The transitway is being converted to LRT in order to increase capacity. It will haul more people sometimes for shortish distances, but mostly for longish, or regional hauls. It is difficult to satisfy the long haul user and the short trip user on the same system.
That’s why we have local bus routes, cross town routes, express routes to the suburbs, and high frequency express services on the transitway. As the LRT goes west from Tunney’s Pasture, the City is keeping a close eye on redevelopment potential along the route, as it is development charges that will paying for the LRT, not property taxes.
I hear Richmond road residents claim there is little redevelopment potential along Richmond, but there is lots along Carling (indeed the popularity of Carling seems to increase proportional to the distance away from it).*
The (very) uninformed resident may not see much potential redevelopment space along the western LRT corridor, except for the very obvious empty fields near Westboro Station (and rest assured some association somewhere is trying to prevent that from developing…). So lets look at Richmond Road starting at Golden Avenue and working west towards Lincoln Fields.
Where do these neighbourhoods have room to grow, to house their children, their elderly selves, and new residents…
Recall that Minto is building Upper West in the barely visible space between CIHI and Rogers TV. This suggests to me there is ample room to build at least two towers along Richmond Road once Rogers is gone. Hopefully, the ground floors will be continuous storefronts, thus extending the popular Westboro shopping strip, although the community association has opposed this before. Then there’s room for at least two more towers in the Rogers parking lot. Counting Minto, that’s five towers, about 1000 residences tops.
The section from Rochester Field to Cleary …
shows much less available space for intensification, which may be why the LRT-on-the-Parkway-til-Cleary option is there. It would certainly avoid aggravating a number of neighbours.
If the ORP-Cleary route is chosen, the LRT would join the Richmond right of way by plowing through an expropriated mini-mall just east of Cleary, opposite the new Charlesfort tower. This will also open up new pedestrian access to the waterfront. Don’t cry for that mini-mall, though, it is eminently expendable architecture designed for a short life and eventual replacement. If the Cleary route is not chosen, but the LRT comes down Richmond, then the mini-mall will disappear anyway, buried under a new highrise. If the strip mall provides useful services, then the tenants will find space in the retail frontages of the new towers.
From Cleary to Woodroffe there is a bonanza of redevelopable space.
There is potentially a row of development extending from the Charlesfort tower at Cleary all the way west to Woodroofe and the new tower already under construction at that corner (well, its sales office is there…). There are some existing lowish-rise apartments already on the north side of Richmond and they have plenty of life of them, so it won’t be a wall of high rises, but rather a varied skyline. Some new buildings will replace older stuff along the street, and some will go into existing parking lots and dreck space. Presumably, once a route is chosen, some redevelopment guidelines will be required, perhaps as a arterial mainstreet CDP so the area can become more walkable, more pedestrian friendly, as it redevelops over the next century.
Don’t ignore the south side of Byron. From Lockhart to Redwood there is a continuous strip of 1940-ish three storey walk up apartments and surface parking lots. On very spacious lots. There is a single eight storey building in there too. I fully expect the property owners will start out with a short new condo slipped into a vacant space, then later knock down one old yellow brick building and put up something a bit bigger, and eventually replace the whole lot with new residences. This could easily take 50 – 100 or more years to accomplish.
I see no reason why this wouldn’t be an appealing selection of apartments that will attract the children of the existing McKellar families (since the low rise housing in the area is pretty much the exclusive domain of middle-aged, mid-career high income professionals) and the tired-of-house-maintenance retirees who can get rich selling the old house to someone who will triple its size when renovating **.
From Woodroffe west to New Orchard, the north side of Richmond Road is a redevelopers paradise. Lots of low-value low-rise commercial uses like car lots, car washes, parking lots, etc, ready and easy to be redeveloped, with river views.
The number of existing quality high rises will remain, giving a variety of styles and prices to the housing market. The Ambleside area is fully developed, but McEwan has a number of vacant lots / parking lots that could be redeveloped between existing towers.
I know that identifying the redevelopment potential along the Richmond corridor may horrify some people who cannot imagine change. But all the existing high rises, and low rise wood frame homes too, replaced something else that someone loved just the way it was. And the redevelopment will occur spread out over many decades. It’s hard now to imagine Richmond without Olympic Tower or Ambleside or the other developments, but at one point they were new intensification themselves. I think we actually have the opportunity here to develop an attractive, walkable Richmond Road.
Which brings up traffic. Every existing neighborhood claims that the next development — whether a single infill house or an apartment building of any size — will overload already-failing streets. (Since that argument applies to every development everywhere, it won’t sway Council at all). So imagine you don’t build these infills, but pass them on to the next neighbourhood, say Britannia. Do you really think the residents won’t still drive down Richmond Road? And the further out they get pushed to the suburbs, the higher the car count will be per unit, and MORE traffic there will be. Car traffic can be dealt with by developing walkable neighbourhoods with good transit connections, not playing pass-the-trash.
* putting the long haul LRT on Carling and the local LRT on Richmond would mean more stations on Richmond, and yet more intensification pressure.
** I spent some time walking the McKellar area on the weekend, and last year cycled it extensively. Lovely treed streets. But very much a neighbourhood in transition, especially the areas closest to Richmond Road and to Westboro Village. On some blocks, it is hard to find an “original” house. The small ones have been added-on-to to the point the original is dwarfed, or else have been cinderella’d (adding a second – or third – storey) or replaced entirely by McKellar Monster Homes ™. The days of family houses for ordinary folks is largely gone. The zone of renovation extends about 2/3 of the way up to Carling Avenue.