Watch video above: The Open Streets initiative could shut down 10 km of Bloor Street. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford has come out against a plan to close down part of Bloor Street on Sunday mornings during the summer and have it turned into a concrete playground.
“We need our streets open. I can’t support shutting down streets four weeks in a row. No way, it will be chaos,” Ford told reporters in city hall Tuesday.
Open Streets is a concept that shuts down vehicular traffic flow in neighbourhoods to accommodate various physical activities and community based events.
Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and organizers of Open Streets TO are working on an approval from city council for a pilot project to begin this summer.
“We’re not charging admission, it’s not about commercial activity for external operators. It’s really about neighbourhood promotion,” said Wong-Tam told Global News.
“In other cities, what we’ve seen are pop-up yoga classes, taekwondo classes. I know The Royal Conservatory of Music are talking about orchestras.”
Organizers say the Open Streets event will be at least 10 kilometres in length and located in neighbourhoods of “iconic interest.”
Studies conducted by the group found Bloor Street fit the parameters perfectly and the proposed route would be from High Park to Withrow Park.
“It was decided that Bloor Street will be probably the most interesting street in Toronto, just because it has a range of diverse neighbourhoods that connects across and there a lots of opportunities,” explained Wong-Tam.
However, some businesses are concerned about the oversaturation of street festivals in the city and the length of road closures which they say will hurt their bottom line.
“We had a meeting with Open Streets and the Greek Town on the Danforth BIA and the Danforth BIA and they did not seem to have an appetite for another street closure,” said Ward 29 councillor Mary Fragedakis.
“In order to participate in this, they would also have to work in staffing costs. To open at 9 a.m., they’d actually have to have their staff in at 8 a.m.,” said Fragedakis.
“They didn’t feel that on something they had not been tried here before, that they would get a significant return on their investment.”
Fragedakis said one of the recommendations from businesses was that there would be a run through in other parts of the city and have them buy into it a year after.
But Wong-Tam believes those concerns and the impact on traffic would be minimal given the timing of the event.
“Most Open Streets programs in other cities are specifically designed on a Sunday morning because it’s the fewest amount of vehicles for movement.”
Wong-Tam says north and southbound traffic on major intersections along Bloor Street would continue to move as it normally would. However, east and east and west traffic will have to be rerouted.
“What we end up doing is we re-purpose the street and we take the street and we turn it over for people to use when there is the fewest volume of cars.”