Category Archives: Roncesvalles Renewed

Construction Sucks

constructionsucks.jpgCheeky Community Campaign to Support Local Business Turns Heads In Roncesvalles Village

Normally, shop local campaigns are the result of the efforts of a BIA or other business association. But once again, the residents of Roncesvalles Village have shown great initiative and genuine support for their community.

After all, this is the community that uniquely came together to save its neighbourhood movie theatre, the Revue Cinema, back in 2006, and now operates it as a not-for-profit, community-run cinema.

The second and final round of construction began on Roncesvalles in mid-July. The replacement of streetcar tracks and sidewalks, along with significant streetscape improvements, is expected to be finished in late 2010. During this time residents and visitors will enjoy three hours free parking on Roncesvalles Avenue in legal spots, a welcome attraction as construction progresses.

Within days of the backhoes breaking ground, “Construction Sucks” posters began appearing in storefronts all over Roncesvalles Avenue. These terrific posters are the brainchild of members of Roncesvalles Renewed, a community group which has worked tirelessly since 2003 to guide the streetscape renewal of Roncesvalles Avenue.

The poster was designed by Edmond Ng at Concrete Design Communications Inc., a local design and branding firm. Romina Fontana, Managing Director, explained: “Concrete has been in the neighbourhood for approximately fifteen years. We were happy to accept this as a pro bono job to support the neighbourhood, and our fellow business owners, during the construction.”

Businesses in Roncesvalles Village have shown real enthusiasm for the campaign, and gratitude for the support. One business owner remarked “I love this neighbourhood!” on receiving her poster. That customers have found a humorous way to show support for local businesses struggling with construction woes is truly remarkable. To quote John Bowker, owner of She Said Boom! and

member of Roncesvalles Renewed: “Roncesvalles Village may grumble about construction, but we never whine.”

Can lessons from the St. Clair streetcar project be applied here?

The TTC has just published “Getting it Right: Lessons from the St. Clair Streetcar for the Implementation of Transit City,” written by Les Kelman and Richard Soberman. The report details the missteps that led to delays and cost overruns with the St. Clair transit project. The Globe and Mail sums up the report’s conclusions nicely: “The price tag of the new St. Clair streetcar line nearly doubled because nobody was in charge as the project’s scope ballooned, public consultation ran amok and more than 20 small contractors tripped over each other.” The authors also blamed provincial intervention, including the granting of a judicial review of the project, as a main cause for the delays.

Transit guru Steve Munro has posted his response to the TTC report. He questions the report’s emphasis on “project creep” and obstinate community members, and places more blame for the delays on good old-fashioned bureaucracy, mismanagement and a “silo mentality” within City departments and agencies. He also says that the TTC resisted public input not only from steadfast opponents, but from project supporters as well, and must share considerable blame for the poor public consultations.

The report mentions that a Project Management Plan is being prepared, and a single Transit City office is being established within the TTC, which should improve how such projects are managed in the future. Specifically, the report stresses the importance of:

• ensuring construction contract conditions that facilitate staging and traffic management plans,

• including both incentives and disincentives related to meeting construction milestones,

• finalizing methods of staging construction through workshops with consultants, contractors, and the City, as well as affected utilities, and

• promoting pro-active liaison with residents, businesses and BIAs early in the final design and construction stages.

The Roncesvalles Village BIA has requested that such completion incentives, along with other mitigation efforts, be written into the contract for phase two of the Roncesvalles reconstruction (set to begin probably in June).

While the Roncesvalles reconstruction is tiny compared to the scope of the Transit City LRT projects, the BIA hopes that the City and TTC will examine the lessons of the St. Clair project (along with the lessons learned so far during the Roncesvalles reconstruction), and apply them here.

The BIA is gathering input from merchants and the community about phase one of the Roncesvalles reconstruction, and is forwarding recommendations to City staff. If you have any observations or recommendations on how to mitigate disruption during phase two, please contact the BIA at info@nullroncesvallesvillage.ca, Councillor Gord Perks at councillor_perks@nulltoronto.ca, or post below.

Parking Returns To Roncesvalles: You Should Too!

The construction on Roncesvalles is nearing completion for this season, with a number of blocks in the north end still in the throes of digging. Nevertheless, things are getting back to normal, and it’s easier than it has been for months to visit your favourite spots on Roncesvalles.

Driving is still technically northbound only, but Ronces is largely free of construction from Queen up to Marmaduke Street, with ample street parking. North of Geoffrey there’s still construction, but it’s starting to ease off and there are places you can park to easily get to anywhere in the north end.

Lots of people don’t know about the small Green P parking lot right next to the Starbucks at Dundas and Roncesvalles. About 12 spots make for easy access to places like Centre For Well Being, Mari Cla Ro, Homebake Pizza and The Little Hair Shop. Access is just south of Starbucks on the Dundas side.

And people are only just getting used to the idea of pay parking at Howard Public School (just west of Roncesvalles on Howard Park Ave.) This adds a 44-spot parking lot (evenings and weekends only) serving the area right around the intersection of Roncesvalles and Howard Park, making it easy to get to popular evening venues like The Local, the Revue Cinema, Gate 403, Silver Spoon and many other restaurants and cafes in the area.

So if you’ve been keeping away because the our main street has looked mangled, it’s time to come back and pay us a visit!

Roncesvalles redesign: your input is needed

Toronto’s Public Realm section is leading the detailed design phase of the Roncesvalles streetscape improvement project. The City needs your input to help them understand our local priorities and the local conditions.

For example, a number of businesses have told the BIA that they are currently unable to build a patio out front due to a bus shelter or a tree planter. The locations of such items are currently being considered, so it may be possible to locate these items elsewhere nearby. But the City designers cannot know about these preferences unless we inform them.

Here are some questions that only the community can answer:

  • which businesses need patio/display space, and which would prefer a tree?
  • where would benches be best used?
  • where do pedestrians feel the most vulnerable?
  • where do cars speed, or bottleneck, or otherwise get into mischief? what is the likely cause?
  • where have accidents or “close calls” occurred?
  • where do cars park illegally? or make temporary stops? or make other unauthorized use of the street? should this be tolerated or not?
  • do people feel comfortable jaywalking, or does everyone cross only at the crosswalks?
  • where do pedestrian bottlenecks occur? what is the cause?
  • where do people gather (as opposed to loiter)? And where do people loiter (as opposed to gather)?
  • where are the “dead zones” along the sidewalk, where people don’t wish to linger? What can be done to improve these areas?
  • where do the elderly need to rest?
  • do strollers need a place to park/lock up? if so, where?
  • how many bike parking spots do we need? where should they go?
  • where do parents pick up/drop off their kids? what routes do the kids take to and from school?
  • when is parking most needed, and by whom?
  • how many people buy their coffee to go, making quick stops in their cars? how many people drink at the coffee shop?
  • which spaces should be greened, and which should be paved (for patios, displays or other features)? Can we do both, and if so, how?
  • do people prefer an nice uncluttered street, or is a little clutter desirable if it adds interest?

Obviously, our community is not expected to design the street. That is the City’s job. But there is a difference between a street as it appears on a designer’s computer screen and a street as it actually is used. By informing the City of our local priorities and the local conditions, be are best able to ensure that the City builds the best possible street for our community.

Your input or questions can be sent directly to Councillor Gord Perks or to the BIA (info@nullroncesvallesvillage.ca). We will ensure that your comments are sent to the right people at the City. The BIA also encourages community members to discuss these questions with neighbours, fellow merchants, at your residents’ association meetings, at church, and at other public gatherings. Roncesvalles Renewed, a partnership of local community organizations, is hosting online discussions, and invites your participation. More information about the reconstruction is available here and here.