Tuesday, August 9, 2016

What's wrong with Street Car's "Riverside Square"?

By Ward 30 Bikes' member, Michael Holloway

Under a thread I started at 'City of Toronto Cycling' Facebook group about Big Box Retail and Big Parking Lot Retail in the context of a dense urban built form, friend Rob Zaichkowski - cycling advocate comrade with Cycle Toronto - asked me what I thought of the Riverside Square development ... here's my reply to Rob which I wrote in FB and then copied and pasted here.

Here's an image of Rob asking the question (reply printed below):

Join Facebook, then join the group, "City of Toronto Cycling" and then use this link to view the thread: https://www.facebook.com/groups/140997182582942/permalink/1394759757206672/?comment_id=1402865453062769&reply_comment_id=1405168686165779&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R8%22%7D

Rob Zaichkowski - Right off the top, their name sucks! Plus sighting Sue Ann Levy in their messaging has not done them any favours with the community (Sun Newspaper attack dog, going after Councillor Fletcher).

But I think they are doing it for the right reasons - not NIMBYism. (I'm trying to help them message better; but OMB hearing was today ... so we'll see what happens there.)

The type of businesses visioned to set up in this development base their market on the ease of driving to it ... but although this site over-looks the DVP and has a 400 series highway bridge to the south of it (Eastern Avenue Diversion) none of those major arteries are able to funnel traffic directly to the site. There is no way to get to this car sales campus except via Queen! It should be feed from Eastern - but somehow that wasn't visioned or suggested in a consultation process that was accompanied by Street Car scrambling to find new partners, and partner with existing land owners, in what appears to be - after these machinations were revealed - a badly planned proposal.

(Ward 30 Bikes was shut out of the stakeholder group because (I think) I published some vitriol on our site about it[1] being the leading edge of the same kind of condo-ization of the east waterfront that happened on the west waterfront - lots of high-rise building and no community planning (parks schools, mass transit) - and it is turning out to be just that - except we have a Councillor who won't stand for that usually - not sure what happened in that regard in this particular development).

This is an odd one - the first iteration was a mix of medium and high rise residential with some retail on Queen - and keep the existing Auto dealership. Then in the coarse of the public consultation process it very quickly morphed from one thing to another and then finally into a 5 Auto Dealership Auto Mall with multi-story showrooms featuring light polluting glass walls shining into the valley (live showroom billboards where hedonists imagine the city watching them kick the tires of the latest models 50 metres above the DVP) - plus the mid and high-rise residential.

Having studied it in it's final iteration, there is not enough road capacity at the Queen St Bridge and East Don Roadway (first street east of the valley) to not completely snarl traffic there with the addition of high density and the proposed car-centric retail.

East Don Roadway is visioned to be the street that feeds delivery, servicing and customers to 5 different car brand showrooms in a 'Auto Mall'. A new street, following the line of existing Munro - envisioned as a woonerf - will complete the car consumer drive-thru experience).

Ward 30 Bikes has long been talking about a north-south bike route from LSB/Don Roadway to The Danforth. Our vision uses mainly local residential streets and East Riverdale Park ... but there are three key points along the route that need a work-around - one of them was(is) this parcel of land.

In the first iteration of this neighbourhood sized development proposal, we were looking at a Street Car Developments proposal to run a bike path next to the valley that would have come up to where East Don Roadway dead-ends now at the south-west corner of the site.

But in a later iteration Street Car decided to use East Don Roadway as the delivery, servicing and customer entrance ... and that destroyed the idea of a bike route through there.

So with the eastern, river-valley-edge route gone to a servicing roadway for the site, we shifted our attention to the proposed woonerf north-south through the centre of the site.

This woonerf is supposed to be a tip of the hat to sustainable planning - but it is not that - it is a 'green label' with no practical use. Rather than a way of moving non-car trips from the new residential to their street car stops at Carrol Ave or Broadview (or by bike up to the Dundas Bike Lanes) - this woonerf is the main 'lobby' or 'branded space' of the Auto Mall; it will be full of cars from far, far away - plus thousands of residents trying to make their way from the new towers at the south edge of the project, to the Queen Street streetcar stops. The woonerf will be a parking lot with no curbs - a dangerous place for kids and older people, and Definitely Not a bike route.

This will likely get built and we'll try to make the woonerf a part of a safe north-south route - but i expect the fix will kill the Auto Mall as a business - so we loose. With that we'll likely redirect our sights to Broadview Ave - the last remaining place to get a north-south grid line in the precinct to serve all the new population density.

I expect that once this is built, Queen will be dysfunctional between Queen/Broadview and the valley - much like King West - Spadina to Bathurst is now.


[1] Ward 30 Bikes - August 7, 2014 | Masters of Industry: South Riverdale to be the new West-of-Spadina High-rise Tower Goldmine | http://ward30bikes.blogspot.ca/2014/08/masters-of-industry-south-riverdale-to.html


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