Junction's rebirth almost complete
by Lisa Rainford
Once an island no one wanted to visit, the West Toronto Junction has slowly evolved over the past six years to become a thriving and magnetic neighbourhood.
"Our image has certainly changed because of the quality of lifestyle the main street is delivering to the community. We now have a solid foundation that is now recognized by an outside market. We've seen numerous families move into the Junction," said Henry Calderon, who has been at the helm of the area's rejuvenation effort for more than half a decade.
The end is in sight for Calderon, project director of business development for the West Toronto Junction Team - a collaborative alliance of community and business associations and public stakeholders. His tenure is up at the end of September. The installation of new lampposts along Dundas Street West beginning this month marks the last chapter of the Junction's multi-million dollar revitalization project. Calderon's pride and enthusiasm for the west end Toronto neighbourhood's transformation is evident.
"We're in the last half mile of the race," he says.
In addition to the new lampposts, Calderon was quick to point out the many improvements along Dundas Street. A long list of area businesses have received a facelift, and some even had extreme makeovers with help from the City of Toronto's Commercial Façade Program. Calderon acknowledges Toronto Hydro for jumpstarting the revitalization with its three-year, $19-million project of removing overhead wires and installing them underground.
"Toronto Hydro should be credited for their vision. They were taking a big part of their capital and designating it to the Junction," he said.
Looking back over the past six years, Calderon believes the team has exceeded its goals. Because there were three forces -- the federal government, the city and the community -- overseeing the Junction's transformation, the job became a day to day, week to week, month to month process, he says, but it was this process that contributed to what has been achieved.
"What the government and community set out to do was a realistic plan -- not one that was pie-in-the-sky. We were able to see what it could be in the distance. Now, today, I go back to my files, my notes -- the steps the community was taking and it certainly taught us that this was one of the most comprehensive revitalization projects," Calderon said. "At the end of the day, when you add the numbers, the Junction has received levels of almost $30 million."
Calderon's work has not gone unnoticed. He has already been asked to share his expertise with other communities throughout the province looking to transform their main streets. His inspiration comes from European cities where he has travelled. He says he is struck by how these places have been able to revitalize themselves and in turn have found economic growth.
"It was a matter of bringing the past back into the future," said Calderon, especially of the new lampposts. "We looked back into history and recreated it."
Reprinted courtesy of the Bloor West Villager.
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