Workers heading to the business park are in a rush–they can’t be late for work. Piling in by car they fill the empty parking lots like high-tide covers a beach.

What used to be a rural area of Toronto with a drive-in movie theatre, the Consumers Road Business Park in Henry Farm is the largest employment area outside of downtown Toronto. But unlike the vibrant character of the downtown core, this business park lacks the modern amenities to attract new knowledge economy jobs. 

After studying the area for five years, the City of Toronto, for the first time, will use modern city planning to improve an employment area. The adopted plan called ConsumersNext looks to improve pedestrian safety, reduce traffic congestion, and create a more livable environment around the employment industrial area.

Office parks like this are key areas for growth outlined in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan. Although not at a major transit hub, the location of Consumers Road Business Park on the north-east side of the highway junction at 401 and DVP will receive improved connectivity with the Sheppard LRT from Don Mills subway station. 

Today, condo projects like Tridel’s Atria and Almadev LSQ are transforming the skyline.

Can modern city planning make an industrial employment area, filled with commercial real estate, into a more livable place to live and work? The people living and working around the Consumers Road Business Park are about to find out.

An illustrated rendering of the future ConsumerNext Business Park area showing new zones and buildings.
An illustration showing how the area could develop over the next 20 years. (Photo: City of Toronto)

ConsumersNext Puts Pedestrian Safety First

One problem with the area surrounding the business park is pedestrian and cyclist safety, which is one of the top priorities in a new development plan. 

This area is high in traffic. The office park was designed to accommodate commuters arriving by car. The office buildings located in the interior district of the park are out of walking range to access much of the local retail and services. Someone on a short break would have a hard time walking from 255 Consumers Road to Tim Horton’s or Starbucks on Victoria Park Ave.  

If you decide to make a trip to the Starbuck on Victoria Park Ave. it can be nerve-racking to walk across the six-lane intersection. Traffic piles up at the light waiting to get on or off the highway. It’s at intersections like these where the collision statistics involving pedestrians are high. Not exactly the kind of stress you need when you’re trying to take a coffee break. 

But this is exactly what the extensive transportation master plan seeks to resolve. Increasing the transit capacity with Sheppard LRT, and improving the walkability and alternative transportation through an expanded street grid network, the plan looks to reduce the number of cars in the area, while increasing retail amenities. 

Shorter pedestrian crossings using corner extensions are a high priority and ranked among the first initiatives to achieve a quick win for pedestrian safety.

The Missing Link–Extended Sheppard-Yonge Line

a street view rendering of ConsumersNext transit shelter and bike station
Redeveloped connections and transportation for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. (Photo: City of Toronto, DTHA)

If the ConsumersNext plan is to attract the new knowledge industry, it needs to connect to a major transit hub. That requires the Sheppard-Yong line to extend one more stop east of Don Mills station to reach the Consumers Road Business Park. According to Jim Karygiannis, City Councillor for Scarborough-Agincourt “the number one priority during the election after health care… was the (Sheppard) subway”. 

According to the current transit master plan, the LRT line will emerge on Sheppard Ave before the intersection at Consumers Road and Brian Drive. Some local residents are petitioning the Sheppard LRT because the line running down the middle of Sheppard Ave will not allow residents who live in the neighborhood north of Sheppard to turn left off of Sheppard Ave onto Brian Drive

Greenway Connection and Bike Lane

ConsumersNext Draft Secondary Plan4
Rendering of the Greenway Connection adjacent to the highways. (Photo: City of Toronto, DTHA)

Another high priority in the ConsumersNext transportation master plan is to introduce a new greenway connection to improve the cycling network. The greenway path will run the outer perimeter of the business park, along the west and south edges boarding the highways. This will create a safe cycling connection for residents and employees to bike through the business park on a dedicated cycling lane.

Rezoned for Multi-Use Means More Condos and More Retail

The edge of the park along Victoria Park and Sheppard was rezoned to allow for new multi-use condo developments with ground-level retail.

However, some residents voiced their concern that with thousands of extra condo units at these busy intersections it will only add to the traffic and congestion. “There’s always one car in the family” said City Councilor Jim Karygiannis. With 11,800 more residents in the area, you’re going to have a lot more cars cutting through the community.  

Additionally, in recent years, the new condo developments built along Sheppard Ave, have caused basement flooding for some homes opposite the construction. 

Residential privacy is another concern. The new 40 story condo towers going up next to a neighborhood of low-rise detached homes with pools and private back yards will lose that privacy.

One of the subdivision construction sites at the corner of Consumers Road and Sheppard Ave. will add 1,100 residential units, and parking for 1,557 cars and 1,107 bikes. 

Another development at the southeast end of Consumers Road at 2450 Victoria Park Ave will add 1,247 residential units, and parking for 1266 more cars, and 952 bikes. These new condos will also include car, bike, and rideshare stations. 

These two developments are only the beginning. New condo buildings are also planned at the north and south corners of Victoria Park Ave and Sheppard Ave. The reimagined business park will nearly double the number of office workers in the business park in the next 25 years.

More Retail Brings Convenience to Workers

ConsumersNext Draft Secondary Plan 2
Better streets, retail, and open spaces, for workers and residents. (Photo: City of Toronto, DTHA)

The modern conveniences and attractions of big city living didn’t exist in the original business park design. Zoned as an employment industrial area, the environment of the offices and surrounded by large parking lots is dull. 

A major benefit of the ConsumersNext project is having more retails space for people to enjoy. Workers currently don’t have much variety when it comes to restaurants and cafes. Although some new restaurants have started opening up with the arrival of two new flagship car dealerships. The access to shopping and other services is even more limited so the retail space will be a big improvement.

New BIA to Strengthen Business Community

While city planners poured their hearts into creating a more livable community they didn’t stop at the realm of civil engineering. Another recommended initiative in the plan was the formation of a local business association or Business Improvement Area (BIA). This would help create a more connected business community. 

A new Business Association for the Consumers Road Business Park is being led by Joe Guzzi, and Edwin Chan of Dillon Consulting who are the Chairs of the Steering Committee.

Connected Local Community 

Turing a business park into a modern livable community for the Henry Farm and Pleasant View neighbourhoods needs more than better transportation, pedestrian safety, bike lanes, and new restaurants. People need a closer connection to the community around them by way of good information letting them know what’s happening around them.

With so much rapid development happing in the area, the need for local news will be in demand. The implementational of the growth plan will impact local residents for many years to come. Having more local news to help keep residents and workings up to date with what’s happening.

It’s taken a long time to reimagine the potential of the business park. With any luck, modern city planning will make life better for residents and workers. Transforming this large piece of land into a multi-use space, with plenty of shops and transit options, will create a more energetic and dynamic community.

Who knows it might even end up attracting new knowledge jobs and talent when completed. One day soon you might be able to even wear a smile on your face as you walk across the street because you feel safe.

Adam Ainsworth
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