From a letter submitted by John C. O’Keefe Jr., managing partner of 3C Lakeshore Inc., a consortium of realtors and developers currently working on waterfront development, submitted as part of this week’s council debate on transit:
I am writing to you on behalf of numerous Landowners and Investors on the East Bayfront corridor between Yonge & Cherry Streets.
Last fall, this group conveyed our disappointment to the Mayor’s office in the delay and possible elimination of the Queens Quay LRT. All of the aforementioned stakeholders made significant initial investment totalling well into the hundreds of millions of dollars on the promise and expectation of LRV’s connecting this burgeoning community to the wider transit system at Union Station.
The waterfront light rail projects planned for the east side of downtown have been mostly overlooked over the past couple of the years, lost in a sea of other contentious issues. As originally planned, streetcar tracks would be extended down Cherry Street through the West Don Lands development to (eventually) connect with a new LRT line on Queens Quay East extending out of Union Station. Both lines would run in private right-of-ways, like Spadina and St. Clair, using a side-of-road design.
As it stands, the rail line for Cherry Street seems set to move forward — it’s promised for the Pan Am Games –, but Queens Quay East construction has stalled out. At issue: missing funding of $120 million, some technical issues related to the Union Station connection and, of course, a mayor ideologically opposed to surface rail.
Ford has spent much of the last week talking about what people want. He says he’s listening to what people tell him. But here’s a case where a group of businesses are clearly and unequivocally telling him that they want just one thing: surface rail. Hanging in the balance is billions of dollars of economic activity to be forged through neighbourhood development. Compared to the amount of cash tossed around this week as council debated various transit schemes, the investment required is almost trivially small.
But is the mayor willing to listen?