College Street Revitalization
College Street Revitalization Initiative
A major undertaking of the Harbord Village Residents Association in the middle years of the last decade involved achieving the revitalization of College Street between Bathurst and Spadina. In 2003, this stretch of College was described by the councillor for a neighbouring ward as “the most deteriorated main street in the city over the last 30 years.”
HVRA insisted that various works planned for this street over three or four years – replacement of sidewalks, pavement and streetcar tracks and upgrading of water and sewage mains – be done all at one time. This saved the city more than a million dollars, which HVRA secured for improvements to sidewalk layout, adding bicycle lanes, and planting 150 trees.
HVRA’s effort also extended to trying to improve how city hall manages sidewalks. Our work led to establishment of a new Public Realm Office. Its director was appointed early in 2009, an appointment that echoed Toronto’s earliest civic official: the Pathmaster first appointed in the late 18th century to ensure that property owners provided and maintained abutting sidewalks. The Public Realm director’s main job is to coordinate the actions of the 11 (!!) city and provincial agencies that have some responsibility for what happens on sidewalks.
HVRA also had a big influence on Toronto’s Pedestrian Charter and its Pedestrian Plan, both adopted in 2008. The Plan favours continuous straight clearways for pedestrians on main streets, close to storefronts. This means putting restaurant patios on the curb side of the clearway, as is done in many places elsewhere. There was to be a trial on College Street in 2006, but it has been postponed and postponed. Now it may happen in 2010.
HVRA’s work on College was spearheaded by its then-very-active College Street Revitalization Committee, led by Brunswick Street resident and former HVRA treasurer Gord Brown. In February 2006, Gord made a presentation to the city’s Pedestrian Committee. The first slide is above, with a link to the others. It superbly summed up what we achieved in the physical reconstruction of the street and what we were (and still are) hoping for in terms of pedestrian clearways.