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Redesigning Yonge Street around Ryerson University

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By Kiernan Green

Representatives from Ryerson’s City Building Institute (CBI), Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (BIA), and Ryerson Facilities Management and Development gathered together on Friday to discuss how to improve interactions between Ryerson University and Yonge Street as well as how to make the two more pedestrian friendly in the future.  

Ken Greenberg, vice chair of Ryerson’s CBI, is a consultant for the City of Toronto’s new environmental assessment plan. The plan will shift Yonge Street’s balance from what has been “a very strong emphasis on the movement of automobiles–from the post-war decades until the present–to one that gives much greater way to pedestrians, cyclists, social life, street spaces and so on,” said Greenberg.

According to Greenberg, Toronto’s 2012 revitalization of Queens Quay to better accommodate foot traffic, recreation and cycling, is similar to Toronto’s environmental assessment plans for Yonge Street.

Mark Garner, the chief operation officer and executive director for Downtown Yonge BIA, said “the end of the world is not going to occur if we narrow Yonge street down to two lanes and increase the pedestrian experience,” in reference to the environmental assessment plan.

“The relationship between any university and the key public spaces that they cohabit is a very crucial one,” said Greenberg. “[Toronto] has not thought so much about Ryerson’s stake in Yonge Street as it should. Nor has the Ryerson community made its voice heard as much as it should in relation to Yonge street.”

Molly Anthony from Ryerson Facilities Management and Development said her department “recognizes the importance of staying close to what happens on Yonge and the decisions made about Yonge Street., because it will have a profound impact on student experience, how we run and maintain our campus, and how we deliver our services.”

Anthony and her colleague Colin Wolfe said that Ryerson University is committed to supporting the efforts of Toronto’s environmental assessment plan for Yonge Street. They also spoke about plans to assert a “meaningful presence” in the Yonge Street neighbourhood through Ryerson’s Public Realm Plan, which would make Gould Street. friendlier to student traffic and turn the street into something “distinctly Ryerson,” while supporting safety and accessibility.

Greenberg said that Ryerson’s voice will “carry enormous weight” ins the development decisions of Yonge Street in the future.

“Ryerson is perhaps the biggest single stakeholder on this stretch of Yonge,” he said.

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