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Ambitious plan in works to give Vaughan a 'heart'

Better transportation network, ring road needed for fast-growing centre to fly

Globe and Mail
Monday, April 10, 2000

An ambitious plan to build a downtown, complete with high-rise towers, sidewalk cafes and a subway line, is designed to give Vaughan a heart.

The area north of Toronto that has become the fastest-growing city in Canada is trying to promote development and solve an image problem with its planned Corporate Centre, said Frank Miele, Vaughan’s development commissioner.

“We wanted to see a real urban centre,” he said. Vaughan is an agglomeration of a number of small villages that never had a central focus.

The busy intersection of Highway 400 and Highway 7 seemed a logical location, Mr. Miele said.

The plan envisions about 465,000 square metres of commercial development and a number of residential buildings. Their size and number would depend on what developers want to build.

An oval-shaped ring road would be built to define the Corporate Centre, which would include the area from Jane Street in the east to Highway 400 in the west. The area nearby already has two theatre complexes and a busy commercial district. But most of the proposed centre is undeveloped farm land.

A key to making the intense business development work is “higher order transportation,” Mr. Miele said. Ideally, it would include an extension of the Spadina subway all the way to Highway 7 and an express bus or light rail system along either Highway 407 or Highway 7.

Mr. Miele said there is a large parcel of land at Jane and Highway 7 that the province has identified as a commuter parking lot for a transit system that could bring in commuters from Newmarket, Markham and Brampton.

Mr. Miele said a Vaughan task force has had encouraging discussions with the Toronto Transit Commission and the province about the idea.

An extension of the subway from Downsview to York University is already being planned and to bring it from there to Highway 7 would require an extension of about two kilometres.

To save money on the estimated $100-million construction cost, the subway could be built above ground, as it is on Allen Road now, with a roadway running alongside. “The car will always be part of our culture,” Mr. Miele said.

“In the not-too-distant future when visitors and residents talk about Vaughan, they will talk about the sidewalk caf�s and wide avenues and numerous boutiques and theatres,” said Mayor Lorna Jackson.

Mr. Miele said the city has already had talks with several developers who are anxious to get started with new buildings. A new Marriott hotel is already slated for construction in the area.

Much of the cost of road improvement would be covered by development fees for new buildings.

Vaughan, with a population of 180,000, projects growing to more than 320,000 in the next 20 years.

“We have to get the city of Toronto and the province working together. This is a vision for Vaughan, but also for the whole Greater Toronto Area,” Mr. Miele said.

He said many people who live in Vaughan and work downtown have no option but to drive and there is only one practical route. “If you give them an option to park their car and ride, many will park.”

The transit would require financing from the province as well as from Vaughan and the Region of York. It would also require some funding by the TTC and the private sector.

Mr. Miele urged politicians, especially at the provincial level, to dream a bit and stop the squabbling that has made co-ordinated transit planning difficult.

A public hearing on the Corporate Centre will be held on May 1. If passed by Vaughan Council, the road improvements could be planned, including a widening of Highway 7.