East York businesses to get relief from flooding

A two-year infrastructure and streetscaping project is set for O'Connor Drive between Woodbine Avenue and St. Clair Avenue

It was an April morning after a big storm in 2015, and Sammy Chen, the owner of Fresh Choice Store on O’Connor Drive, had been in Canada for about a year. He was finally getting settled and comfortable, only to find he had another challenge at hand.

That morning when he went to work, he discovered that the basement of his shop had flooded overnight. All of the produce stored there was destroyed, and Chen had to throw out thousands of dollars of stock.

His store is only one of a number in the O’Connor Drive-St. Clair Avenue area to have problems with flooding. Now, a solution is at hand.

According to a report from Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis, East York will undergo a major infrastructure and streetscaping project along O’Connor Drive from Woodbine Avenue to St. Clair. The two-year project will include reconstruction to the two intersections to improve pedestrian safety, the installation of sewers, a rain garden to better control storm water, and the relining of water mains. 

Chen believes it’s long overdue.

“The flooding problem here is serious,” he said. “It’s hurting our businesses, and it makes it unsafe for the elderly people in the area to walk around.”

According to Statistics Canada, the median age in East York is a relatively high 40.5 years old, and the only reason the number isn’t even higher is because of a recent spike in children between 0-14 (17.5 per cent of East York population).

By comparison, Toronto’s media age is 39.4, but only 16 per cent of the population is between 0-14.

Flooding in the streets of popular areas like O’Connor Drive and St. Clair Avenue  hurts businesses like Chen’s even more. When streets are dangerous to navigate, fewer customers come to the door.

The infrastructure project is intended to make O’Connor Drive safer and to reduce the amount of storm water that leaks onto the streets and into surrounding buildings.

“I’m excited in the incredible investment we’ll be making in the two neighbourhoods,” Councillor Davis said. “This city investment is long overdue, the sewer infrastructure has been long inadequate, and these capital improvements will help ensure we are prepared for the storms in the future.”

The budget for the basement-flooding project is reportedly $17 million.

The work is set to begin this year.