The City Planning Project
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Dec 1929, p. 336-349
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Harris, R.C., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
Description
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Toronto Board of Trade.
Information relative to the proposed City Improvement Plan for Toronto. Features of the Advisory City Planning Reform as reported upon by the heads of the departments to the City Council, and now before the electors. A few salient features which were considered when the proposition was under review by the heads of departments. A large scale map is used during this explanation of the report relative to the plan. A very detailed description of the Plan follows. Financial considerations. Recommendations. Necessary collections from the ratepayers to finance this improvement, predicated upon certain assessment increases which have been very conservatively estimated. Proposal considerations.
Date of Original
19 Dec 1929
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English
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Full Text
THE CITY PLANNING PROJECT
AN ADDRESS BY MR. R. C. HARRIS, COMMISSIONER OF WORKS OF THE CITY OF TORONTO.
(Before a Special Joint Meeting of the Empire Club of
Canada, Toronto, and Toronto' Board of Trade.)
19th December, 1929

PRESIDENT EAYRS introduced the speaker, who said: I have been instructed by the City Council to attend your luncheon today and give you some information relative to the proposed City Improvement Plan. My address is designed to be purely informative, without bias or partisanship. I shall neither advocate nor oppose, but shall endeavour to place before you clearly the features of the Advisory City Planning Reform as reported upon by the heads of the departments to the City Council, and which is now before the electors for their attention.

May I first direct attention to a few salient features which were considered when the proposition was under review by the heads of departments? In 1915 Mr. E. L. Cousins, Chief Engineer of the Harbour Commission, Mr. Fred Gaby, Chief Engineer of the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, and myself, were instructed to make a report relative to transportation for the City of Toronto. We investigated the traffic in the central district bounded on the south by Front Street, on the north by Dundas St., on the west by Simcoe St., and the east by Jarvis St., for a 12-hour period from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and we found, in-bound, 19,505 vehicles, and outbound 19,898 vehicles.

In 1928 the Transportation Commission, for its own purposes, made a survey of the vehicular traffic in the same territory, and found that in a 12-hour period there were 58,386 vehicles in-bound and 53,810 out-bound; showing that the number of vehicles in and out of that district had increased in the 13 years from roughly 39,000 to 112,000. In 1915 in the Toronto district there were 10,400 licenses issued for automotive vehicles; and in 1928 there were 112,960 licenses-an increase of 986 per cent. That gives some view as to the added traffic which the highways are called on to bear, and a census taken of the inflow and outflow showed that a very considerable proportion of that added traffic found its way to and from the centre of the city.

Before you is spread a large-scale map showing the proposal of the report relative to the plan. This black circle indicates a radius of Y4 of a mile from the City Hall, its westerly rim lying just east of Spadina Avenue, the easterly rim at Ontario Street, the northerly rim just about College Street, and the south rim at Fleet Street. Within that circle lies, approximately, seven percent of the total area of the City of Toronto, and the land and buildings and other assessments within that district produce 32 percent of the revenue of the municipality.

The total of our assessment made in 1928 for the year 192'9, upon which the revenue of the city is raised, amounted to $970,956,745. The assessment in the area bounded on the south by the waterfront, on the north by College Street, and lying between Parliament Street and Spadina Avenue, showed a gross of $309,028,000, or 32 percent of the total assessment of the city. That means that that district pays not only 32 percent of the general assessment of the city, but pays 32 percent of any improvement of which the city pays the whole cost, and pays 32 percent of the city's proportion of all local improvements that are prosecuted in any section of the city, wherever they may be. For instance, we widened North Yonge Street, and the city pays 50 percent of it, and this district pays 32 percent of that 50 percent That applies generally throughout the city. The average local improvement is shared in by the citizens at large to the extent of 25 percent to 33 percent--I am now referring to pavements, sidewalks, sewers, etc.--and this district pays 32 percent of that 25 percent to 33 percent.

Now, before considering the general plan, may I direct your attention particularly to Fleet Street, the boulevard drive running from Yonge Street to the extreme City Limits at the Humber. Fleet Street was laid out by reason of an agreement made with the Harbour Commission in connection with Harbour development, and was done by the whole city to a certain extent, the pavement, sidewalks, sewers, on the section known as Fleet Street, from Bathurst Street easterly to Yonge, being done as a local improvement and paid for by the adjoining property owners; from Bathurst Street westerly, it being known as Boulevard Drive, the improvements on the thoroughfare were paid for entirely by the city at large.

Fleet Street is to be projected across the southerly end of the city from its present stopping-place at Yonge Street easterly, just south of the viaduct, to Cherry Street, which is a short distance west of the Don River; southerly on Cherry Street to Commissioner Street-a thoroughfare laid out by the Harbour Commissioners in their development; then northerly on Leslie Street to Eastern Avenue-at one time Ardagh Avenue; easterly along Eastern Avenue, which finds its exit immediately west of the Woodbine Race Course.

In considering the extensions we have to make, bear in mind that Fleet Street is a great big traffic line of the city. Great difficulty used to be experienced in getting to the waterfront. If you recollect, we had nothing but level crossings, plus a very flimsy and inadequate bridge at Yonge Street and a flimsy and out-worn bridge crossing Spadina Avenue. As a, result of viaduct construction we shall now have ready access to the waterfront. A bridge is being built by the City at Bathurst Street and will be ready within the next few months, at a cost of almost a million dollars, which will run southerly from Front Street to a point about 350 feet north of Fleet Street, running out at or about Dalhousie Street. In connection with the viaduct a very fine bridge, 86 feet wide, has been built from Front Street southerly to Fleet Street over Spadina Avenue. Then, coming to York Street, where the subway runs under the viaduct, this is to be completed; another subway at Bay Street; a third at Yonge Street, and others at Jarvis, Sherbourne, Parliament and Cherry Streets. Thus we have provided adequate means of getting to and from this great big traffic line on Fleet Street.

Now, to proceed to the proposal of the Planning Commission which was formed by the City in 1928 for advisory purposes. They submitted their report on March 9, 1929, and it was at once referred to the heads of the departments for consideration and report. In the latter part of June the Board of Trade submitted a certain recommendation relative thereto, which was in turn passed on to the heads of departments, and on October 31st we presented the report to the City Council, as a result of which a question is being submitted to the people-"Are you in favour of the City issuing debentures to the extent of $19,000,000 to finance this City Planning Project?" That will be voted on on January 1st.

The circle shown on this map encloses an area of seven percent of the City lying within the radius of three-quarters of a mile from the City Hall. University Avenue is an old thoroughfare running southerly from Bloor Street, north of Queen Street it has a total width of 180 feet. It is proposed to extend University Avenue in a southerly direction from Queen Street to the north side of Front Street, finding an inlet to Front Street at a point about 140 feet west of York Street. From the south side of Queen Street it is proposed to extend the Avenue southerly at a width of 180 feet to Vimy Circle, which has a radius of about 1,200 feet, a diameter of about 400 feet. From Vimy Circle it is proposed to extend the thoroughfare south-easterly at a width of 100 feet to the north side of Front Street. It is proposed to lay out from Vimy Circle, running in a south-westerly direction, a great 100-foot motor highway, referred to as Passchendaele Road. This highway runs southwesterly from Vimy Circle, crossing John Street at the intersection of Adelaide Street, then running westerly across Widmer Street and Charlotte Street, crossing King Street and Spadina Avenue, and finding its outlet at Wellington Street, which is then continued westerly to Portland Street, and a new thoroughfare 100 feet in width is laid out from Portland Street to Bathurst Street. You can readily perceive the use of such a highway for carrying inbound and outbound traffic to and from not only the centre of the city but the eastern and the easterly and northerly part of the municipality.

To the western extremity of the thoroughfare we have Bathurst Street. Traffic, inbound and outbound, may use Bathurst Street and along Passchendaele Road to Vimy Circle, and the traffic may leave Toronto at any intersections, and so on. It also taps Spadina Avenue, which is bridged over the railway track, and traffic may leave or enter at Spadina Avenue, Adelaide Street, John Street, Simcoe Street, or any street lateral to it.

From Vimy Circle easterly it is proposed to widen Richmond Street from 66 feet to 100 feet, the widening to end at the westerly limits of Cambrai Avenue. The T.T.C. has indicated that if this widening be effected they are quite content to move from Richmond Street all their tracks which are now used mainly for loop purposes.

Immediately to the east of Queen's Park Avenue (or University Avenue) it is proposed to widen York Street from Richmond Street southerly to Front Street by taking 20 feet off the west side of the street, making a thoroughfare 86 feet in width as against its present width of 56 feet. From Richmond Street northerly it is proposed to divert York Street, which now enters Queen Street at this point just opposite Osgoode Hall; it is proposed to divert it northeasterly across Queen Street to the square which is designed to lie in front of the Registery Office on the north side of Albert Street, between Chestnut and Elizabeth Street. This York Street westerly direction, a great 100-foot motor highway, referred to as Passchendaele Road. This highway runs southwesterly from Vimy Circle, crossing John Street at the intersection of Adelaide Street, then running westerly across Widmer Street and Charlotte Street, crossing King Street and Spadma Avenue, and finding its outlet at Wellington Street, which is then continued westerly to Portland Street, and a new thoroughfare 100 feet in width is laid out from Portland Street to Bathurst Street. You can readily perceive the use of such a highway for carrying inbound and outbound traffic to and from not only the centre of the city but the eastern and the easterly and northerly part of the municipality.

To the western extremity of the thoroughfare we have Bathurst Street. Traffic, inbound and outbound, may use Bathurst Street and along Passchendaele Road to Vimy Circle, and the traffic may leave Toronto at any intersections, and so on. It also taps Spadina Avenue, which is bridged over the railway track, and traffic may leave or enter at Spadina Avenue, Adelaide Street, John Street, Simcoe Street, or any street lateral to it.

From Vimy Circle easterly it is proposed to widen Richmond Street from 66 feet to 100 feet, the widening to end at the westerly limits of Cambrai Avenue. The T.T.C. has indicated that if this widening be effected they are quite content to move from Richmond Street all their tracks which are now used mainly for loop purposes.

Immediately to the east of Queen's Park Avenue (or University Avenue) it is proposed to widen York Street from Richmond Street southerly to Front Street by taking 20 feet off the west side of the street, making a thoroughfare 86 feet in width as against its present width of 56 feet. From Richmond Street northerly it is proposed to divert York Street, which now enters Queen Street at this point just opposite Osgoode Hall; it is proposed to divert it northeasterly across Queen Street to the square which is designed to lie in front of the Registery Office on the north side of Albert Street, between Chestnut and Elizabeth Street. This York Street diversion would run northeasterly to Louisa Street, where it intersects Bay, and as part of the proposal it is suggested that Bay Street, from its point of intersection with Louisa Street, and that York Street as diverted, should be widened to 86 feet northerly to Dundas Street.

You will recollect that Bay Street from Queen Street northerly was extended and widened to 86 feet in the Spring. Another widening process will commence on Bay Street from College southerly to Dundas. If this project be effected you will then have an 86-foot thoroughfare on Bay Street from its northerly limit to the junction of Louisa Street.

In that connection the Advisory Committee of the City Planning Commission have suggested that the square lying immediately to the east of St. Julien Place-with which I shall deal in a few minutes-at present occupied by Manning Chambers, Shea's Theatre, Purdy-Mansell and a few other buildings of inconsequential value, should be used for public purposes, and that an extension of the Municipal Buildings, the City Hall, should be built there. The heads of the departments have advised that in their opinion it would be a very wise proposal if the City followed the suggestion to secure the property for public purposes, although we refrain from advising as to what use it should be put. If that were done, and St. Julien Place were acquired, which lies between that square situated at the northeast corner of Bay and Queen Street and Osgoode Hall, there would be a public ownership of lands on the north side of Queen Street having a frontage of 1,800 feet, and lying between the east side of University Avenue, where Osgoode Hall properly commences, and the west side of Bay Street.

It is proposed to lay out on the north side of Queen Street a square to be known as St. Julien Place, the westerly limit of which shall be formed by the diversion northeasterly of York Street and the projection northwesterly of Cambrai Avenue north of Queen Street.

May I direct your attention to Elizabeth and Chestnut Streets, which flank the Registry Office and run directly north from St. Julien Place? Elizabeth Street runs directly north to College Street; Chestnut Street stops at Gerrard Street. Those streets at present have a width of 66 feet. a pavement width of 28 feet, and it is suggested that this latter width might well be extended to 46 feet at the mere cost of extending the pavement, thus measurably increasing the traffic-bearing facilities on those two streets. Therefore, you see, from St. Julien place you would have traffic entering Chestnut Street, Elizabeth Street, Bay Street, Osgoode Street to the west of University Avenue, and conversely, traffic coming from these thoroughfares to the centre of the city.

The unbroken distance on the south side of Queen Street in the block from York Street to Soho is 845 feet -a very long city block. It is proposed to intersect this block, to break it up, by opening a thoroughfare known as Cambrai Avenue which would run northerly from the north side of Front Street and immediately to the east of the Royal York Hotel, running northerly to Pearl Street at a width of 100 feet. From Pearl Street northerly it is proposed that the new thoroughfare be opened on the west side of the avenue to a width of 70 feet for southbound traffic, and that Sheppard Street be utilized as the easterly branch for north-bound traffic. Sheppard Street has a width of 50 feet, and in that case a virtue has been made ' of necessity, because a very large and expensive building has been erected here, and if it had been designed to project Cambrai Avenue due north the removal of that building would have involved a tremendous cost. Those two branches come together a short distance north of Richmond Street, where it is proposed to lay out a small parkette for ornamental purposes; then proceed at a width of 100 feet to Queen Street, crossing Queen Street, and proceed north by west, forming the easterly flank of St. Julien Place.

Queen Street from above Soho Street westerly to Spadina Avenue is a wide thoroughfare. From that point easterly it has a width of 66 feet. It is designed to widen Queen Street, under the Widening Plan Act, to 100 feet at a point just east of Soho Street, through to Sherbourne Street, which will give Queen Street a width of 100 feet.

If the ratepayers endorse this scheme and the Council pass favourably upon it this widening will be done over a considerable period of years, in order that the Corporaation may take the benefit of the Pavement Widening Act.

You recollect that I indicated that Richmond Street was to be widened to the easterly branch of Cambrai Avenue to 100 feet. From that point easterly the width of 66 feet is retained, but the car tracks would be eliminated; and from the junction of Richmond Street and Jarvis Street a new thoroughfare is designed, as indicated on the plans, called Arras Road, laid out at a width of 100 feet, proceeding easterly from Jarvis and Richmond Streets, crossing George Street, thence northerly crossing Queen Street, crossing at Sherbourne Street, and then running easterly to the corner of Dundas and ParliamentDundas being formerly known as Wilton Avenue. This street running to the northeast is complementary to the new Passchendaele Road running to the southwest. Then you get from the extreme west to the extreme north-east along Fleet Street, up Bathurst Street or Spadina, Passchendaele Road, through Vimy Circle, on through Richmond Street and Arras Road, and then out through many avenues of traffic north and east, in order that the traffic may be distributed through the northeasterly section of the city.

Eastern Avenue, to which I referred to in opening, carries a very heavy volume of traffic. Crossing the railway tracks at the Don, coming westerly to Trinity Street, then southerly to Front Street-Front Street, by the way, being a very heavily trafficked artery, very dangerous and insecure though it may be; but this is the direction of the traffic, westerly from Eastern Avenue, southeasterly on Trinity Street, westerly on Front Street, this acute angle having to be negotiated in the face of advancing traffic; and while it is a comparatively small improvement it spells a tremendous convenience to the very heavy traffic which runs on Eastern Avenue. The flow would be westerly on Eastern Avenue and southwesterly at an easy angle into Front Street, without any embarrassment caused by reason of the advancing traffic.

Within the past two or three years the Toronto General Hospital authorities approached the City and expressed the desire to erect a new addition to the Hospital, and asked that Christopher Street be closed to Centre Avenue, running from Elizabeth westerly into University Avenue, and the City agreed to do that provided the Hospital authorities would lay out at their own expense an extension westerly from Elizabeth Street. At the time Gerrard Street entered the east side of Elizabeth Street. The Hospital authorities laid out a thoroughfare 66 feet in width from the west side of Elizabeth Street to the east side of University Avenue, and paved and side-walked it entirely at their own expense.

Gerrard Street is a great thoroughfare running from the extreme easterly limit, at Coxwell Avenue, at a width of 66 feet, westerly to Parliament, a slight jog to the north, and then directly westerly; therefore traffic bound to the eastern city limits or any intermediate points, or vice versa, finds a very ready inlet and outlet by way of Gerrard Street. But there is a portion of Gerrard Street lying between Elizabeth Street and Yonge Street which is only 50 feet in width, and the proposal is that it should be widened on the south side to 66 feet. In the minds of the heads of the departments that proposal, quite aside from its virtue as being a widened link in the great thoroughfare running from the easterly city limits to the centre of the city, has another virtue in that one of the largest theatres in America is to be erected in the block between Hayter Street and Gerrard Street; the Eaton Company is erecting its building at the southwest corner of College and Yonge Streets, running westerly to Bay Street; and there will be a tremendous volume of traffic resulting not only from the location of this commercial development at this point but also because of the theatre. So important did it appear to the owners of the land lying between Hayter and Gerrard Streets on the west side of Yonge Street that they entered into an agreement with the city whereby they will, at their own entire expense, widen Yonge Street on the west side by 20 feet, thus making a width of 86 feet. Some years ago the city made an agreement with the Eaton Company whereby that Company widened Yonge Street on the west side by 20 feet from Hayter to College Street. Then we will have to widen from Hayter Street southerly to Gerrard Street from 66 to 86 feet.

You gentlemen are well acquainted with that awkward and dangerous jog at the corner of Yonge and Carlton. One coming east on College Street jogs south on Yonge Street equivalent to about one and a half times the width of the street, and then easterly on Carlton Street. It is proposed to abolish the jog, and to swing the east curvature from the east side of Yonge Street opposite College Street south-easterly into Carlton Street at a width of. 100 feet, immediately to the west of the prolongation of Victoria Street, to reduce the width to 80 feet and extend it through at an 80-foot width to Jarvis Street.

An extension of Victoria Street has also been designed, from Gerrard into Carlton, giving a through street parallel to Yonge Street from the Esplanade northerly to College and Carlton Street, where traffic may find a ready avenue of distribution.

Elm Street ran from the east side of University Avenue to Yonge Street; and to the west there was a thoroughfare known as Caer Howell Street, now known as Elm Street, a thoroughfare with a very pronounced jog a short distance west of University Avenue and just to the west of the school formerly located at that point. As the City has the land for widening between University Avenue and Simcoe Street, it is proposed to divert this thoroughfare in a west-by-north direction and carry it into Baldwin Street, which will allow traffic to proceed west on Baldwin Street to Spadina Avenue, to a lateral street, or travel any of this large number of streets west of Spadina Avenue, from which ready access may be found to the west and northwest section of the City.

I think that primarily Cambrai Avenue was the spinal column of the proposition, as it were, running north from the centre of the Union Station into Queen Street, thence to St. Julien Place, thence to Bay Street, Chestnut Street, Elizabeth Street, etc.

We have been asked, why concentrate all the traffic in the downtown district? I would ask you gentlemen to remember that while these avenues bring traffic to the downtown district they also carry traffic from it to the north, to the southeast, to the east and west, just as they carry traffic in; and while there may be a tendency to concentration there is also an equal tendency to dissipation, and one fairly balances the other.

Now, coming to the financial side of the project, my friend Mr. Wilson, the Commissioner of Finance, has prepared some instructive tables, and he will be able to deal with this question much better than I; but we are limited to one speaker, and I may deal with it for a moment, imperfectly as I may.

The City Planning Commission in their report advised that if the sum of $13,000,000 were appropriated by the Corporation, free of all interest or other charges, this proposal could be swung; that they would purchase property, open streets, and buy properties on either side of the side should be opened. They reckoned on selling those properties on increased values, and by reason of the revenue derived from the re-sale at the increased prices, plus rent during the time of holding, that the whole proposition could be swung for that amount. The heads of the departments, in viewing that proposition, were of the opinion that taxation on account of this work should not be placed on the electorate until the units of the work severally, as they progressed and were completed, were ready for use by the ratepayers. There is nothing novel in that. Our whole local improvement system is designed upon that basis so far as revenue and assessment are concerned. For instance, when we lay a pavement, a sidewalk, or any other local improvement for you, during the time of construction all interest charges on account of the money necessary to accomplish the work are charged to construction. We cannot levy a local improvement rate against property until the work is finally completed and the ultimate cost determined, until the ratepayers who have to pay for the improvement are able to use it.

For instance, it would be quite inequitable and absurd that the City should assess a sewerage system three or four years prior to the time the ratepayers were allowed to drain into it. Therefore we recommend to the Council that the same plan should be followed in connection with this work; that interest on the various sections of the work shall be charged into the construction cost until the individual improvement is an accomplished fact; just as you gentlemen do in business-you charge your interest costs to the business until the business is operating and in a position to bring you returns. Under the plan suggested by the Advisory Planning Commission the interest charges would have been at once assessed against the ratepayers, while our plan defers those interest charges on successive units until each of the units is completed, and it is then charged.

It is estimated that it will cost $36,851,324 capital investment to swing this work. The interest charges during construction are estimated at $4,864,000, making a total of $41,715,324. If you deduct the estimated revenue derived from the re-sale of property at enhanced prices-$23,083,303-you have a balance slightly in excess of $13,000,000, and if all interest charges during the process of the work be charged to construction it gives you $18,632,021. Adding to that the debenture discount, estimated at $350,000, you have a principal debt of $19,000,000 which it is estimated will be necessary to swing the work.

The Finance Commissioner has prepared a table which indicates the rate in cents per thousand dollars which is estimated will be necessary to collect from the ratepayers to finance this improvement, predicated upon certain assessment increases which have been very, very conservatively estimated. We estimate that in 1936 the assessment of the City will be $1,155,000,000. We think that estimate is very conservative, because the increases in the City assessment during the last six years have been about 17.66 per cent. The increase in assessment which we have predicated between 1930 and 1936 is about 13.76 percent increase.

As I said, we do not propose to charge any rating against the ratepayers until some unit is completed. We have taken an arbitrary period of 5 years for that. Predicated upon the assessed values which I have given you -and this is quite a conservative estimate during the term-it is estimated that for $1,000, of assessment, the ratepayer will be called upon to pay 23 cents in 1936, 54 cents in 1937, 69 cents in 1938, 75 cents in 1938, 73 cents in 1940, 76 cents in 1941, 74 cents in 1942, 72 cents in 1943, 71 cents in 1944, and 69 cents in 1945; and from that period forward as the serial bonds issued for the work fall in. From this statement you will be able to calculate very easily the revenue collected upon the multiple of $1,000. It is proposed, provided the ratepayers approve of this project and Council proceeds with it, that the bonds will be retired in 1985. It is felt by the heads of the departments, in bringing the proposal forward, that the security will largely pay for this improvement, inasmuch as they would gain probably the major benefit from it, and at the present generation of taxpayers should not be unduly levied on account of it.

There are some other matters which I think you should know in order to assist you to arrive at a conclusion, but I have already taken more than the time allotted to me, and I have but to thank you for giving me so patient a hearing on a subject, which is I presume, somewhat trying to you. I thank you very much. (Loud Applause.)

Mr. Frank Rolph voiced the thanks of the meeting for the address, and the appreciation which all citizens feel in having such valuable civic officials as Mr. Harris.

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The City Planning Project


A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Toronto Board of Trade.
Information relative to the proposed City Improvement Plan for Toronto. Features of the Advisory City Planning Reform as reported upon by the heads of the departments to the City Council, and now before the electors. A few salient features which were considered when the proposition was under review by the heads of departments. A large scale map is used during this explanation of the report relative to the plan. A very detailed description of the Plan follows. Financial considerations. Recommendations. Necessary collections from the ratepayers to finance this improvement, predicated upon certain assessment increases which have been very conservatively estimated. Proposal considerations.