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Toronto reached new heights during Yonge Street's lifetime

Founded in 2010, Yonge Street has covered growth and development during a remarkable period of Toronto’s history.
While cities south of the border have struggled with how to rise from the ashes after the global financial collapse of 2008, the main challenge I’ve faced as Development Editor (and before that as Managing Editor and Civic Impact Editor) has been choosing which of the myriad of projects unfolding across the GTA to write about. Yonge Street has never had to scramble for story ideas; it’s had to be strategic about sifting through a deluge of them to find projects that are the most innovative, the most engaged in creating a city bursting with public spaces and civic pride. A condo of less than 30 storeys hardly seems worth writing about these days, unless the development meets an incredible LEED standard, creates new parkland or otherwise makes a unique contribution to the community that will host it.
Projects like Diamond Corp’s The Well, covering seven and a half acres at Front and Spadina, the redevelopment of Honest Ed’s Mirvish Village, Daniels Waterfront – City of the Arts on the site of the old Guvernment night club and, just last week, Menke Development’s purchase and redevelopment of 11 acres of provincially owned land on the waterfront will be transformative not just in their districts, but for the city as a whole.
And that’s just the private sector. Government-backed partnerships to redevelop Regent Park, the central waterfront and the West Don Lands have already rendered those districts unrecognizable to someone who hasn’t visited lately. And by “unrecognizable,” I mean that thoughtfulness and smarts have swept aside decades of neglect.
Sometimes the rapidity of the GTA’s growth can be worrying. The towers going up like dandelions along Yonge Street from Dundas to Bloor could turn our adorably ramshackle main street into something like a Bay Street wind tunnel. The towers going up on Church Street could make the Village a much less affordable place for young LGBT people just starting out. Liberty Village and the Queen West Triangle have seen their share of uninspired design.
But over the last six and a half years I have seen an increasing conscientiousness among the top developers, and an increasing diligence and vision among city planners (shout out to chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat). To my taste, at least, the projects unveiled in the last three years have been better designed and more thoughtfully integrated into their neighbourhoods than what went up in Yonge Street’s first three years. Given the opportunity, clear expectations and useful community feedback, many developers want to build beautiful buildings and to create resilient, accessible and diverse communities. The latter has become a sales feature.
The increasing amount and quality of public interest and public consultation have pushed our leaders to do better. There has been more collaboration between government and the private sector to build small-business incubators, community hubs, affordable housing, recreational facilities, green space and even schools into new projects. These have been years when great ideas can become reality.
I can sympathize with those who complain, “Not another freaking condo!” The number of wallet-emptying floor-to-ceiling-window glass boxes in the sky is no measure of a healthy, thriving city. But little by little, the bar has been raised. I’m proud Yonge Street has been part of that conversation.
Writer: Paul Gallant

Have you hosted a party to name Project: Under Gardiner?

Under Line? The Six Under? Bent Alley?
Waterfront Toronto’s collaborative campaign to come up with a permanent name for the project that will create welcoming public spaces under the Gardiner Expresseway between Strachan and Spadina avenues goes into phase two this week, as the long list of suggestions is handed off to a jury.
Temporarily called Project: Under Gardiner, the initiative would create 55 outdoor civic “rooms” formed by the Gardiner’s structure of columns and beams (also known as bents). Prompted by a $25-million donation from philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews, the 1.75-kilometre space would connect adjacent neighbourhoods and provide amenities like children’s gardens and performance stages. Waterfront Toronto has been hosting brainstorming sessions and has created a DIY Naming Toolkit to encourage Torontonians to throw naming parties. A week before the April 1 deadline, Waterfront Toronto had received more than 500 submissions, though that number’s expected to double by month’s end.
“Some folks have said, ‘I like the name Under Gardiner name, we should keep it,’ but we think there’s a lot more to draw from and we want to engage Torontonians in that larger conversation,” says Christopher McKinnon, manager of digital and social media for Waterfront Toronto.
While there have some whimsical suggestions—one name that came up during a school workshop was Shark Park—the words “under” and “line” have come up a lot. “Partly it’s a descriptive thing and partly it’s the influence of other high-profile projects in North America, specifically the High Line [in New York],” says McKinnon. “We’re also seeing trends related to The Six, which is the nickname for the GTA amalgamation” of the six boroughs. (Drake’s affection for the nickname The Six might also have something to do with it.)
A panel of judges will trim the list down to between three and five names that will be then put to a public vote in May, then presented to council for approval in June. The project itself is expected to be complete in 2017.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Christopher McKinnon

Artscape mulls designs for Launchpad space in Daniels Waterfront

The Launchpad creative space, scheduled to open in 2018 in the Daniels building going up at Queens Quay and Jarvis, sounds like a quintessentially Artscape kind of project—but it’s not quite.
Known for creating affordable residential and studio spaces for artists and cultural organizations, Artscape is been the force behind Wychwood Barns, Young Place, Triangle Lofts and Daniels Spectrum, among other place-making projects. Launchpad, described as “part incubator, part co-working facility and part entrepreneurship centre,” builds on the success of those projects, but takes a more proactive approach in supporting artists, partnering with educational institutions to help creative types build sustainable businesses. The idea came out of a study Artscape did few years ago on how to help creative people thrive, which suggested that affordable spaces are only half the equation—boosting income is the other half.
“A lot of the [existing programs] were focused on short-term survival-oriented things, rather than growth and development from a business perspective,” says Artscape CEO Tim Jones. Though the space has yet to be built, Launchpad is already on the fourth cohort of the program’s various pilots.
So it makes sense that designing the Launchpad space has also been a different process for Artscape. It will inhabit, 30,000 square feet within the mixed-use Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts complex on the former site of Guvernment nightclub. The organization has worked with Daniels twice before, and has also worked before with Quadrangle Architects, who designed the interior of the Corus Entertainment building across the street. But while many of Artscape’s previous spaces have been designed from the ground up to be site- and community-specific, based on intensive consultation with stakeholders, Launchpad will be shaped as a project built for export.
“For most of our projects, we’re trying to make them as unique as possible,” says Jones, “Launchpad is a different kettle of fish for us because, if this model works and is effective in serving the needs of a broader group of people and growing their entrepreneur skills, then this is the one project that we’ll start to replicate across the country and around the world. The issues we’re addressing here are faced by other major cities around the world.”
The look and feel of the space will be important to that success. “In some cases we’ve had a light touch, but here we’re looking to develop a stronger design sense,” says Jones.
And what will that sense be?
“That’s a good question. When I can communicate that, I’ll need to write it down,” laughs Jones. “We want it to be really welcoming. We’re dealing with a lot of interesting disciplines that will have to live side by side, making noise and dust, so it will have to accommodate that. Our offices will be located within the complex, so there are a lot of practical considerations along with the aesthetic ones.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tim Jones

Gardiner would move north if city accepts "Hybrid 3" option

Last summer, City Council voted to keep the Gardiner Expressway as a continuous elevated freeway through downtown, with direct ramps to the Don Valley Parkway, eschewing proposals to tear down or bury Toronto’s favourite eyesore.

Now council is being asked to pick a particular variation of the Gardiner reconstruction known as Hybrid 3, so the Environmental Assessment can move ahead, since the Gardiner’s eastern surface deck, in its current state, is only expected to last until 2020.

The hybrid option championed by Mayor John Tory has been considered in more detail over the last few months, producing three possible variations. Hybrid 1 will provide tighter ramps in the Keating Channel Precinct but stick close to the Gardiner’s existing route. Hybrid 2 moves the expressway further north to create more space between Lake Ontario and the expressway. Hybrid 3, which also aligns the Gardiner further north, would also widen the rail bridge underpass. At a stakeholder advisory committee and a recent public open house, Hybrid 3 was the best received option.

“Hybrid 3 supports the city-building potential of the Keating Channel Precinct, a planned mixed-use waterfront community that will evolve as the gateway to a revitalized Port Lands and accessible Keating Channel. This would be accomplished by rebuilding the elevated portion of the Gardiner as far north from the Keating Channel as is feasible,” states the staff report. “Implementation of the design would provide unencumbered access to a planned waterfront promenade, better conditions for creating future high-quality park, open space and pedestrian-friendly environments and more valuable development blocks. By comparison, Hybrid 2 would achieve some but not all of the urban design benefits described above. Hybrid 1 would result in a neighbourhood flanked on both sides by rail and expressway infrastructure, bisected by Lake Shore Boulevard and separated from the water's edge by an elevated expressway with associated on/off ramps.”

The staff report, which will be considered by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on February 29, and by council on March 30, says Hybrid 3 would have “the least physical and visual impact on the planned revitalization of the Don River. Implementation of this design would have the least impact on future sediment management activities, as well as the least amount of physical infrastructure, including structural piers, to be located within the river itself (with details to be confirmed at the detailed design stage).”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

Central Toronto saw 93 new development projects last year

Development in Toronto and East York overshadowed growth in Etobicoke York, North York and Scarborough last year, but North York’s Committee of Adjustment was pretty darn busy.

In its 2015 annual report, Toronto City Planning department paints a picture in numbers of how much the city is growing and changing. In the district of Toronto and East York, encompassing the “old” city of Toronto including downtown, there were 93 new development projects, 1,408 applications to the committee of adjustment for smaller changes to properties and an impressive 1,833 applications for heritage permits. In North York, there were 63 new development projects, 1,216 applications to the committee of adjustment and 135 heritage permit applications. In the west, in Etobicoke York, there were 53 new development projects, 871 applications to the committee of adjustment and 114 heritage permit applications.

Things were more sluggish in Scarborough, which saw 45 new development projects, 485 applications to the committee of adjustment and 65 heritage permit applications.

But it’s not all about the numbers. The report highlights projects the city sees as game-changers. The Scarborough Civic Centre Library opened last year and construction began on the Guild Inn/Bickford House revitalization, which will bring a new banquet hall, restaurant and community centre to the heritage site about the Scarborough Bluffs. The Steeles–Redlea Regeneration Area Study has been established to create a planning framework for the parameters for future growth of one of the city’s newly designated Regeneration Areas.

On the waterfront, there’s the second phase of revitalization focusing on the port lands, the new Fort York bridge (which will begin construction soon) linking King Street West and Liberty Village to the Fort York neighbourhood, and the launch of Project: Under Gardiner, which will use a $25-million donation from the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation to create public spaces beneath the western Gardiner from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue.

Further north, there’s the Finch and Sheppard Light Rail Transit (LTR) Corridors, where the city is working on an updated planning framework to leverage infrastructure investment prior to the opening of the transit routes.

Just this week, Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx just invited three consortium teams to submit proposals to design, build, finance and maintain the Finch West Light Rail Transit (LRT) project.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

Developers propose 29-storey tower for Maple Leaf Quay connector building

One of the one of the first residential developments in Harbourfront may get a facelift—and a new 29-storey tower—if the city accepts a new development proposal.

Completed in 1989, Maple Leaf Quay is currently two 21-storey rental apartment buildings, linked by a three-storey commercial/amenity building, surrounding the Peter Street Basin. Purchased by Coal Harbour Properties in 2013, the dated-looking buildings have undergone an renos estimated at $18 million. But now Coal Harbour wants to go considerably further, replacing the three-storey link at 370 Queens Quay West with a 29-storey tower including a five-storey podium. There would also be additions to the existing towers at 350 and 390 Queens Quay West, creating a combined 343 new rental residential units—248 units in the new building and 95 units in the northerly additions.

“From a built form and urban design perspective, the proposal will contribute to the ongoing evolution and revitalization of Harbourfront and Queens Quay West,” states a report by Bousfields Inc., filed as part of the development application. “The recent building and façade improvements to the existing Maple Leaf Quay buildings have significantly improved the look and feel of the complex and the proposed redevelopment will further elevate its architectural quality, creating an improved and unified design that responds appropriately to its strategic location in the City’s front yard.”

The report says the taller contemporary tower will complement the existing slab-style buildings “creating an interesting and unified architectural composition. At its lower levels, the proposed design will take advantage of its frontage along the water’s edge and will animate the public frontage surrounding the Peter Street Basin.”

City staff haven’t responded yet to the application.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Bousfields Inc.

PortsToronto releases first annual sustainability report

Private vehicle dropoffs and pick-ups at Billy Bishop City Airport has dropped by more than 40 per cent since 2012 as the number of people walking, biking and taking transit has grown to 37 per cent, up from 27 per cent just three years ago.

That shift has occurred even the airport’s overall passenger traffic has increased from 2.3 million in 2012 to an estimated 2.5 million last year, according to PortsToronto’s first annual sustainability report. The document looks at how the government authority is doing in environmental protection, community engagement and economic performance at its properties including he Island airport, the Outer Harbour Marina and Terminals 51 and 52 in the portlands.

“The City of Toronto recognizes that rapid residential and business development in the area, with no significant improvement in infrastructure, roads and transit, has led to issues of congestion and poor traffic flow,” states the report, which was published this week. “As such, the City of Toronto began work in 2015 on a Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Plan to study improvements that can be made to ensure that this mixed-use community continues to thrive. For its part, Billy Bishop Airport continues to encourage its travellers to walk, bike, shuttle or take transit to the airport and has put measures in place to encourage this shift. This includes the addition of a fourth shuttle bus in 2015 to make this option even more convenient.”

Some of the changes in travel patterns might be attributed to the opening of the new pedestrian tunnel to the airport, which replaces the chore of taking the ferry with a six-minute journey beneath Lake Ontario. The $82.5-million tunnel opened in July and as well as improving flow, includes new water and sewer mains to the Toronto Islands, “saving Toronto taxpayers an estimated $10 million in duplicate construction costs,” states the report. “The new city water and sewage mains now provide reliable services to the Toronto Islands and replace existing pipes that date back to the 1950s.”

Other tidbits from the report: PortsToronto dredged 40,000 tonnes of material from the mouth of the Don River last year, up from 33,000 tones last year. The agency generated more than $8 million in revenue for governments last year. An engine maintenance run-up enclosure intended to reduce the noise impact of the airport is expected to be built in 2016.

A less quantitative effort saw the agency work with Evergreen Canada to green playground spaces at six waterfront and downtown primary schools. “Many of the schools selected for the program are located in high-traffic neighbourhoods in the downtown core where there is a limited ability to connect with nature due to a lack of greenspace. The projects supported through PortsToronto‘s contribution to this program range from removing asphalt and planting native plants and vegetable gardens, to creating stone seating and establishing shade trees to enable outdoor classroom experiences, to a water wall that will teach children about the properties of water,” states the report.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: PortsToronto

Almost 2,000 homes built on waterfront since 2001

Waterfront Toronto has unveiled its first Social Responsibility and Sustainability Report since 2010, outlining how its redevelopment and reimaging efforts have extended beyond the basics of creating new communities on waterfront brownfields.

So far, the arms-length agency responsible for developing Toronto’s waterfront and portlands has overseen the creation of 496 affordable housing units with another 80 units under construction, with the private sector building 1,405 residential market units so far, with another 1,500 under construction. “The project will ultimately deliver 40,000 new residences, 40,000 new jobs and 300 hectares of public parks, making it one of the largest waterfront brownfield revitalization projects in the world,” states the report.

Four of the new buildings in the 2,000-acre area are certified LEED Gold for energy efficiency and sustainability, with 13 more in various stages of targeting LEED certification. Twenty-five parks and public spaces have been created or improved, and more than 28 kilometres of infrastructure constructed, including new watermains, sanitary and stormwater sewers. There’s been more than 3,600 trees planted and 108,920 square metres of aquatic habitat created.

“Construction projects on the waterfront are faced with complex urban conditions such as contaminated and geotechnically unstable soils, the result of many decades of infilling and high water tables,” stated John Campbell in his last letter as president and CEO. He’s stepping down this fall after 12 years on the job. “Often, outdated and unreliable drawings do not always accurately reflect underground infrastructure during planning and design. In the case of Queens Quay these challenges led to higher than anticipated costs. Lessons learned from past projects are used to inform our approach as we carry forward with waterfront revitalization.”

Waterfront Toronto was launched in 2001 with a 20-year mandate to redevelop the waterfront.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Waterfront Toronto

Council votes on fast-tracking affordable housing in railway lands

Next week City Council will consider fast-tracking construction of rental housing in the railway lands.
The site at Block 36 North, between Bathurst and Queen’s Wharf Road, north of Fort York Boulevard, has been vacant for more than 20 years and has been set aside to use for affordable housing. With Fort York Library and the proposed Project: Under Gardiner public spaces to the south and the new Creek Park to the west, the 0.38-acres site is in a particularly attractive location for developers. The city is hoping a non-profit organization or private company will take the lead on building there.
If council supports the item, the director of the Affordable Housing office would report by June 2016 on a successful non-profit or private-sector partner to develop and operate at least 80 new affordable rental housing units on the site for up to 50 years. With its current zoning, the site could accommodate a residential building of between six and nine stories, but the city could be more flexible than usual on the particulars of a proposal.
The fact-track approach comes out of the city’s Open Door Program, adopted last April, which aims to “unlock opportunities on public land” by creating policies to allow the city to have more flexibility working with housing providers—for example, reduced parking requirements, less red tape and more collaborative in funding strategies. In 2010, council set a goal of creating 1,000 affordable rental and 200 affordable ownership homes annually.

“Progress in meeting our goals was made during the past five years with some 2,792 new affordable rental and 750 new affordable ownership homes being completed,” states the letter to council from Mayor John Tory and councillor Ana Bailão advocating for the program. “But we are falling behind…. At the current pace, by 2020 the city will significantly under- achieve our affordable housing objectives by an estimated 6,810 rental and 734 ownership homes. It is clear the city must refocus its efforts if it is to meet the 10-year affordable housing targets…. We can do better by addressing key factors that reduce the cost of doing business and thereby increase affordability.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City Council

Placemaking plans revealed for city�s Port Lands

The City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto showed off some of their placemaking strategies for the Port Lands at a public open house last weekend.
The event was part of a round of public meetings this month to look at three studies of the area that are currently underway and how the various initiatives, like the draft Villiers Island Precinct Plan, intersect and interact with each other and with nearby projects like the Don Mouth Naturalization, the Lower Don Lands Masterplan and the plan for the Film Studio District.
Because of the size of the area is so large—350 hectares, much of it owned by the city itself—planners have broken the Port Lands up into a series of smaller places to figure out how the area should grow and evolve. Planning will have to take into account residential, employment, commercial and industrial uses. For example, in what’s called the Unilever precinct, close to the Don River, just north of Lakeshore Boulevard East, the city expects that there will eventually be 23,500 jobs, with another 9,250 jobs south of Eastern Avenue and 25,000 to 30,000 more jobs in the Port Lands proper. The area is not a blank slate and will remain home to the city’s port, which will influence what springs up around it.
“We’re basically creating a small city within a city,” project manager Cassidy Ritz told attendees. “When you add up [those jobs], that’s 50,000 people, which is bigger than the town I grew up in.”
There are currently seven active development applications within the Port Lands and South of Eastern area including three new buildings at 459 Eastern Avenue, a seven-storey building at 462 Eastern Avenue, a hotel, office and retail proposal for the existing film studio at 629 Eastern Avenue, a review of the former Uniliever site and employment lands with an eye to creating an employment precinct, a warehouse and designer’s studio at 300 Commissioners Street, a low-rise building at 475 Commissioners Street and a high-rise mixed-use building at 309 Cherry Street.
The first plan likely to be ready will apply to Villiers Island, establishing the streets and block structure, height and massing standards, parks and community facilities, public art and urban design standards, affordable housing strategy, heritage preservation strategy, parking provisions and strategies to develop a mix of uses.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source, Cassidy Ritz, Port Lands Acceleration Initiative

$25 million donation to fund public spaces under western Gardiner

As the city frets about what exactly to do with the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, a generous donation from philanthropists aims to transform a western stretch of the expressway from an eyesore into an urban gem worth visiting.
Judy Matthews (herself a professional planner) and her husband Wil Matthews are contributing $25 million toward creating more than four hectares of new public space and 1.7 kilometres of multi-use trails beneath the Gardiner from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. The project will knit together seven communities with parks, trails and programmable space featuring music, food, the arts, sports and recreation, all sheltered by the ceiling of the five-storey expressway. The spaces will be designed as “rooms” defined by the concrete post-and-beam structures that hold up the Gardiner.
With construction starting next year and the first stage from Strachan to Bathurst slated for completion by July 2017, the project is exceptional not only in scale and imagination but in its ambitious timeframe. Public consultations to hear what locals and Torontonians want to see in the new public space and what it should be called will happen very quickly, marshalled by Waterfront Toronto, which is leading the project on behalf of the city.
“We had been looking for an interesting project, a neglected vacant space that had the power to be a new kind of public space,” said Matthews at the announcement Tuesday. She and Wil were driving forces behind the Toronto Music Garden on the waterfront and the revitalization of St. George Street where it runs through the University of Toronto. “Imagine in winter if you come down to find a skating rink with hot chocolate there.”
More than 70,000 Torontonians live in neighbourhoods adjacent to the project, from Liberty Village to CityPlace, most of them high-rise dwellers dependent on public space to give them some room to move. The project will serve them, but also aspires to be a tourist destination comparable to New York’s High Line, linking attractions like the Molson Amphitheatre, Historic Fort York, Queens Quay and The CN Tower. The donation will be entirely devoted to the design and creation of the spaces; discussion about how to fund the maintenance and programming will take place while construction is underway.
“Toronto is an amazing path now where we’re going to find ways to say yes to things like this,” said Mayor John Tory at the unveiling. Restoration work worth $150 million is currently underway on the structure of the Gardiner itself.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Judy Matthews, John Tory, Waterfront Toronto

Waterfront Toronto presents feedback on Queens Quay revitalization

Since the grand reopening of Queens Quay back in June, Waterfront Toronto has been fine-tuning the transformed space to help people navigate it better. At a community meeting on October 14, they’ll give an update on what’s been happening and share a report on the substantial public feedback they’ve received so far.
The most common reaction has been that people really like the revitalization between Bay Street and HT0 Park which has bigger, nicer sidewalks, new trees and a designated space for the Martin Goodman Trail, which used to disappear as it passed south of downtown, leaving cyclists to fend their way on the means streets of Queens Quay.
Still, there have been some unpleasant encounters between pedestrians and cyclists using the new mixed-use lane, which runs at grade along and amidst the pedestrian spaces. The need for an educational YouTube video and a do’s and don’t’s slideshow also suggest that Torontonians and visitors face a learning curve when it comes to all the painted lines, lights, signs and signals spelling out who goes where and when on Queens Quay. As well as listening to feedback, Waterfront Toronto has been doing intersection-by-intersection audits on how people are behaving on the street.
“This is really a new kind of space in Toronto. What we’ve been doing is just adjusting some of the regulatory systems and signals, the visual cues for the people on the street,” says Mira Shenker, communications manager at Waterfront Toronto. Over the last few months, trail speed limit signs have been posted, as well as “Watch for cyclists and pedestrians” and “Slow, watch for turning vehicles” signs.
Blue boxes painted on the Martin Goodman Trail, intended as a space for cyclists to stop at lighted intersections, turned out to be too subtle (and a different colour from the city’s green bicycle boxes; the revitalization plan was finalized before there was a standard bike-box colour, says Shenker). Since the opening, the blue boxes have had the words “Stop here on Red,” painted on them.
“That was a direct response to the very measured and constructive feedback we received from people simply wanting to know the purpose of the blue boxes,” says Shenker.
At this month’s meeting, there won’t be answers to concerns about the bottleneck at the bottom of Dan Leckie Way, where there’s a 60-metre gap in the Martin Goodman Trail, so signs tell cyclists to dismount when they find themselves on the sidewalk. That area was beyond the official boundaries of the revitalization project. A pedestrian WaveDeck is ultimately planned for that stretch of the route, which would free up the sidewalk for mixed use, but the project is currently unfunded.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mira Shenker

Leslie Spit wetland creation project hits new milestone

A long-term plan to create wetland habitat on the Leslie Street Spit, also known as Tommy Thompson Park, hits a milestone this month, as contaminated materials on the site are capped by clean material that will provide a foundation for the plants and vegetation that provide home for a range of fish, birds and wildlife.
In 2007, a seven-hectare area called Cell 1 was completed and currently provides a habitat for marsh birds, including nesting common terns, turtles, amphibians, small mammals and native fish in areas that were used as confined disposal. Work on the area known as Cell 2, which is about nine hectares, started late last year. A layer of soil and clay is being created with about 21,500 truckloads of excavated material to make sure the underlying contaminated material is biologically unavailable.  Rock and wood will also shape the landscape.

One of the project’s challenges is making sure the layers of soil have the right elevation relative to the water levels of Lake Ontario. “The vegetation that is within the wetlands is driven by water,” says Karen McDonald, project manager with Restoration and Infrastructure Services at Toronto and Region Conservation Autority (TRCA). “Water levels within the Great Lakes are managed, and the management doesn’t necessarily facilitate the development of coastal wetlands. The lakes are managed for ships, not necessarily for habitat.”
While there is a detailed plan for how the wetlands should look, materials and site conditions will drive the work. Right now, dump trucks and bulldozers are the main tools for shaping the wetlands, with excavation continuing until things are frozen hard over the winter. In the spring, the living components of the wetlands will be added to the landscape.
“It’s basically gardening in water,” says McDonald. “We’ll be installing aquatic vegetation like potted plant material, native cattails, bulrushes and bur-reed into the completed area and then letting nature do the rest.”
One big surprise came in July when workers discovered Asian grass carp, an invasive species that’s not particularly welcome in the wetlands, in one of the contained ponds.
The Leslie spit’s job as a disposal site isn’t yet over. The final cell, called Cell 3, continues to be used for dredged materials, with approximately 30 to 40 years of capacity remaining.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Karen McDonald

ZAS takes a multi-use design vision for Canoe Landing facility

When the team at ZAS Architects saw what was needed at Canoe Landing, they must have had a feeling of déjà vu.

With a City Place population of about 20,000 and growing, the city needed a structure that would provide a home for a Toronto District School Board school, a Toronto Catholic District School Board school, a community centre and a daycare for the booming vertical community. Consultation with residents suggested there would eventually be more kids raised there than you’d suspect considering the small size of most of the high-rise condos there. With little available real estate, all the partner facilities would benefit from shared spaces.

Flashback to more than 20 years ago. ZAS won the contract for the Humberwood Centre in Etobicoke near Finch and the 427. That project called for a Catholic school, a public school, a public library, a day nursery centre and a community rec centre, a mix which still succeeds at Humberwoods today. That experience gave ZAS the edge in winning the Canoe Landing contract.

“These type of projects represent a great opportunity to show that the sum of the whole is greater than the parts,” says ZAS principal Peter Duckworth-Pilkington. “We’re able to do more on the facility side than each of the partners could do by themselves. At Humberwood, we’ve got gyms that can be shared between the community centres and the schools. We’ve got senior groups that do cooking as part of a day program, but the kitchen is available to the school. So there’s a great intergenerational connection that can happen when you have these groups working together.”

“In our approach to architecture, we’re almost like set designers. We create the stage and the actors come on and bring it to life.”

School design requires safety consideration, so it’s a matter of designing spaces that can be supervised and can readily separate school use from public use. Technology will play a part in that. Because open space is so limited downtown, Duckworth-Pilkington says the building should feel like it’s part of the park; a green roof across the building will help with that.

One of the ways to prevent conflict is to have an operations working group as well as a design working group so the partners can create a plan for, say, how the building will be cleaned that will reflected in the actual design.

After a period of consultation into community needs, ZAS has started “taking pen to paper” to come up with a design by the end of the year to submit for multiple approvals. Construction would start in 2017 with opening in 2019.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source Peter Duckworth-Pilkington

Pan Am architecture here today, gone tomorrow

While Toronto’s HOV traffic lanes have attracted the most attention (and ire), they’re not the only temporary infrastructure the Pan/Parapan American Games are bring to Toronto this summer.

There’s the Athlete’s Village, which isn’t all that temporary since those units will eventually be condos and student residences, and CIBC Pan Am Park, which will scatter tents and other structures across Exhibition Place. But other venues not directly related to the Games are also springing up all over the city.

The Aboriginal Pavillion at Fort York’s Garrison Common will feature an Indigenous music and arts festival hosted by the 14 member ALP (Aboriginal Leadership Partners). One of the largest footprints of any Pan Am arts festival, the pavillion will also host sports events and food vendors.

Meanwhile, up in The Village, PrideHouse’s activities at The 519 and Barbara Hall Park will overflow onto the street during two weekends of the Games, with space for sporting activities and drinking (nice combination!) on Church Street.

But the brashest and most playful temporary structure will likely be the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation’s Celebration Zone at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Designed by Hariri Pontarini and built by Tektoniks, a UK company founded by a Canadian, the two huge white inflatable arches on Queen’s Quay will host 38 days of arts and cultural programming. The larger of the two structures, about 50 feet high, can hold 1,400 people, while the smaller one, open on the front and looking out over the waterfront, can hold about 300 people. They’re made of a recyclable PVC textile and filled with Ontario air.

“It’s really going to dominate the landscape,” says Ronald Holgerson, president and CEO of OTMPC. “We’re really excited about it. We knew we wanted to create something that was complementary to the 2015 Games and also showcase artists early in their careers.

Holgerson describes the space as “a sponsorship free zone,” though it will showcase different regions of Ontario hoping to attract Pan Am visitors this summer—and beyond.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ronald Holgerson
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