How Could a Cancelled LRT Affect Development in Mississauga?
On Nov. 13, troubling speculation about the future of the Hurontario LRT—a $1.4 billion higher-order transit project set to take shape on one of Mississauga's busiest north/south corridors—emerged.
And while it is not yet clear whether or not the project is doomed (and at this point, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie appears optimistic that it will move forward as planned), the ramifications of possible cancellation are serious and vast.
But what's most unsettling at this point is the uncertainty of it all.
Yesterday, the Ontario NDP indicated that the approved transit project could be in serious jeopardy.
"After a concerning meeting with the ministry representatives where they refused to end rumors that the government is planning to cancel the planned Hurontario LRT and GO Electrification, I gave Doug Ford’s government another chance to set the record straight,” wrote Jessica Bell, NDP critic for transit, in a news release.
“Instead of clearing saying that these projects are still on the Ford government’s agenda, the minister responded with vague platitudes that didn’t even reference the projects that I had clearly asked about.”
The LRT, a $1.4 billion higher-order transit project being carried out by Metrolinx, will--if it does indeed go forward--span 20 km and run from Port Credit GO at Lakeshore Rd. in the south to the Brampton Gateway Terminal at Steeles Ave in the north.
The LRT will boast 22 stops and provide connections to the Port Credit and Cooksville GO stations, Mississauga Transitway, MiWay and Zum transit lines.
The PC government has not confirmed or denied rumors that the LRT is on the chopping block, but has insinuated that it’s not necessarily a done deal, citing “inefficiencies.”
“Our government is committed to improving the transit experience across the GTHA to get people moving and make life easier for Ontarians. We are determined to deliver a modern transit system that will serve the region’s growing communities, drive economic development and alleviate traffic congestion.” says Jeff Yurek, a spokesperson for the Transportation Minister.
“We have to eliminate the inefficiencies of the previous Liberal government and make sure we invest in efficient and effective transit projects that achieve the best value for our customer - the Ontario taxpayer. Our decisions will be based on what is best for the people of the GTHA, including Peel Region.”
While the PC's lack of clarity is certainly cause for concern, it's important to reiterate that the province has not promised to cancel the project.
Crombie also appears confident that the project will move forward.
"There has been no indication from the Ontario government that the project is not proceeding. Premier Ford committed to funding the Hurontario LRT and other transit projects during the provincial election campaign," Crombie said in an email to insauga.com.
"I look forward to working with the premier and his government to move Mississauga forward and see through this transformative project which will create jobs and get people moving across Mississauga and the GTA."
While the project has always been controversial amongst those who say the city would better benefit from more east/west transportation—as well as those who fear the LRT will contribute to rapid gentrification of the Cooksville neighbourhood, essentially forcing lower-income residents from the area—there's been little doubt that it will attract investment to the city.
In fact, it's safe to say it's one of the reasons Mississauga has attracted so many other grand-scale infrastructure projects—projects that could, potentially, be endangered by a cancelled LRT.
While Mississauga is no stranger to condo developments—which is a good thing, as condos are the last bastion of affordable housing in a region where the average detached home costs roughly $1 million—its upcoming LRT has no doubt made it more attractive to the developers at the helm of M City.
M City, a massive condo community that’s taking shape near Square One, broke ground relatively recently. It's the first residential development for the Rogers family and it will boast an 81-storey tower that will be the tallest in Mississauga and one of the tallest in the GTA.
The 8-tower, 15-acre, 4.3 million sq. ft. master-planned community, which also feature two acres of public parkland, is currently being built in the Burnhamthorpe and Confederation Parkway area—an area that would be well-serviced by an LRT.
M City isn't going to be the only site dotted with residential towers in the City Centre neighbourhood.
The City of Mississauga recently confirmed that 46 new towers are planned—not confirmed, but anticipated—for the downtown core over the next 10 years.
Six of those 46 (including phase 1 and phase 2 of M City) are currently under construction.
The city is also moving forward on two major redevelopment projects—Inspiration Lakeview and Inspiration Port Credit. While the Lakeview project won't take shape along the LRT corridor (it will be east of Hurontario and closer to the Etobicoke border), a cancelled LRT could create some headaches for those working on the Port Credit project.
For those who are unaware, major change is in store for a 73-acre parcel of land on the shores of Lake Ontario—also known as the former Texaco lands at 70 Mississauga Road South—following a recent agreement of purchase and sale with Port Credit West Village Partners Inc.
Proposed developments on the brownfield site include condos, townhouses, affordable housing, shops, businesses, a community centre, a beach, a town square and waterfront parkland. It will essentially be a posh, modern little village within the town, where residents will be able to live and work in the city with easy access to transit.
Perhaps less transit, should the LRT not move forward.
The city has also said that the redevelopment of the Britannia Farm lands is an important project in part because of the proximity to a future LRT stop.
While it's true that the province has not confirmed any plans to halt or cancel the LRT (which is a relief, as construction has already commenced in parts of the city), its inability to weigh in on the matter definitively is cause for concern.
If the project is considered another "inefficiency" that's easy to scrap for short-term gains (namely support from deficit hawks and those who insist that Ontario simply needs wider roads and more buses), the city could be thrown back 20 years. It will be much harder to justify constructing new towers when residents will be, quite rightly, fearful of the impact on traffic and congestion.
If the Ford government does decide to scrap the project—and we don't know if it will—it better have something else in mind to replace it.
Mississauga's growth and continued urbanization will depend on it.
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