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Laird in Focus

Laird in Focus – what’s that all about? It’s a project to develop a planning framework to guide future development for the Laird Focus Area (that’s the block encompassed by Laird, Eglinton, and Vanderhoof over to Aerodrome Crescent), but the study area also now includes the Mixed Use Areas along the west side of Laird Drive.

According to City Planning, the intent of the study is “to refine and build upon the existing and recent planning initiatives undertaken in the area and develop a vision and planning framework for a complete community, which supports both the Mixed Use Areas and Employment Areas designations within the study area.” In addition, it includes a transportation planning study for the Leaside business park.

“The planning framework, in conjunction with a public realm and open space framework, and built form plan, will be integrated with a multi-modal transportation system, a servicing strategy, and policies and/or strategic initiatives to serve the area,” City Planning continues in describing the mandate.

Maybe you’re thinking, but with all the planning applications in the area, hasn’t the horse already left the stable? Well, there’s no doubt there are lots of those pesky planning applications, with ones under review at 939 Eglinton (Brentcliffe), the Canadian Tire site at Laird, and applications approved on Laird at 146-150 (seniors’ retirement home and condo), and at Malcolm Rd. (Upper House condo). As well, the transportation planning study is limited to the business park and does not cover the Leaside residential area or Thorncliffe Park, especially important now with the Costco warehouse store going in.

At the “Community Engagement” launch on Nov. 30th at Leaside United Church, there was some quite heated discussion about the merits of Laird in Focus – too little too late for some folks.

For observers of the Leaside Business Park, like me, the real issue is whether the Park has the will to revitalize itself. Can it transition to the new economy of a tech-based, green industry like other (now former) industrial areas in the city? West Toronto comes to mind. Leaside Business Park at this point is the remaining industrial area (still largely industrial) that is closest to downtown. Can it take advantage of its character buildings in the Business Park (like those of former Research Enterprises Ltd. on Research Rd./Vanderhoof), which were created for, and manufactured, radar machinery and optical equipment during World War 11, and repurpose them as co-working spaces for young entrepreneurs? Can Leaside Business Park become hip again? After all, wouldn’t the residents of those new condos welcome the opportunity to be able to walk to work and not just take the LRT to Yonge and wait for five trains to head downtown?

Who will champion a new vision for the Business Park? It’s worth asking, and Laird in Focus may give us an opportunity to do so.