Cabbagetown Preservation Association: Imagining Our Main Street

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Cabbagetown Preservation Association: Imagining Our Main Street

On Oct. 25, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association hosted the first of what it hopes will be series of presentations about our unique heritage neighbourhood and its future. Held at the Meeting House at Riverdale Farm, the event drew 60 residents, who listened to a panel of three experts talked about urban Main Streets, with discussion moderated by CPA board director Rick Merrell, an urban planner and architect. He suggested that while CPA was hosting the first of these discussions, broader conversations about our Parliament “main street” need to bring together all the Cabbagetown groups: The Cabbagetown Residents Association, Cabbagetown BIA, Cabbagetown South Residents Association and the newly re-formed Winchester Park Residents Association.
Imagining Our Main Street
The first speaker was Merrell’s professional colleague Michael Sraga, who talked about basic elements of good “main street” urban design, using as examples a recent remaking of a retail street in Fredericton.

Next was a case study of the recent Roncesvalles Avenue refurbishment presented by Eric Turcotte, a professional urban planner and Roncesvalles area resident. Turcotte said that the project, which widened and improved sidewalks, enhanced landscaping and added bike lanes (among many other improvements) was possible because it piggybacked on scheduled major street work for this north-south “main street” in west Toronto: sewer and watermain replacement as well as new streetcar tracks. Major street improvements from scratch are prohibitively expensive for local associations, he said, and many changes require approval from city officials in transit, traffic and other departments.

Planning and consultation began in 2004 and a committee of city officials, local resident and business associations and residents soon formed the “Roncesvalles Renewed Design Committee.” The street work began in 2009, taking nearly two years to complete. While the bulk of the refurbishment was done in 2011, once the street was being put back together after construction, other elements continue to be added, such as a Peace Garden at the Dundas-Roncesvalles gateway in 2015.

Mike Major, Manager of Business Improvement Associations for Toronto, explained that BIAs are city boards and operate under governing regulations. Currently there are 81 BIAs in 31 wards in Toronto supporting 27,000 businesses – 36 per cent of all businesses in the city. BIAs are self-funded through a levy on those businesses and have a mandate to provide improvements beyond what’s covered through the general tax base such as:

– streetscape beautification (beyond those paid through general taxes);
– area maintenance;
– advertising, marketing and promoting the area as a place to shop, dine, work, and inves;
– advocating on behalf of the interests of the local business community;
– safety and security initiatives.

After the presentations, a broad-ranging and lively discussion ensued about Parliament Street and how it could be improved. Crowd consensus was that Cabbagetown should look toward creating a comprehensive, long-term plan for our Parliament “Main Street” that could then be realized should the opportunity arise via any major city infrastructure renewal on Parliament. The meeting wrapped with a commitment to hold another gathering to continue the conversation about Parliament Street with residents and businesses.

In The News:
Cabbagetown reimagines its main streets–with seating or without? (

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