with the city and community residents, the design of the facility and the surrounding public realm were refined. Metrolinx has now gained approval from the City to for an amendment to the original plan approved in the 2010 Environmental Assessment. The revised agreement streamlines the facility layout and operations while providing for future uses and needs. Citing traffic and operational concerns, the new design calls for complete traffic separation here with a short LRT bridge over Black Creek Drive, branching off into the yard and further along to Mount Dennis Station.

Mount Dennis Mobility Hub and Maintenance Facility on Opening Day, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The new Mount Dennis Crosstown LRT Station will consolidate two stops at Weston Road and Black Creek into one. Placed under GO's Georgetown Corridor and the new Union-Pearson Express, the redesigned station provides access to these lines as well. Also integrated are kiss-n-ride facilities and a new re-sizable bus terminal which will see many routes converging on one point. The result is the creation of a true Mobility Hub where multiple forms of transit can come together providing true regional and local connectivity.

The Mount Dennis Mobility Hub is also designed to be a catalyst for revitalization in one of Toronto's Priority Neighbourhoods. With some of the best access to transit in the city, the new Mobility Hub is expected to draw upon private investment in new residential and commercial projects surrounding the area, including along Weston Road and on the current No Frills site. Along Weston Road, planners are looking to create a sense of place with new development that engages the street and with a community gateway entrance helping to reestablish the community identity. At the corner of Weston and Eglinton, the station entrance will feature a new landscaped park/plaza anchored by a new development.

Midrise Development Anchoring the Mount Dennis Mobility Hub to the community, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The No Frills site across the street from the new station is ultimately envisioned to be entirely redeveloped with new residential, commercial/retail and public space. In combination, the new transit and development will strengthen the local industrial and retail areas adjacent to the site.

No Frills Site redevelopment with potential residential and commercial uses, image courtesy of Metrolinx

The new development and activity will all be grounded to the area's photography industry roots with the preservation and inclusion of the venerable Kodak Building 9 into the station complex. Building 9 served at the recreation and commons building for the Kodak employees, featuring a grand staircase and auditorium.  Metrolinx and the City hope to return the building to its community roots by integrating the restored building into the station and providing new spaces for community groups and and business.

Integrated Kodak Building 9 station and community building, iimage courtesy of Metrolinx

The new Mobility Hub and maintenance facility is also an opportunity to reinvent the street scape on Eglinton, currently characterized by high concrete retaining walls. The harsh, austere walls and fast moving traffic will be replaced with a new landscaped road and sidewalks. The streetscape will also be reconnected to the LRT with a redesigned retaining wall showcasing the LRT vehicles as they whiz by. The extension of traffic-separated bike lanes eastward will complete the expansion of the Eglinton Greenway, integrating neighbouring Humber River and Black Creek valleys to the heart of the community. With a new public realm, and development which addresses the street, this portion of Eglinton is due to become a true urban boulevard.

Redesigned Eglinton Avenue with new development and enhanced public realm, image courtesy of Metrolinx

While the Crosstown LRT will serve as a catalyst for rejuvenation of the area, it is not going to happen overnight. Market forces and the private sector will ultimately decide what kind of redevelopment happens. City planners, officials and the community however are optimistic, and signs of change and new prosperity are already on their way with the construction of the new York Community Centre. The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot facility will include a large gymnasium, two pools, teaching kitchens and much more. Construction on the $29.5 million Perkins + Will-designed community facility should wrap up in late 2014.

York Community Centre by Perkins + Will, for City of Toronto

As the Crosstown LRT project moves forward, attracting new life to the community, UrbanToronto will keep you posted with all the details you need to know. Do you like what's proposed or have ideas of your own? Join our extensive discussion Forum here, or leave a comment below to have your voice heard.

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