Reimagining Yonge Street with the NXT prize

What was once known as the world's longest street could use a new look.

Rethinking Yonge to make it more 'passive'

The design to make Yonge more pedestrian-friendly. (Richard Valenzona/NXT City Prize)

What was once known as the world's longest street could use a new look.

That's what Richard Valenzona's proposal in the NXT City Prize calls for.

Valenzona entered his plan to revitalize Yonge Street from Queen to College streets in the contest to redesign public space. And he won not only first prize, beating 120 other submissions for the $5,000 grand prize, but also the attention of city's planners.

His plan would be controversial because it calls for Yonge to be reduced from four to two lanes to make more room for pedestrians.

The plan, called Yonge Redux, said that Yonge is used only for active movement — moving quickly through the corridor — but should also be set up for passive activities. He proposes patio space, trees, pedestrian benches and more space to restaurants and cafes.

He also made space for service vehicles to make pick ups and drop offs.

Jennifer Keesmat, the city's chief planner, says the idea is worth exploring.

"This is an idea that would actually work in this location in part because it's an area where there are vastly more pedestrians than cars," said Keesmat.

Mackenzie Keast of Distl Consultants, the prize's sponsor, says if it does get the green light, the question as always is who will pay.

"There's lots of private development right now. We can find the funds to make the public spaces around these projects more livable," said Keast.

A formal proposal will be rolled out in the six months.