Moviemakers worry revamping King Street could damage one of their favourite streetscapes

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Moviemakers worry revamping King Street could damage one of their favourite streetscapes

Advocates for the city's film industry are expressing concern about a remake that's underway in Toronto: the re-imagining of a downtown stretch of King Street.

Toronto's busiest and  most notoriously congested transit route is the subject of the King Street Pilot Study. Planners envision a new  King, that emphasizes transit over traffic, with expansive sidewalks and bike lanes that would stretch from Bathurst Street to Jarvis or Parliament Street.

But the King Street corridor also happens to be the city's busiest movie set, by far. That's because its streetscape can easily stand in for New York City, or Chicago.

Jonathan Ahee, the  co-chair of Toronto's Film, Television and Digital Media Board, says about 80 per cent of Toronto productions are filmed in the King corridor.

He's concerned that the objectives of the city and the film industry — improved transit flow and efficient movie-making — could be on a collision course.

"Obviously, we're very concerned about what a re-imagined King Street could do to the views," he told CBC Toronto. "For us, if it starts getting into building facades, or changing the sidewalks to a large extent, I'll make sure the film industry's views are heard because that's integral to our ability to capture productions."

Last month, Mayor John Tory announced that the film and television  industry generated $2-billion last year, a record. He promised to make the city even more appealing to production companies through streamlined application processes.

'Film industry abhors instability'

Aside from the potential for an altered streetscape, Ahee said he's also concerned about the impact the new King Street could have on sidestreet parking in the King corridor. He said production companies need those secondary routes to park their supply caravans, which can be up to 50 vehicles long.

"The biggest concern is it affecting film productions' ability to shoot in the downtown core," he said. "The film industry abhors instability."

But Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, an area that includes a downtown stretch of King Street, dismissed those concerns.

New York City model

"Listen, this is the New York City model we're putting in place and you'd be hard-pressed to say in New York City they're moving people, but they're not doing filming,: he said. "In fact, they're doing both, just as we will."

Ahee said he's confident that the city planners behind the revamped King Street will be able to work with other stakeholders, such as those in the film industry, to come up with a design that will respect all of the street's users.

He sits on the King Street Pilot Study's stakeholders' group, which meets at the end of this month for an update on the plan's progress.