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Long term vision for Eglinton

The Eglinton Connects Planning Study, a project of City Planning, is developing a long term vision for the land use and streetscape of Eglinton Ave. from Mount Dennis to Kennedy in light of the coming of higher order transit – Metrolinx’s Eglinton Scarborough Light Rail Transit (LRT) scheme.

So far, Eglinton Connects has focussed on: Travelling (re-allocation and greening of the Right of Way (ROW) to allow for increased pedestrian and cycling space; looking at opportunities for mid-rise intensification, and options for six Focus Areas (which include Bayview and Eglinton and Laird and Eglinton).

Recently published Volume 1 Report of the Eglinton Connects Planning Study I, documents the research, analysis and vision components of the study as a basis from which to develop and evaluate emerging options for the future of Eglinton. Among its pages are the history, and built and natural heritage.

The report identifies the “drivers” (factors such as the topography, the coming of the railways, and the ensuing land speculation, the phasing of residential and industrial development, etc.) that most influenced Eglinton’s landscapes and streetscapes.

This approach has many similarities to the Layers approach that was used to organize and tell the story of Leaside in the Layers of Leaside exhibit.

Included in the report are descriptions of Areas of Character along the corridor, and of course Leaside is included there as a “potential Heritage Conservation District”. Hopefully Eglinton Connects will elevate the Areas of Character to be an issue for public comment at the open houses in the fall.

Eglinton Connects Report 1 can be found at www.toronto.ca/eglinton/materials.htm#reports

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A proposed new Costco megastore on Overlea Blvd. was introduced at a community meeting June 19 in Thorncliffe Park.

While there are many planning concerns about the application and its implications for the Thorncliffe Park Community and the Leaside Business Park, of which it is part, a major surprise for me (and indeed disappointment) was to learn that all of the existing buildings would be demolished, just the iconic Coke bottle sculpture would be protected or moved.

I already hear some of you saying: This project is in Thorncliffe Park, not in Leaside, so why are you mentioning it?

Well, actually Thorncliffe Park is an important part of Leaside’s history (it’s Layer 5 in the Layers of Leaside exhibit). The Town of Leaside annexed Thorncliffe Park in 1954, and as a result became the planning body responsible for managing its future development from racetrack to modern community. And development came rapidly, both residential and industrial.

Thirty four mid- and high-rise towers were built south of Overlea, mainly around the Thorncliffe Park Dr. horseshoe, between 1956 and the late 1970s.

The Industrial and office development occurred north of Overlea, linked to Leaside Business Park by Beth Nealson Dr.

The property at 42,46 Overlea was purpose-designed for Coca-Cola Canada by the well-regarded Toronto architectural firm, Mathers and Haldenby, and is widely regarded as an excellent example of mid-century Modernist architecture in Toronto, of which there are a rapidly diminishing number.

In front of the office building sits the Coke bottle sculpture created by Walter Yarwood, equally regarded as an excellent example of Modernist sculpture in Toronto. The heritage interest is in the former head office building, rather than the bottling plant.

When Coca-Cola opened its doors in Thorncliffe Park on July 22, 1965, this office building was emblematic of Toronto’s shift to the suburban, automobile-driven lifestyle and working venues of the day. Its location in Thorncliffe Park was ideal.

The building was proposed for demolition despite having been approved for inclusion on the City of Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties a month earlier. The North York Community Preservation Panel (full disclosure, I am panel chair) had submitted a nomination for listing the Coca-Cola property to the Heritage Preservation Services back in February 2012 as the property was up for sale and its future was uncertain.

So at this point it is not protected; however the usual 60 days for the city to consider designating the property would apply in the case of submission of a demolition permit application.

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Finally, the Leaside 100 archival committee, which as a subcommittee of the overall Leaside 100 committee, was responsible for the Layers of Leaside exhibit and managing the Leaside Then and Now video production, will become the Leaside Heritage Committee, with a major responsibility to develop a nomination for a Heritage Conservation District in Leaside.

If you would like to assist, please contact me at 416 425-8954 or gkettel@gmail.com