For the third time in a week, a group of prominent Toronto residents – this time a coalition of influential developers and business leaders – have banded together to voice opposition to a position held by Mayor John Tory.
The heads of 14 businesses – mostly developers who, between them, own or control 51 hectares of the city's waterfront – wrote a letter Friday urging the mayor to rethink his position on the Gardiner Expressway at city council next week. The group, which calls itself the "CityBuilders", wants the portion of the Gardiner east of Jarvis removed, while the mayor is in favour of rebuilding it with some revisions.
"Either we're going to be a great city that is a beacon for the 21st century or we're going to take a step backward to the 1960s or the midpoint of the last century," said Alfredo Romano, president of real estate developer Castlepoint Numa, in an interview.
"All of us feel quite strongly that the boulevard option will present the most accessible and most user-friendly waterfront and present an opportunity for us to remove what we consider to be a significant blight."
The letter was signed by the heads of prominent Toronto real estate developers including Daniels Corporation, Cityzen Development Corporation, Tridel Group, TAS, and Streetcar Developments.
On Monday, Councillor Pam McConnell – one of Mr. Tory's deputy mayors – staged a press conference at City Hall also in support of removing the Gardiner. That event was attended by friends of the mayor's, including former mayor David Crombie and Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy, who urged the mayor to rethink his position.
And on Wednesday, over 50 of the city's most influential residents including former mayors, politicians and public officials, came together at City Hall to demonstrate against carding – a controversial police practice the mayor and other members of the police board voted in April to continue. Among that group were former mayors Barbara Hall, Mr. Crombie and John Sewell.
Mr. Romano said the timing of the letter on the same week as the other two demonstrations was just a coincidence. Although he said the letter is addressed to all members of council, a statement released by the group specifically addresses the mayor, asking him to tear down the Gardiner.
City council will vote on the Gardiner issue next week. According to an informal survey conducted by the Globe this week, the vote will likely be a close one. Of the 45 members of council surveyed, 15 said they are in favour of the "remove" option, 14 in favour of the "hybrid" (rebuild) option, and 13 are undecided.
Three councillors either did not respond or select one of the two options presented by city staff.