In 2016, city council approved a billion dollar plan to tear it down and rebuild it further north. Now, Keesmaat is calling that plan fiscally reckless and pledging an alternative that she says will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
We have an opportunity here with this eastern portion to continue the job that was begun many years ago of opening up our waterfront land and reconnecting our city to the waterfront, Keesmaat, who served as Torontos chief planner back in 2015, said. This is really about creating a livable city, it is about creating a sustainable city and it is about moving Toronto into the 21st century and correcting the mistakes of the past with a forward-looking plan.
“We have an opportunity here, in this eastern portion, to continue the job that was begun many years ago, of opening up our waterfront land and reconnecting our city to the waterfront, ” said Keesmaat, who is now advocating for a grand boulevard east of Jarvis.
Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat says that the city can unlock valuable waterfront real estate and save up to $500 million by knocking down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway and replacing it with a widened, eight-lane version of Lake Shore Boulevard.
“And we can build new communities, with new jobs in retail and employment and affordable housing, places for people to live by unlocking this land and instead replacing it with a grand boulevard.”
Keesmaat says her plan would save taxpayers up to $500-million – money, she says, that would be reinvested into transit.
“It costs significantly less to build infrastructure on the ground than to rebuild it in the sky.”
Mayor John Tory says Keesmaat’s announcement contradicts earlier statements she made when she was chief planner, extolling the benefits of the hybrid plan and her team’s work on it.
In 2015, staff estimated that the cost of knocking down the highway and widening Lake Shore Boulevard would be about $461 million. That is compared to an estimated capital cost of $718 million to reroute and rebuild the highway.
“The fact that the city council, by a vote of 36-5, approved this expressway being moved and put in a new place where we can fee up more waterfront land for development on a plan that at the time Ms. Keesmaat took credit for and said her wonderful staff did a wonderful job, which they did, on putting forward this plan… is another example of what’s now going to happen,” said Tory. “She’s going to take us backwards and we’re going to go back to the drawing board to more debates after a decisive council decision and it’s solely to win votes.”
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For his part, Tory criticized Keessmaat for ignoring the will of council in favour of turning around and going backwards while speaking with reporters at a community event in Leaside on Sunday afternoon.
What a miserable choice the people of Toronto have. How many people have signed up for a run at the big chair and who are they? The media has really messed up here, I wouldn’t vote for either of the two highlighted by the media
Rich Candidate wants to do what rich people want, a nice new waterfront neighbourhood only for the rich.
In June, 2015 city council narrowly voted in favour of a plan to rebuild a 1.7-kilometre stretch of the aging highway from the Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis Street rather than knocking it down.
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Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat has unveiled a plan to tear down the eastern part of the Gardiner Expressway and replace it with she calls a "grand boulevard."
"We can build new communities with new jobs in retail and employment and affordable housing — places for people to live — by unlocking this land," Keesmaat said at a news conference on Sunday.
"This is really about creating a livable city. It's about creating a sustainable city. It's about creating a green city, and it is about moving Toronto into the 21st century."
Keesmaat said her plan would cost $500 million less than a project championed by Mayor John Tory and approved by council in 2015. That project would see portion of the Gardiner torn down and then rebuilt.
"This kind of a structure is really a relic of the past," Keesmaat told reporters. "Forward-looking cities are tearing down their elevated expressways and instead creating new communities and new places."
"We know that we can't be adding more cars into to the downtown. There's not enough room on the streets to be doing that," she said.
"We know that we can add more people and more pedestrians if we build better transit that really makes transit a true choice in every corner of the city."
Keesmaat has already spoken out against the Gardiner, calling a council decision for the multi-billion dollar rebuild "frivolous spending" in January.
In response to Keesmaat's announcement, Mayor John Tory said her plan would dump thousands of vehicles — including large trucks — into downtown neighbourhoods and would pose a risk to the environment and public safety.
"I don't think people have any time for that kind of flip-flopping," he said. "The risk of what she's putting forward on the flip-flop is something that will be very damaging to neighbourhoods in the downtown part of the city."
Keesmaat's team told CBC Toronto that she has been consistent that tearing down the Gardiner is in the best interest in the city.
"Once debate was done and council voted Jennifer frequently tweeted support for the work of her team," director of media relations for the Keesmaat campaign Beth Clarkson said in an email.
"She was obligated to work with the will of the previous council and because of John Tory's weak leadership as Mayor, she is in this race to win and to make changes to the city that are in the best interest of all."
In a news release on Sunday, Tory said Keesmaat's plan was a "risky and costly move that will further delay the redevelopment of the entire area."
He added that the city awarded a $313 million contract in June to "rehabilitate" the Gardiner and its connection to the Don Valley Parkway, and he questioned how much it would cost to cancel that contract to enact her plan.
“This kind of a structure is really a relic of the past,” Keesmaat said, standing in front of the Gardiner on Sunday morning. “Forward-looking cities are tearing down their elevated expressways and instead creating new communities and new places.”
Council narrowly approved building a "hybrid" version of the elevated expressway — one championed by Tory — in 2015. That option was more expensive than bringing the highway down to ground level, and could cost some $2.3 billion.
Tory previously defended the decision, saying council's choice was made in "best interest of the city." Earlier this year, the mayor gave no indication that the city would reconsider the plan.
In 2016, city council approved a redevelopment plan for the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway by a vote of 36-5, the most expensive one of the choices available.
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