Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bloor Square in Waiting

Last month I wrote a few paragraphs about the precarious future of One Bloor East, a proposed multi-use skyscraper to be built on what was a developed corner and is now an empty, fenced-off field of dirt and gravel at the intersection of Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Today, the Toronto Star reported that the project is "on the brink," and while developer Bazis International claims the site is the "best address in the world," financial scandal may well prevent the tower from being built there.

What I have to wonder is - would this really be a bad thing? Towers are sprouting like sunflowers in Toronto these days, recession or no, and the only reason you can't see cranes every which way in the downtown core is because the existing buildings block the view. It's a powerful reminder of how modern society is built on the "runaway train" model of economic development, that the economy has to grow every single quarter and it's a terrible defeat and tragedy if it doesn't.

I recognize that the proposed site of One Bloor East is incredibly valuable land. What I take issue with is the automatic notion that some developer should profit from it, rather than the ordinary people of Toronto. Personally I hope they don't build the place. I hope they return the $70 million they've already collected as down payments for condos that haven't even been built yet, and I hope that the land can instead be converted into another downtown public space - something that a city can never have enough of.

James Bow has decribed the Yonge Street Strip, the portion of it between Dundas Street and Bloor Street, as the "heart of Yonge." I would go one further and say that length also represents its soul. The spinning records of Sam the Record Man are gone, but that street still thrums, and for many Torontonians and non-Torontonians alike those leagues of storefronts and sidewalks are what comes to mind when Yonge Street is mentioned. Dundas Square anchors it in the south; rather than build yet another tower for the enrichment of yet another developer, I'd much prefer to see a Bloor Square where that field of dirt and gravel is now.

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