New realities, New vision

The employment area that makes up the newly named DUKE Heights BIA will require a new way of doing business.

The strength of the employment area are many. The new subway stations at Sheppard Ave. and Chesswood Ave. and at Keele St. and Finch Ave., the new Finch LRT which will see construction start in 2017, the proximity to York University and Seneca College, the opening of Canada’s first fully digital hospital down the street at Keele St. and Wilson Ave., the revitalization of Dowsnview Park and a number of private projects recently are all bringing new jobs to the area.

The unveiling of our reimagined community brand of DUKE Heights on December 7th at the Champagne Centre near Alness St. and Finch Ave. saw the culmination of several years of work. Local businesses, along with City officials have been trying, for some time, to put together a new type of BIA. The night had several presentations, including keynote speaker, Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmat, the General Manager for Economic Development, Michael Williams, City of Toronto Councillor Anthony Perruzza and IBI Group. Importantly, they are drawing out new ways of defining the inner suburbs, employment lands and city planning.

The City of Toronto’s Economic Development Department has partnered with the DUKE Heights BIA to create a new study, which IBI Group is carrying out, in order to create this new framework. I have experienced the honour of being on Toronto’s City Council for 30 years and there are a number of suggestions that the BIA and the City need to undertake to facilitate and expedite growth in this area:

1. Approve and implement tax exemption programs to upgrade older and outdated industrial buildings. This will incentivize the transformation of older, no longer competitive industrial building into more efficient structures. Such incentives, for example, could take the form of spurs to raise the roofs in old buildings. Current day manufacturing requires roofs much higher than what we had 50 years ago.
2. Establish better links between educational institutions such as York University and Seneca College and local businesses. Not only would it benefit students with possible placement and job opportunities, but it can help businesses find new technologies and help to incubate new businesses.
3. Work closely with utilities to ensure fast, reliable services that are a basic requirement of successful businesses. Too often, the existing network of roads, electricity, water and internet are underfunded and it leads to shortages and poor service. We need to do better in the 21st Century.
4. Last, but not least, we need planning initiatives that establish urban life hubs where people want to work and live. The young, creative professionals of the new economy demand this in places near where they work. That is why office employment is growing in Downtown Toronto. One such has been recognized by the City at the intersection of Keele St. and Finch Ave., which now allows for mixed used developments.

We need to grow this corridor to fasten the process of growth.

To learn more about the BIA and its plan on strengthening the community visit:

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