Businesses in Midtown Toronto are breathing a sigh of relief as more than a decade of construction in the heart of the area nears an end.
Recently, the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglington Avenue, which has been a spaghetti of walkways and detours for years, mostly reopened for normal use.
“It’s a good start for the year,” Estevan Martinez, owner of The Fox pub, told CTV News Toronto. “Looking forward to 2024.”
Work on the troubled Crosstown line started in 2011 and was slated to be complete in 2020 but that target was pushed back multiple times.
“It is a very, very important node in the City of Toronto, and the businesses have been very anxious to again get back to normal, if there is such a thing, after so many years of construction both above and below ground, COVID and everything else that’s out there,” Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) President John Kiru told CP24.com in an interview.
Ahead of the construction, the city said that it would be working to mitigate the impact on the local economy in order to avoid the sort of problems encountered with previous transit construction projects on St. Clair and Roncesvalles avenues. But years of road and sidewalk closures have nevertheless battered some businesses in the area, making it difficult for customers to access stores and for deliveries to be made.
Kiru, who also serves as the council-appointed board member of the local Uptown Yonge Business Improvement Area, said Eglinton was a “different animal” due to the complexities of executing a major underground transit construction project underneath a busy intersection.
“Businesses have suffered. There’s no question about that,” Kiru said. “Construction has impacted businesses and we worked very hard as BIA’s, as the local business community, with our councillors and everybody else at the City of Toronto to mitigate as much of that as possible.”
People are seen walking through the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue Tuesday, January 2, 2024.
He said he’s hopeful that the area can “finally flip a page” on this part of its growth and hopefully integrate some of those lessons as work gets underway on the Ontario Line.
“Look, the bottom line is we’re beyond that now,” Kiru said. “The reality is that things are back to normal on the surface right now. We’re anxiously waiting for that intersection to continue to be a hub in public transit as well through the expansion of the TTC and everything else that comes through it.”
Much of the heavy equipment has now been removed, though some sidewalk closures remain in effect as work is completed.
Kiru said he would like to see a marketing campaign to bring people back to businesses in the area now that it is easier to move about, but it’s difficult to plan one without a firm opening date for the Crosstown.
Metrolinx missed the last target in fall 2022 and has not provided a new one so far. Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster has apologized to area businesses and residents for the delays and has said that the agency will provide an opening date when they can be certain of it.
Councillor Josh Matlow, who represents the area, recently highlighted the long timeline in a tweet where he pointed out that Notre Dame in Paris burned down and was rebuilt while the Crosstown work was still ongoing.
“Since 2011, Gangnam style came & went, Britain left the EU, Donald Trump was president, Notre Dame burned down…and was rebuilt, social justice movements changed the world and a global pandemic occurred,” he wrote on social media last week, sharing a photo of the intersection. “Today, Yonge & Eglinton is finally just about open again. #Crosstown2024”
Recently published city planning documents indicate there is some expectation the line will be operational by September, though that has not been confirmed.
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