Not any more

Giant flag sets hopes a-flutter in north Toronto

In Canada on August 16, 2010 at 18:53

Toronto is one step closer to erecting the largest flagstaff on the continent.

Mayor David Miller’s executive committee has unanimously backed building a 125-metre pole – which would bear a steel-fibre Canadian flag the size of a football field – on a vacant lot near Finch Avenue West and Highway 400.

“Because our community is made up immigrants … they have decided to celebrate being a Canadian,” Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the project’s champion, said after the vote Monday.

The executive committee voted to authorize city staff to negotiate with the Emery Village Business Improvement Area and the owner of the proposed site, a nearly 5-acre parcel at 1111 Arrow Road.

The Emery Village BIA, which represents about 2,500 business owners, has agreed to raise a special levy over two years to pay for the estimated $2.5-million cost of the flag and pole and the $1-million of fixing up the site at the base of the pole.

The BIA has also promised to pay for the upkeep of the future Emery Village Square and the cost of purchasing the land, which the city will technically have to own because BIAs are not allowed to own property.

No public funds are earmarked for the project.

“We want to bring the pride back,” said Harbhajan Dhillon, chair of the Emery Village BIA and a local property owner.

Bringing the pride back to this blighted corner of North York could take time. Despite the area’s name, there’s no village to speak of – just a wasteland of strip malls and industrial buildings.

The future Emery Village Square backs on to the Prayer Palace, a sprawling mega-church. There’s a hydro corridor to its immediate north, the rumble of Highway 400’s traffic to the east and a provincial courthouse and the razed old Finch West Mall site to the west. The mall’s rusted-out sign still bears the name of one of its last stores: Bankruptcy Clearout Centre.

But Lorraine Chabot-Vecera, the founding chair of the Emery Village BIA, is confident the flag and an accompanying public square can transform the corner into “Dundas Square North.”

“Look at what happened at Dundas Square. Previously, it was where junkies hung out. It was a needle corner,” said Ms. Chabot-Vecera, whose family owns Centennial Sweeping. “[Emery Village Square] might be isolated now, but by creating this huge program, this monument really, we’re going to be attracting more people to the area.”

The full council still has to approve the flag proposal later this month.

Mr. Mammoliti said he hopes city staff can work out a deal with the land owner and the BIA in time for the first council meeting after the election in January.

If all goes as planned, he said, the flag will rise on July 1, 2011.

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