A Q&A with Councillor Joe Mihevc

Rockport’s relationship with City Councillor Joe Mihevc of Ward 21 began a few years ago when our project, The Nest, was proposed on St. Clair West. What a pleasure it has been working with Councillor Mihevc since then, he even stopped by to show his support at our groundbreaking event. We wanted to give you a sense of Joe’s relationship with our neighbourhood and we were so lucky when he agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about Hillcrest Village and the city of Toronto.

What drew you to run for councillor in Ward 21?

Ward 21 was formed during the Mega City in 1997, before that I was a city councillor in the former City of York. I did not think when I was younger that I would be a city councillor, I thought of myself as a teacher or a professor. What drew me was the amount of good things I can do at a local level.

My thought was that if I could work things out in Toronto, I can be elected to larger global communities. That’s why I ran originally.

With The Nest and other developments coming to the area, what do you foresee for the future of the neighbourhood?

The Nest was one of the first projects that began revitalizing St. Clair. Over the last ten years, we’ve put in the St. Clair streetcar project and the Wychwood Barns community centre. We spent a lot of money renovating the parks and putting in new play equipment for the kids – we’ve become a very family friendly community to live, work and play.

I’ve lived here for most of my life and nothing was being developed on St. Clair before Rockport came into the area. I see The Nest being an early adopter that seized that vision and saw St. Clair to be profitable – both financially and from the community point of view.

What do you think about the St. Clair West streetcar and Toronto’s transit system? How does the TTC affect the residents of St. Clair West?

We had a very animated community conversation surrounding the St. Clair streetcar project in 2003, 2006, and even in 2010. The debate was really around whether you should give priority to public transit and create a lane only dedicated to it. Before that, motorists could be in the center lane to make left turns and what not. Some people, including our former mayor, thought that creating this lane for streetcars was a sign of the war on the car. I think the St. Clair project, which we called the Right-of-Way project, is now showing itself to be the right decision for our neighbourhood.

There is a slight reduction in the use of cars, but there is a massive increase in the amount of people using the streetcar. Patio licenses are increasing like crazy, condominium developments are just skyrocketing on St. Clair – all the indicators are that the St. Clair Right-of-Way project certainly didn’t hurt and definitely did help the mobility in the area.

Mobility is what we want. It’s not about the cars, it’s about how the people are getting around. You see a lot more people walking, a lot more people riding their bike and taking transit.

What do you think makes a good community?

A good community is able to fulfill its members’ variety of needs, especially when members of the community are in need. St. CLair West is a healthy community because people always have a place to go, for whatever their needs are. If you are a new parent and you need childcare, if you are art-oriented there’s places you can go, there are places for new immigrants, there’s a variety of Out of the Cold programs that cater to and support our more vulnerable members.

I think we’re a great community because we haven’t shunned anyone, we’re not trying to drive anyone out. We’re wonderfully diverse and we celebrate it, we build it, we want it, we dig it, and it’s cool to us.

We love community centres and we’re happy to have Wychwood Barns in the area. Do you frequent the community centre?

Yes – that was a project that I, with the community, initiated all the way back in 2000. Wychwood Barns is the heart of the community. It opened several years ago and it was a hard-fought project. It has brought a new level of art, a new level of social engagement, and all kinds of community events. It’s used for private, public and art activities – even weddings and funerals

I’m there certainly every Saturday, unless I’ve got something else I’ve committed to. I’m at the Farmers’ Market where I reconnect with friends, eat some good food and get ready for the week.

What do you love most about Hillcrest Village?

It really has the village feel. A city like Toronto is really just a bunch of villages stuck together, and a village is a place where you can shop local, where you can raise your kids local, start and end your life in retirement and live in a wholesome way. Where you can walk on the street and know 5 of 10 people that you come across. It’s that intimate community feeling that you get in Hillcrest Village and that’s what I love my neighbourhood.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Councillor Mihevc! We’re excited for the next big community project: the redevelopment of the Wychwood Library – where they are planning on adding to the existing heritage building to make room for the many more people moving into the neighbourhood!

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