Eglinton Flats LRT drawings released

Metrolinx has released some drawings of the controversial Eglinton Flats LRT overpass. They are seeking community feedback on the design.

Metrolinx will be building an elevated bridge through Pearen Park, Fergy Brown Park, and the Eglinton Flats to carry trains across the Humber River valley. The rest of the Eglinton West LRT extension will be built underground, but going under the river would have been too expensive, Metrolinx says.

The survey asks how the space under the bridge should used, how much vegetation there should be, and what the lights and walls should look like.

The Mount Dennis Community Association is not pleased. They say:

  • There are no drawings to show exactly where the LRT will be in the Flats
  • Metrolinx has not done a good job of consulting
  • Recreation space will be lost
  • A construction road and staging area are not shown
  • It’s not clear if the bike path will be rerouted

CBAs under threat

Metrolinx and the province are rolling back their commitment to community benefits agreements, according to the Toronto Star.

CBAs aim to develop talent and hire locally for large infrastructure projects. They “provide benefits to disadvantaged communities through equitable hiring practices, training, apprenticeships, local suppliers, and social procurement opportunities, where possible”, according to our MP, Ahmed Hussen. They’ve were pioneered in York South–Weston because the Eglinton Crosstown was the first large project to use one.

The Toronto Community Benefits Network says, though, that “the Province and Metrolinx are attempting to leave local communities and Community Benefits Agreements behind” on the Eglinton West extension and other projects. 

According to the TCBN, Metrolinx would like to not have minimum employment equity thresholds or commitments “to social procurement and supply chain diversity.

Rick Ciccarelli of the Mount Dennis ecoNeighbourhood Initiative wrote a long letter to Metrolinx outlining their successes—and many failures. He wrote

“The importance to creating construction workforce connections for Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, Women and Youth from low income families cannot be understated. We expect Metrolinx to ensure minimum employment thresholds for equity deserving groups are in you tender calls and project agreements. This includes at least a 10% equity hiring provisions for Apprenticeships and Journeypersons positions in construction projects as well as including employment pathways to Professional, Administrative and Technical positions.”

Metrolinx talks Crosstown

CEO Phil Verster is featured on a ‘year-end wrap up’ Metrolinx video in which he talks about the Eglinton Crosstown Line’s progress to date and where it is heading next. The video has lots of dreamy drone footage and overhead shots of Mount Dennis and other stations.

“Our goal remains the same: to deliver modern rapid transit to Toronto’s Eglinton Avenue. 2021 saw us make strides in delivering upon that goal with significant progress made to the 19 kilometre transit line.”

Phil Verster

While Mr Verster claims that construction crews are nearing completion on a number of key locations, he fails to give many details or indeed when exactly the public may begin to use the line.

If it was good news, no doubt he would have told us. As one wag noted in the comments, “Even the year end video is late.”.

Mount Dennis Eco-neighbourhood Update

Our friend Mike Mattos from the Mount Dennis Community Association would like our readers to have an update on the recent activities of the organization:

After the enthusiastic start for our Neighbourhood Climate Action Project with the Mount Dennis Town Hall on Government Climate Plans, help February 26, 2020, our efforts to organize the Climate Action Summit this Springtime were overtaken by the COVID-19 emergency.  It is still uncertain when Toronto’s social distancing regulations will be relaxed, but we are hoping it will be possible to hold our participatory community event in the fall.

Meanwhile, progress is being made towards meeting ecoNeighbourhood goals on a wide range of topics including transportation, energy, buildings, waste management, environmental health and the green economy.  Here are some significant examples:

  • Since agreeing in 2015 to electrify the rail corridor that runs through Mount Dennis, Metrolinx has had a stated goal of replacing the diesel trains now used for GO Rail and UP Express services with electric trains by 2025.  Infrastructure Ontario has recently issued tenders for improvements to this corridor and for service connections to the new Mount Dennis Mobility Hub.  They are calling for alternative solutions using two technologies, overhead grid connection or on-board hydrogen fuel cells.
  • DynaCert, an innovative green manufacturer in Mount Dennis, locally produces a hydrogen injection system that makes diesel engines of all sizes more energy efficient with lower unwanted emissions.  DynaCert recently announced a major order from the US for its HydroGEN units
  • Two years ago, a committee of knowledgeable local cyclists (including several MDCA Board members) worked with Councillor Nunziata and her staff to send City Council wide-ranging  plans for improving conditions for cycling in our area. Later this year the City is expected to start building a bike lane from Jane St. to Weston Rd. (mostly along the north side of Eglinton). Bike lanes further east along Eglinton to are expected to be in place by the time the LRT opens in 2022.
  • The City of Toronto recently awarded a planning contract to guide future development activity in our area. The Mount Dennis Land Use Planning Framework Study will be carried out by the highly regarded consultant Perkins + Will, which has already started work. Number 2 on their project’s list of twelve objectives is “to support establishing Mount Dennis as an ecoNeighbourhood”.
  • Partners in Project Green have been holding a series of webinars on linking the environment to the economy. Here is a link to their latest, Building a Business Case for Green Infrastructure. The Black Creek Channel along the south end of Mount Dennis is Toronto’s highest flood risk area, and fixing it could revitalize the Alliance Avenue business area.
  • Community Benefits are a feature in tendering for government contracts. It creates employment, training and small business opportunities for people from “priority neighbourhoods” such as Mount Dennis. Members of MDCA’s Board are among the people who have been actively working to make sure Community Benefits become an integrated part of the economic system. Unfortunately, lobbyists for private contractors are pressuring Ottawa to remove such provisions. Part of creating a sustainable economy in an ecoNeighbourhood is ensuring that opportunities are inclusive and prosperity is shared equitably.  Please help maintain Community Benefits as government policy as it stimulates economic recovery.

One more thing…

Residents are asked to fill in this youth engagement survey so that the area’s post-secondary needs can be assessed.

Other park concerns

Metrolinx’s September 28 meeting about the Eglinton West LRT raised several concerns. Regular readers will know that Metrolinx is planning a raised train through and above Fergy Brown Park. They are also planning a new, longer access road and “extraction shaft and portal” through what appears to be a stand of trees on park land.

Image from Metrolinx

My interpretation. Obvs, I’m not a cartographer.
From Metrolinx

Very tall building proposed for Hollis Ave

The owners of the properties between 15 and 21 Hollis Avenue in Mount Dennis are proposing a 34-storey, 365-unit residential building on the small, residential street.

From the proposal

Bousfields, who wrote the report, say that the tall tower fits in because it will

frame and enhance the streetscape along Hollis Street, and provide an appropriately scaled building that is compatible with the future development potential of adjacent properties.

I’ll be honest. Try as I might, I don’t get it. The planners provide many reasons why this should work, but to me it comes down to something simple: This is a very tall tower surrounded by lovely little homes on a very narrow street. Will it fit in the future, if the whole block is redeveloped? Maybe. Does it fit and frame the neighbourhood as it exists now? No.

Speaking of redeveloping the block, though, the report references a nearby and similar proposal. The owners of 8–16 Locust—just one street north—are asking to build a 35-storey building (the tallest building in Mount Dennis). It, too, would be on a quiet, narrow street. That application, Bousfields notes, is being appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, “following Council’s failure to make a decision”.