London politicians to mull Masonville transit village

Politicians will be asked in the new year to kick start a plan to guide development in a growing area of north London expected to become a “transit village.”

But some of that expected growth, and the way it shapes the area, is inextricably tied to bus rapid transit (BRT) – with its L- and 7-shaped corridors, including a northern route that extends from the downtown to Masonville Place – a plan that may yet be scrapped or altered by the new city council.

“We know that there’s going to be development pressures and transit users in that area and along that corridor,” said Britt O’Hagan, manager of urban regeneration in city hall’s planning department.

“We want to address the transition between what might come forward and what’s there already, to make sure it fits and we’re not negatively impacting the surrounding area.”

The London Plan, the city’s blueprint for growth, envisions an explosion of sprawl-curbing “inward and upward” development in the Masonville area, around the active Richmond Street and Fanshawe Park Road intersection, already one of the city’s busiest transit hubs.

Coun. Phil Squire, a vocal opponent of the $500-million BRT network, said he’s concerned about investing in too much BRT-related planning before council and city staff have clarity on the future of London’s transit system.

“We’re going ahead with all the planning on transit, which includes transit villages, so how you do that if BRT is going to be changed?” he said. “You have to see how much of it is just related to transit, and how much of it is good planning and needed in any event.”

Council will be asked to green-light the early stages of a “secondary plan,” including research and community consultation to determine how future development in the Masonville transit village may unfold.

The area that will be studied stretches from Plane Tree Drive, north of Fanshawe Park Road, to Sunnyside Drive, south of Masonville Place, and east a few blocks past the mall.

A secondary plan is a “proactive” approach that looks at how to manage development, O’Hagan said. That could mean weighing up the existing and needed parkland, how to transition from low-rise houses to a more intense mix of residential buildings, and how to manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic and transit.

“I think a lot of stuff we’re doing is going to happen anyway,” Squire said.

But it’s not likely to be a seamless transition. A high-rise apartment planned at 230 North Centre Rd., earned a spirited community backlash and drove countless debates at council until Tricar revised the proposal – multiple times – to take down the height and try to avoid shadows on a neighbouring building.

O’Hagan stressed that putting together the secondary plan will include “very robust community consultation.” An early draft is expected by fall 2019.

She described the “mixed use” area, as projected in the London Plan, as a more walkable and vibrant community that will benefit from a more diverse mix of housing and residents.

“The area right now is mainly condo townhouses and single-family homes, but being able to age in place and having more of a mixed demographic – people of all ages and incomes in the area – really provides a lot more social cohesion and I think it’s a good thing,” she said.
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