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Big changes on the way for Liberty Village (eventually)

Posted by Derek Flack / March 3, 2011

Liberty Village DevelopmentOn Tuesday night Liberty Village residents and other interested parties got a glimpse at some pretty significant changes that could be in store for the neighbourhood in the coming years. The second of two open houses devoted to Environmental Assessments in the area (the first was back in June), highlights included proposals to build a pedestrian/cyclist tunnel across the Lake Shore rail corridor, the construction of new Dufferin bridges over the Gardiner and rail lines, and the creation of a new street at the south end of the neighbourhood.

Of the three projects, I suspect the first two are the most interesting from the perspective of the casual observer given that the Dufferin bridges are in need of replacement mostly on account of their age, and the overall landscape won't change much when they're replaced (although the Dufferin Gates might be slightly repositioned).

Liberty Village Construction ProjectsHaving never attended one of these open houses before, I was curious to find out what they're all about. My first impression, however, was that the whole thing was a little overwhelming. With no less than 50 informational boards spread in an Ikea-like maze throughout Liberty Noodle, getting a handle on just what was being proposed required a bit of patience. Or assistance. Despite the saturation of info, I'd estimate that the ratio between planning staff and residents was about one to one over the duration of my visit.

I was eventually (and thankfully) drawn into a conversation with Stephen Schijns, a City of Toronto Manager of Infrastructure Planning who guided me through the three proposals. Our discussion centred on the degree to which the pedestrian/cyclist link and new street were both representative of a need to address the insularity of Liberty Village in some way. These projects aim to "retrofit the area so that it connects with the rest of the city," he told me.

Liberty Village New StreetThe idea for a new street at the southern tip of the neighbourhood actually goes all the way back to the proposal for a Front Street extension, which was first tabled in the mid 1980s. Eventually that plan fizzled, but its legacy (thanks in part to the Liberty Village BIA) might be a local thoroughfare that reduces congestion in an area that currently features limited access points. Although the specifics have been yet to be worked out — i.e. the number of lanes, cycling infrastructure, location of traffic lights, etc. — the overall plan would see it run alongside the railway tracks from Strachan in the east to Dufferin in the west.

A pedestrian/cyclist connection on the north end of the neighbourhood would also go a long way toward making the area more accessible. Quite a bit further along in the planning process, the idea of a tunnel was initially rejected on account of complications associated with private land ownership, but First Capital Realty Inc. has expressed an interest in seeing such a project built on their land (near 1071 King West on the north side of the tracks and the Metro grocery store on the south), which has led to its so-called resurrection. The tunnel is preferred over the construction of a bridge, Shijns tells me, mostly "on account of cost and the fact that it'd be less visibly intrusive."

201132-LV-tunnel.jpgWhen asked how much weight public input is given in decision-making on projects like this, Shijns is diplomatic. "Planning isn't a popularity contest" he says, but "we do listen to the concerns of the community." Of the residents that I spoke to, most were enthused with the plans, but disappointed at the how long it'll be before construction might begin. Although the pedestrian/cyclist tunnel and the Dufferin bridge(s) replacement proposals will go to a Public Works committee May 26th, the former project isn't expected to be complete until 2014.

That's a long time to wait, especially considering that these projects have a tendency to drag on, but at least these proposals make sense for the neighbourhood. Not only that, with the swath of condos going up on Sudbury Street to the north, a pedestrian connection to and from Liberty Village will open up the neighbourhood to residents who might not be so inclined to make a visit these days. And that, from an outsider's perspective, is exactly what it strikes me Liberty Village could use most — at little less insularity.

More detailed reports on the above projects are expected to be uploaded to the City of Toronto website in the coming days.

Discussion

22 Comments

beep beep / March 3, 2011 at 05:07 pm
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Liberty Village is a goddamn mess of poor street planning.
Goooooooood luck.
hello / March 3, 2011 at 05:51 pm
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What street is in the second picture? Where are exclusive transit lanes going? Where in that area, other than King, has streetcars? Is this for the Dufferin turnaround?

Questions..questions...lack of details.
J / March 3, 2011 at 07:45 pm
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Hello - 25 m BRIDGE. Article discusses the DUFFERIN BRIDGES.
Bubba / March 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm
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Good intentions, but with the tack record the city has on getting things done, good luck on that.

We can't even get public transit right!
Greg replying to a comment from J / March 3, 2011 at 10:53 pm
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Follow the link, you illiterate monkey.
Jumpin' Jack Flash / March 4, 2011 at 01:55 am
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Don't worry, Rob Ford will make it right for CARS, even though most LV'rs supposedly "don't need a car"...sure could fool me when I'm in that area, especially at night!!
Sean replying to a comment from beep beep / March 4, 2011 at 05:37 am
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Seriously!

It feels so disconnected to the rest of the area that I avoid going there even though it's a 10-20 minutes away from me depending on where I want to go. Liberty Village feels like a whole other world to me.
gadfly / March 4, 2011 at 08:02 am
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No, they're going to wait until ANOTHER 15,000 or so people move into the neighborhood, with about 7,000 cars, then figure out how to undo the damage they've done.
PLANNING? That is a joke! If there was any planning in the city, first off they would do the Dufferin Bridge WHILE they have the Gardiner/Jameson bridges f$#king up traffic in the area, not wait until AFTER that is done to make the Gardiner a mess again, AND they would have done something about the Dowling Bridge and that antiquated pilar that cuts the Jameson onramp in half, making it both dangerous and horrible for merging traffic.
Liberty Village is a hell hole and will only get worse. Soon, only those from HK will think Toronto is great.
KL / March 4, 2011 at 09:19 am
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Liberty Village is a mess. I've never gotten lost in this city, but I did there. Twenty minutes to walk from a friend's place to the closest major intersection, no bus route, nothing. It felt like a different world. It's going to be a ghetto as soon as that bubble bursts.
rob / March 4, 2011 at 09:50 am
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Also very important to Liberty Village (and coming much sooner) is the Strachan Avenue overpass. See: http://www.gotransit.com/gts/en/project/strachan.aspx

and

http://www.gotransit.com/gts/en/docs/20110223_Trinity-Spadina_Presentation.pdf
Stra / March 4, 2011 at 10:04 am
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Derek, you live in Liberty Village? Ouch. Feel bad for you. Anyway, that cycling/pedestrian walk is a must. Was there any discussion on why that seemingly nice building (architecturally anyway - I always assumed it was part of Massy Harris) at the foot of Sudbury and King (behind the Metro) was torn down? Also, did you guys talk about that nice big Winners soon to open up in front of the Metro? Such a mess over there.
High Tower / March 4, 2011 at 11:33 am
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Liberty Village is no longer a village. It's a mini high rise city.
However, I'm all for increased bike access anywhere in this metropolis of ours.
When is the West Rail Path going to connect with LV?
Stephen Schijns / March 4, 2011 at 01:08 pm
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Just to clarify (first paragraph), the tunnel proposal is across the Georgetown / Milton rail corridor, not the Lake Shore rail corridor.
mike in parkdale / March 4, 2011 at 01:55 pm
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I've worked in Liberty village for ... almost 15 years now. The area was always a 'dead end' zone because it's inside the narrowing triangle of two major rail lines.

I really think that any conversation about the area needs to recognize that there are 2 distinct 'Villages' - the medium density commercial (formerly industrial) buildings from Dufferin to Hannan, and the high density condo towers from Metro eastward.

Almost all of the 'Condo Village' used to be derelict, post-industrial land with old buildings and a car impound lot. Now there's thousands of people living in an area with shitty road access, but amazing train access.

Nick replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / March 4, 2011 at 02:49 pm
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Hmmm, interesting observation, mike in parkdale. I wonder if there are any plans to put in a GO station for Liberty Village - that might also help decrease isolation. I think one could be warranted on the Distillery District side of Union Station too. At least for "local" GO trains could stop at these stops, if such things come to be with future service increases (express GO trains would not stop at these stops).
Yeah replying to a comment from Nick / March 4, 2011 at 07:26 pm
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Ummm...There already is a go transit station in liberty village...
Nick replying to a comment from Yeah / March 4, 2011 at 09:42 pm
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Ah yes, Yeah! On the Lakeshore line. I was thinking of a GO stop at LV on the Georgetown line - it's a big area after all. It also appears that the Airport Rail Link won't be stopping at LV either.
simuls replying to a comment from KL / March 6, 2011 at 05:19 pm
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Ummmmm...actually, there is a phenomenal bus route through Liberty Village - the Ossington 63. It takes 10 minutes to go from LV to Ossington station on the Bloor line and runs every 10 minutes from 5am - 3am. In addition, public transit wise, you have the Lakeshore Go line and 3 streetcar lines within a 5-10 min walk.

It's interesting that people seem to have a bit of a hate-on for LV. Everyone I've ever known who's lived there wants to stay - will pay extra for it - and absolutely loves how incredibly convenient it is. It's not finished by any stretch and needs improvement, but in many ways it is the type of neighbourhood Toronto needs to build. It's centrally located, close to everything (waterfront, expressways, public transit, downtown, galleries, restaurants, shopping - seriously everything), and the condo lifestyle is the most environmentally efficient way of living while creating safe and vibrant neighbourhoods. While I'm a huge fan of Jane Jacobs, she was absolutely wrong about tall buildings and I think would acknowledge that if she were around today.
corona / March 7, 2011 at 09:56 am
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i've lived in LV since 2006 and the main flaw with it are mainly that its not pedestrian friendly at ALL. Something has GOT to give. This year i really noticed how bad it is as i have to cross east liberty at strachan to get to/from work and every day it's like being in a real life game of frogger. It's ridiculous. It's only going to get worse too with all the buildings going up.

I wish they didn't cram so many condos in to such a small area but other than that, its a pretty good place to live.
tunnelvision / March 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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The biggest disappointment at the meeting was the decision to abandon the idea of a pedestrian bridge in favour of a tunnel connecting LV to King Street.
The Preferred Option as presented last Tuesday is a complete reversal of the data attained by the City over the past year. For over a year the community has been promised a link located between Sudbury Street and Shaw Street. 78% of people polled preferred a bridge. Reasons for NOT doing a tunnel contradict their current reason for constructing a tunnel. Their previous report indicates that a tunnel is MORE expensive than a bridge. The geometrics actually conflict with the current development started at the Stachen/ tracks intersection which could affect the project’s schedule as it will likely have to be constructed AFTER the Strachen bridge. It was made clear to me last Tuesday evening from a representative of the City's planning department that the decision to have a tunnel was made entirely on the fact that a private developer will assist in the financing of the link only if a tunnel connects their two properties. It is no longer a public access to King Street. It is an access available to the public under the developer's discretion. In other words, instead of an open arch spanning the train tracks with minimal ramping and stairs, the link will be a subterranean tube accessed by at least three levels of stairs and elevators controlled by the private sector. Jane Jacobs would be turning in her grave over such a short-sighted decision from a municipality. Keep in mind that several residential developments in Liberty Village were approved by the City based on cash contributions by the developers to provide a link to King Street. Funds have been attained for this project. Partnering with the private sector can be very productive but in this case it's clearly a decision to cut costs at the expense of our community's desire to have public access to King Street.
Enough already / March 27, 2011 at 10:29 am
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Would all the compaining douche-bags on here please stay the heck out of LV. The vast majority of residents are very happy living here. Nobody says its for everyone. If you don't like it, stay the F*&$% out.
I'm happy. Are you? replying to a comment from Enough already / December 5, 2011 at 11:35 am
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Yes, you are correct. LV isn't for everyone. It's for people with bad taste, who are sold to the idea of great community living by multi-millionaire condo developers. How does living in a mini city of high rises with thousands of faceless residents who do not know each other and is conveniently next to a shopping mall/strip mall with inadequate traffic flow qualify as community living? When will people stop being slapped in the face by the evil advertising/marketing geniuses of the world!

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