Grant Humes believes it is essential to approve construction of the congestion-easing subway line, also considered a priority by the city, in order to provide better rapid transit within 15 years to the borders of the Toronto Financial District (TFD) BIA, which includes Bay Street, King Street and Union Station.“If you look at the way this city will grow, we need to effectively get people into the downtown core,” said Humes, executive director for the BIA. “Within a 10-minute walk of Union Station there’s six million square feet of office space being built. We have to ensure people can get down here.”
Humes, who previously ran twice in elections for the federal Liberals, said elected officials, who’ve pushed for suburban transit improvements like the Scarborough subway, don’t understand the urgency of relieving crippling subway congestion since they don’t regularly take transit downtown themselves.
“Toronto’s reality is not many of our politicians ride the subway through Bloor and Yonge on a regular basis,” he said. “There’s maybe not the sense of urgency.”
The BIA spent 2013, its first full year of existence, building up credibility and awareness. Humes said the organization’s number one goal for 2014 is developing a long-term public realm master plan to create a consistent look for the financial district.
He said the BIA is examining city plans for the financial district over the next five to six years in an effort to create a cohesive plan for the area’s public realm, primarily roads and sidewalks, in an effort to create a “set standard” for the first time.
“There’s never been a cohesive plan, it’s always been pieces,” he said. “Every time someone’s come in and worked on (street improvements) they’ve put something else back in.”
“In your financial district you’re supposed to have order and consistency. That’s how we want to present our face to the world.”
The BIA also plans to build upon last year’s beautification efforts at the power intersection of Bay and King Streets, where last year it spent approximately $250,000 for the installation of new banners, street signs, patterned street pole wrappings to hinder graffiti and postering and all black metal garbage receptacles.
The money also covered a thorough “powerwashing” of the intersection’s sidewalks.
This year, the BIA will turn its attention to Richmond Street, which is scheduled to undergo city water main upgrades plus TTC streetcar track work. Street improvements are expected to begin in the summer.
“As the work rolls down Richmond we’re going to put our improvements into place,” said Humes.
The BIA will also continue to plan along with the city and Tourism Toronto on developing a city-wide wayfinding strategy to be in place before the 2015 Pan American Games.
Planning manager Evan Weinberg said planning for the project kicked off at the end of 2013 and much of 2014 will be spent meeting with stakeholders, holding consultations, developing mapping and reviewing design concepts.
“We’ll be the first neighbourhood in the city of Toronto to have a fully-functioning infrastructure related to wayfinding. This isn’t a temporary plan, this will be a fully built-out system,” said Weinberg.
The BIA will contribute $100,000 over two years to the estimated $800,000 budget.
Also planned for 2014 is ramping up the social media and online presence by promoting various events taking place in the financial district, from lunchtime concerts to retail sales. There are an estimated 200,000 visitors within the area daily, according to city employment data, but virtually none of them are residents.
Humes said the BIA would continue to work with the city to keep track of seemingly small concerns which nevertheless effect the reputation of the country’s financial centre.
“We’re saying let’s pay attention to the cracks in the sidewalks, let’s pay attention to these little things because those are the details that sometimes trip you up,” he said.
For more information about the BIA’s plans for 2014, visit www.torontofinancialdistrict.com