Planning Toronto

Yonge Street is Toronto's “main street” and one of the most historic in Canada. Like today's city, Yonge Street's roots are military. In the 1790s, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe, anticipating attacks by the Americans, determined that a road was needed to join Toronto to the upper Great Lakes. He also wished to attract fur traders. The road became an overland military and trade route that provided a practical alternative to the Toronto Carrying Place portage via the Humber River.

A busy stretch of Yonge Street, c 1973 (photo courtesy Bob Whalen).

Through Yonge Street, Toronto also enjoyed commercial gains as the market town and supplier to settlers in the hinterland. Today, the foot of Yonge Street is on landfill 600 metres south of the original shoreline, which is now obscured by a maze of elevated highways and rail lines. But fittingly, these modes of transportation, as well as the office towers, numerous retail outlets, residential buildings and entertainment venues that line the street are a testament to its continuing importance and symbol of Toronto’s exploding growth.

On the one hand a "city of neighbourhoods" and on the other a thriving metropolis, Toronto has had its planning challenges as the sites in this theme will show.

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