The City will soon resurface Church Street from Gloucester Street to Park Road in order to bring the road, curb and sidewalk to a state of good repair. Crews will also remove old streetcar tracks under the road surface. The work is part of the Council-approved 2020 Capital Works Program to renew aging city roads and sidewalks.
Work is tentatively scheduled to Start Sept. 21 and take at least three months.
See the official city notice here.
The YongeTOmorrow study is progressing, with the next public consultation scheduled for Wednesday, Sept 16. This phase of the study focusses on the redesign of Yonge from Queen Street to College / Carlton, and will influence future plans for Yonge north of College/Carlton. The recommended plan for Yonge Street will:
- prioritize pedestrians
- provide more protection for cyclists
- maintain access for transit, deliveries, ride hailing and parking garages.
The City of Toronto webpage for YongeTOmorrow has information on how to participate in the next public consultation and includes the recommended design concept details and renderings.
Luke Plourde has lived in the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood for 40 years and has lost 87 friends to the AIDS epidemic.
He has seen a once vibrant gay community increasingly taken over by condos, with sparse green space set aside. This summer, he decided to do something about it.
He noticed a largely uncultivated patch of land behind a chain link fence at the northeast corner of Alexander and Church Sts., across from City Park Co-op where he lives. It seemed a perfect place to plant a garden to honour his fallen comrades.
“There's so little left of the village that there was during the ‘80s in the ‘90s and the 2000s that I wanted something to remain that I could look at and think of my friends,” he says.
After several unsuccessful attempts to locate the owner of the property, he came across Ahmad Zamany, manager of Salon One next door, doing some gardening on the property.
Plourde proposed creating a garden at his own expense. Zamany liked the idea. He checked with Salon One’s owner, Philip Nazaruk, who has use of the land through his business lease. He too was enthusiastic.
“We were really excited about it,” Nazaruk says. “We said, ‘Help yourself and do what you want to do.’”
So, starting June 8, Plourde spent a straight two weeks pulling weeds and replacing the soil, which was almost entirely sand and clay. All summer he has worked at least four hours a day, every day, weeding, digging, planting, tending and watering to bring the patch to life.
He lay a stone pathway with rocks he dredged from a river in Fenelon Falls. He purchased a statue of cupid at a market in Aberfoyle. His mother gave him a birdbath.
In fewer than two months, he created an English-style garden made up almost entirely of perennials, some suited to the sun, others to shade, with different flowers constantly coming into bloom.
“Gardens are living things that are always changing,” he says.
The community’s reaction shocked and surprised him.
“So many people of all ages have come by and said to me how it touches them,” he says. Some just stop and stare. Others take photographs. Children bring him rocks for the garden. Parents bring their kids to teach them the names of the flowers. Even landscapers come by and pay him compliments.
“The whole neighbourhood seems to have fallen in love with the garden,” he says. “It’s made it all worthwhile.”
Plourde has come to an agreement with the salon's operators that he will not officially call the garden an AIDs memorial, because they do not own the land.
But for him, every plant brings departed friends closer, and this has touched older members of the gay community.
“They love it,” Plourde says. “As soon as I mention that I’ve done it for my friends, some of them, they cry. Because everybody from that time lost a lot of people.”
Among the plants, purchased at his own expense, are hostas, hydrangeas, astilbe, begonias, sedum, clematis, wisteria, black-eyed Susans, roses, irises, Cardinal flowers, Japanese windflowers, crocosmia, flox, lilies, coneflowers, echinacea, foxgloves, delphiniums, chrysanthemums, flowering cabbages, peones, anemones, Japanese grass, goat’s beard, false sunflowers, bee balm, lavender, trumpet flowers, a limelight tree and a Japanese snowball shrub.
The 63-year-old information technology specialist for the Ontario government estimates he has spent more than $2,000 of his own funds so far, which is what he would have paid for a vacation had COVID not intervened.
“I’ll add more things next year. I just ran out of money,” he says.
For him, the garden is his bit of sanity after a stressful day at work.
“It's amazing what happens when you put your hands in the earth. It calms you down,” he says.
Plourde comes by his love of gardening honestly. As a child in Brampton, he helped his parents, who were avid horticulturists. He says he is grateful to the people behind Salon One for their unwavering support, allowing him to do what he likes with the garden and, at least in his mind, dedicate it to friends past.
“I wanted something to remain of that time, of that era when I was younger,” he says. “And so I wanted to build this garden as a symbol of that, as a memorial. For to me each of these flowers is one of my friends. That's how I look at it in my mind.”
"Greening the Village" is an occasional series recognizing individuals and groups who volunteer their time to beautifying our neighbourhood.
In late July 2020, Graywood Developments submitted a proposal to the City for 506 to 516 Church Street (now Crews & Tangos, Boutique Bar and a Target Park surface lot)
The illustration for the proposal shows a 15 storey mid-rise stepped backed from Church Street, preserving the Crews & Tango heritage building. The proposal conforms to City planning guidelines for development on Church Street.
The lease of Crews & Tango has been extended for two years and the developer has committed to working with the owners of Crews & Tangos with regards to the future development. See more background in our previous post.
A community consultation will be scheduled for later this year.
The developer's website for the project includes all of the development application documents and a timeline of the development process so far: www.506churchstreet.com
In early June, the homeless encampment at Barbara Hall Park was successfully cleared, with individuals offered assistance in moving to much safer and fully serviced accommodations.
The encampment at George Hislop Park was more challenging. While the City had successfully relocated some people to better accommodations, more tents would soon appear to replace those that had been vacated.
Some Charles Street residents grew so frustrated that a single-purpose community group was founded, the Charles Area Network Alliance (CAN Alliance). The CAN Alliance undertook a media campaign and lobbied Mayor Tory, who appeared for an inspection in late June.
The George Hislop Park encampment was cleared in early July and the park was completely fenced off at Charles and Isabella Streets. The reasons the City has given for closing the park is for "sod and irrigation improvements." The park will eventually be completely renovated, which would mean it could be inaccessible for up to three years.
- Progress on Park Encampments ;
- City Grapples with COVID-19 Homelessness and Encampments
Greywood Developments -- which announced earlier this year that it was planning on developing 506 to 516 Church Street (now Crews & Tangos, Boutique Bar and a Target Park surface lot) -- has released a preliminary concept for the site and will hold an online information session on Thursday, July 16.
The illustration for the proposal shows a 16 storey stepped backed design, preserving the Crews & Tango heritage building. The lease of Crews & Tango has been extended for two years and the developer has committed to working with the owners of Crews & Tangos with regards to the future development. See more background in our previous post.
At this online session there will not be an opportunity for live questions, but you can submit questions in advance through the project website and frequently asked questions will be posted on the FAQ section of the website.
This is only a preliminary information sharing event as the developer has not yet submitted an application to the City. Once a proposal is submitted, the City will conduct further public consultations.
Visit www.506churchstreet.com for instructions on joining the Webex event on July 16, 6:30 to 7:30 pm.
So much attention is paid to our beloved Church Street that the other main drag -- Wellesley -- sometimes seems like a second thought. As part of our 10 year anniversary, CWNA is giving some TLC to our oft overlooked east-west corridor.
We're focussing on small, doable improvements that will come together to make Wellesley a more pleasant street to walk.
There are ten concrete street planters between Yonge and Jarvis. Over the years, most have been neglected. Two, by Paul Kane Park, are cared for by Parks and Forestry. Two others, at the intersection of Church, are planted each summer with annuals by the The Village BIA. CWNA will be improving the remaining planters, so that within a few weeks all ten will be in fine form. Check out our web page to learn more about the Wellesley Planters project.
We'll also be weeding the beds of street trees along Wellesley and notifying the city of any sick trees that need replacing.
Piece by piece, the placemaking volunteers of CWNA are doing their part to make Wellesley wonderful!.
As reported previously, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven vulnerable populations, who would normally access an already overburdened shelter system, to living outdoors. While the City has taken significant steps to find alternative housing options and has started to help move people from tents to buildings, there are still many encampments throughout the city. In the Village, the largest encampments have been in Barbara Hall Park and George Hislop Park.
Because of the pandemic, the municipal government had placed a moratorium on encampment evictions. However, the encampments have led to their own set of safety and security issues for both those living outdoors and residents in the surrounding community: effective COVID-19 prevention measures like social distancing and regular hand washing are difficult to implement; basic sanitation has been a challenge; and there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour. Some residents who live near the parks feel unsafe; others who would normally use and enjoy the parks, avoid them. For all these reasons, exceptions are being made to the no-evictions policy.
In early June, the encampment at Barbara Hall Park was successfully cleared, with individuals offered assistance in moving to much safer and fully serviced accommodations. As of June 18, there are no tents in Barbara Hall Park. More residents are now using the park as intended and there have been two Sunday morning community clean-ups.
The encampment at George Hislop Park and the adjacent private property, owned by Sanctuary Ministries, has so far not been cleared. While some people have been successfully relocated to better accommodations, more tents soon appear in the vacated park spaces.
The longstanding failure of federal, provincial and municipal governments to prioritize housing affordability, homelessness, mental health and addiction has led to the current encampments situation. CWNA supports the measures taken so far to address the immediate crisis, but much more needs to be done.
[For news on the homelessness and encampments situation, see Ward 13 News Updates (usually under the title 'Encampments' or 'COVID 19 Updates']
Summer 2020 should have been the beginning of a Church Street Renaissance. Through 2019 and early this year many vacant storefronts had been renovated and found new tenants. Scaffolding came down, new paint jobs freshened up exteriors and heritage facades regained their former glory. The future looked especially bright with a long-awaited plan to redesign Church Street getting underway.
Then COVID-19 happened.
As in the rest of the country, the pandemic has had a profound effect on Church Street businesses. Non-essential retail operations have only recently been allowed to get back up and running with curb-side service. Restaurants have been reduced to take-out and delivery orders, and are still waiting for the go-ahead to start patio table service. Bars haven't been open for months, and many have been boarded up to prevent break-ins. Businesses hoping for a break on their rent have been out of luck, with landlords opting not to take advantage of the federal commercial rent relief program.
So what can we expect on Church Street this summer, usually the busiest and more festive season of the year?
With summer underway, the street is looking cheerier, thanks to splashes of colour from floral hanging baskets and planters freshly filled with annuals, courtesy the Church Wellesley Village BIA. And those boarded up windows are now in the process of being transformed into eye-catching murals, another BIA innovation.
Most important, more people are coming out on the street, taking advantage of the warmer weather and offering a hint of that familiar Church Street vibe. To accommodate social distancing, some of the street parking lanes have been temporarily converted to pedestrians only through the CurbTO program, and there may be more pedestrianization in store. The provincial and city governments are cutting red tape so that, when restaurants and bars start serving again, they can more readily get extra patio space.
Everyone, especially those whose income hasn't been affected by the pandemic, can help by patronizing local restaurants for take out and delivery and by making an extra effort to shop Church. While Church Street will not be the same this summer, if we all do our part the Village main street will endure -- and flourish another day.
The following is the full text of the letter to concerned residents, issued by The 519 on May 7:
I hope you and your loved ones are well during these difficult times. As a community centre dedicated to serving LGBTQ2S communities and our local neighbourhood, The 519 remains committed to responding to the most urgent needs of our communities during the COVID-19 Crisis. We know that the only way to achieve this is through working together.
Since the beginning of this crisis, The 519 has been providing essential services that are vital to the health and wellbeing of community members, including access to food, basic hygiene supplies, and clothing. We are also running daily phone check-ins to remain connected to isolated residents. In the coming days, we will be expanding our virtual supports to include crisis counselling, our legal clinics, and newcomer and refugee supports.
We share the concerns about the difficult circumstances the Village, and the rest of downtown, are facing in relation to increased levels of violence, threatening behaviours, and property damage. We are particularly worried about escalated levels of homophobia and transphobia that our community members, especially street-involved community members, are facing.
We know that many people feel unsafe right now. We understand that our provision of essential services can be at times disruptive and create additional stresses in the neighbourhood. But addressing safety does not mean stopping the provision of essential services. It means working together across the community on how to address safety and wellbeing for everyone.
We are committed to working with local residents, businesses, The City, Toronto Police, and other health and social service agencies to continue to provide these essential services while ensuring the least disruption possible. We are taking the following steps to help mitigate the disruptive impact of our services:
- We are bringing community issues and concerns to the attention of City staff on a daily basis and continue to advocate for increased resources and social supports for the Church- Wellesley Village.
- We have active security on site during our operating hours to help maintain physical distancing in our food line up and to de-escalate crisis.
- We are in conversations with Toronto Police Services on how to best maintain the safety of residents and service users.
- Our maintenance staff is cleaning Barbara Hall Park three times a day as it is not currently being maintained by Parks, Forestry & Recreation.
- We are doing our best to connect with new faces in the community and referring them to the services they need, including Streets to Homes.
- We are actively providing support and crisis de-escalation as best we can while maintaining appropriate health and safety measures.
- We are in daily conversation with partners across The Downtown East, coordinating service provision and sharing best practices on how to provide service that maintains the health, safety, and dignity of service users and the broader community.
- We are augmenting our online and phone supports, including counseling, legal clinics, anti-violence and crisis intervention, and newcomer refugee supports.
- We continue to be nimble and responsive and open to evolving our supports to best meet the growing needs and challenges faced by community members amidst COVID-19 and are continuously adjusting our service model to best meet these needs.
We are working with the City to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness in our community. We recognize that people need access to washroom facilities – for the purposes of washing up, personal dignity and privacy in washroom use. We have agreed to work with City Staff to provide washroom access within our building instead of using portable toilets in Barbara Hall Park. This service is:
- Managed and staffed by The City of Toronto. It will be cleaned and maintained to meet all required health and safety standards and staffed to provide client management and crisis de-escalation, and security staff.
- Mirrors The 519’s current hours of operations.
- Is accessible through the splash pad behind The 519.
- City-assigned staff will adhere to The 519’s LGBTQ2S positive space policies.
Through the conversations we have with service users, we know that for many we are their sole source of nutrition and basic needs support during these incredibly difficult times. As a community and as a neighbourhood, we have a long history of taking care of each other and the most vulnerable. We cannot lose sight of this. There is not ‘somewhere else’ for the most vulnerable to go. That somewhere else is here.
We are willing and able to take on much of the work of finding solutions to these difficult problems. But we can’t do it alone. We ask you to join us in understanding that community safety and providing basic needs to vulnerable people aren’t at odds with each other. Meeting basic needs puts our community in a better position to address the realities affecting The Village and the broader downtown today and puts us on better footing as we face the the long recovery ahead.
Thank you for your patience and understanding during these difficult times. If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch with us at Community@The519.org and a member of our leadership team will get back to you as soon as possible.