11.06.2012

Green space is an investment in our future

Green space improves our communities and enriches our well being. The Liberal government has failed to deliver much needed green space in the heart of Toronto with land the province owns.
 
The Ontario government owns a 2.1 acre/.84 hectare lot on Wellesley Street West near Yonge street in the heart of downtown Toronto. This  parcel of land  has sat mostly unused  since the 1980s when it was to be donated for an opera house. At the time, the plan was for more commercial development in the area. After the recession in the 1990's the opera house plan was scrapped and development began to shift to residential projects: condominiums.
 
This area, Ward 27, has seen incredible growth in the past several years, with a 20 per cent increase in population since 2006, making it the second most populous ward in Toronto. As density increases, the value of this land becomes even more apparent.  Existing developments and projects already in process give this area a distinctive urban character and when complete there will be more than 70 towers in the neighbourhood. Ward 27 is also characterized by a lack of parkland. 
 
The Provincial Policy Statement (“PPS”), provides policy direction on matters of provincial interest related to land use, planning and development. It encourages development patterns that support strong, live-able and healthy communities by endorsing intensification as a means to accommodate growth and increase urban vitality.  
 
Toronto Centre MPP, Glen Murray  has said that the ratio of developments to green space in the neighbourhood is getting to a crisis point, yet his government has failed to act citing the value of the land and the need to reduce the deficit. At the same time, in a bid to save seats, the Liberals moved gas plants from Mississauga and Oakville at taxpayers expense to the tune of several hundred million dollars.  
 
I know and appreciate the value that green spaces offer a community. Accordingly, I call upon the Ontario government to work out a deal with the city that would see this land donated (as it was to be years ago) to the City of Toronto, with the proviso that it is to be used as an urban park.  
 
I support Councillor Wong-Tam’s proposal that the park be named after Toronto urban activist Jane Jacobs. This is a wonderful idea and a fitting tribute to a wonderful Toronto personality. However, I disagree with the proposed plan to build one more condo tower on the site.  
 
An urban park here would be an investment in the future. It is an opportunity to improve the quality of  life of local residents while helping to ensure property values in the area. The city could create an urban park that provides a play space for children, meeting space for community events, and could incorporate below-grade shopping or community services in order to provide some financial returns to the city.
 
--Mark Daye
Community and Social Services Critic
Green Party of Ontario
 

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