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Vaughan's downtown dream takes shape

Plan proposes 600-acre development

‘Subway will make it happen’: Mayor

Mar. 27, 2006. 05:42 AM

The dream of Vaughan building its own downtown from scratch has taken on a new sense of importance with the province’s decision to extend the TTC subway system into the so-called city above Toronto.

For about eight years, planners and politicians in Vaughan have been putting together a proposal for a 600-acre development called the Vaughan Corporate Centre from roughly Highway 407 north to Highway 7, with the centrepiece being a 125-acre downtown.

“Without the subway I don’t think the dream can be realized … the subway will make it happen,” said Vaughan Mayor Michael Di Biase, noting that developers are already eagerly lining up.

“With this announcement the face of Vaughan has changed tremendously,” he said, hoping the subway to Vaughan can be completed in five years and the new downtown in 15 to 20 years.

Taking a minute to reflect on what it might look like, Di Biase said: “I want to see a busy place, a cosmopolitan place where people can come to shop, enjoy a good meal, stay for a weekend, a week � just a thriving place.

“We want to build this as a destination place … a great place to visit and stay, a place buzzing with activity.”

The so-called corporate centre area runs parallel with Highway 7 and is bisected by Highway 400. Inside that area, roughly at Jane St. and Highway 7, which now is a large sinkhole, will be the downtown. Currently it is a nondescript light industrial area for the most part.

“We are basically starting from scratch … what we are really trying to do is build a true city centre,” Vaughan planning commissioner John Zipay said.

And what does it cost to build a downtown from the ground up? Billions of dollars of private sector investment, Di Biase said.

Plans call for 6.1 million square feet of planned development, featuring office/commercial, hotel, cultural facilities, restaurants and entertainment venues, along with medium and high-density residential development.

“We just don’t want this to be a place where people work and play, but we also want a place where people can live,” Zipay said.

“We would have pedestrian sidewalks, boulevards and stores and cafes and retail shops along the base (of the highrise towers), and mixed in with that would be a high composition of residential,” he said.

Early estimates are that 30,000 people will work there and at least 5,000 will live there.

The need for a subway line into the 905 region has long been recognized, and the TTC sees the region as a major source of growth.

“The growth is in the 905,” TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said in an interview in 1999. “My perspective is that my job is to increase revenue, which is ridership, and I don’t care what the phone number of our customer is.”

Looking ahead to the planned corporate centre, Ducharme predicted growing subway ridership between the two cities.

“If you’ve got intense land development at the corporate centre, then you can get two-way ridership,” he noted. “Already, there’s a lot of people going from Toronto to the outer regions.”

The new subway line would terminate in the centre of the new downtown. And along the subway route, north of Steeles, east of Jane St. and south of Highway 407 would be an inter-regional terminal facility.

Plans include a light-rail transit system across the region, running parallel to Highway 7.

with files from Naomi Carniol