Three months ago, the manager of the Idlewood Inn called the city to complain about an ugly, allegedly non-compliant sign that was put up by the used-car dealership beside her Kingston Road lot.
Looking out of her window today, Lisa Fritz is disappointed to see nothing has changed.
“They put the cars right on my lawn, they stick up non-compliant signs,” Fritz said. “I phoned to complain about the sign in January. I don’t see anything has been done.”
According to residents and business owners, it is the dirty lots, ugly signage and excessive litter that is preventing Kingston Road from bolstering its reputation. With the 2015 Pan Am Games fast approaching, Scarborough is soon to be under more international scrutiny than ever.
But headway is being made in beautifying Kingston Road, according to Bill Blakes, manager of the Scarborough district of Municipal Licensing and Standards.
“Our guys enforce public right of way,” Blakes said. “According to our staff, most businesses are complying with the bylaws.”
Area residents however are not so sure.
“The plazas and parking lots are dirty and disgusting,” said local residents Marianne and Margaret, who didn’t want their last names published. “They look dumpy, they keep the [lots] like garbage.”
Margaret has been a Scarborough Village resident for 26 years, while Marianne moved to the area from the Upper Beaches nearly two decades ago. The two often take long strolls along the Kingston Road strip.
Most of the trouble is along the main street, where there is a lack of green space and shopkeepers fail to maintain their properties, they say.
“These unkempt areas and overpopulated apartments are a breeding ground for gangs and prostitution,” Margaret said.
Better enforcement is needed to help improve conditions in the area, Fritz said.
“It would improve business if they clean up the area,” Fritz said. “I see traffic police, but I don’t see too many inspectors.”
The city is looking to address residents’ concerns with the March 2009 Kingston Road Initiative – Action Report, which outlines the detailed plans for the stretch of Kingston Road between Port Union Road and Victoria Park Avenue. According to Ward 44 Councillor Ron Moeser, the report is stalling.
A followup to the report, which was set to outline final plans and possible means of funding, was due in late 2009 but has still not been completed. Moeser said he is hopeful the upcoming 2015 Pan Am games will speed up the process.
“[The games] will be very beneficial. They will create partnerships with the community and generate $152 million,” Moeser said. “The community will have access to the facilities.”
Among other things, the plan suggests replacing existing buildings along Kingston Road with highrise condominiums and improving public space with a host of new parkettes, benches and planters.
“Were hoping we can partner with some of the run-down motels and make something the community can be proud of,” Moeser said.
Residents agree that improving the outward appearance of Kingston Road may have more than a superficial effect.
“It’s a good area, it just needs some happiness and colour,” Fritz said. “It’s quite bland.”
“When things look ill-kept, you get trouble,” Marianne said. “Physically making it look prettier would definitely help.”
While Moeser reiterated that some of the businesses are finally starting to clean up and the area is looking better, he hopes the added attention from the games will take the area to the next level.
According to Fritz the increased traffic flow from the games should cause a “mini-boom” for local businesses and bring development to the area.
“Five years is not that far away — it’s coming up faster than you think,” Fritz said.