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Former Global Village Backpackers gets heritage facelift

Over the past few weeks, passersby at King and Spadina have been watching a slow reveal as the ramshackled building at the northwest corner is restored to a version of its former glory.
 
The Global Village Backpackers hostel closed more than a year ago and now the former meeting place of the young and the restless is being turned into something much more professional and stylish. The 20,000-square-foot listed heritage property, acquired last summer by Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, is being repurposing to host a marketing suite for The Well development, a café, a restaurant and offices for key tenant Konrad Group.
 
“It will be a spectacular space,” says Hugh Clark, vice president of development for Allied Properties.
 
Until now, the property’s been devoted to hospitality. Built as the Richardson House Hotel in 1875, it became the Falconer Hotel in 1906 and the Spadina Hotel in the 1920s, before eventually becoming Global Village Backpackers in 1997. The interior renovations will open up the small hotel rooms to become a grander commercial and office space, while the exterior renovations will restore a heritage look to both the southern and northern wings.
 
“The southern building in particular has many layers that have been added over the years, the most recent being the blue wood siding,” says Clark. “What you’ll see is when we’ve done the full restoration of the façade, the southern building will have more of a Tudor style. On the northern building we’ve already peeled off many layers of paint to expose the red-orange brick.”
 
Jedd Jones Architects did some of the design, while Gensler used historic photos to come up with the restoration plan for the wooden southern building.
 
The Well Joint Venture, a partnership between Allied, Diamond Corp. and RioCan, is expected to move into 3,000 square feet of the southern building in in June. Other tenants are expected to occupy the building this fall. Allied also plans to redevelop the surface parking lot immediately to the north of the building.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Hugh Clark

Landscape architects show off their outdoor ideas inside

Sometimes you have to go indoors to radically reimagine what can be done with the outdoors.
 
The Gladstone Hotel’s Grow Op, which opens Thursday for a four-day run, invites landscapers, gardeners, students, artists and place-makers of all sorts to explore how design can enhance the sustainability and the enjoyability of our outdoor urban spaces.
 
Certainly there’s increasing pressure to push the limits. Yards in newer urban developments are smaller, if they exist at all. Parks and other exterior spaces are getting squeezed amidst more and more intensive downtown development. So using the confines of hotels-sized lobbies and corridors to propose landscaping solutions and experiments is not such a farfetched idea.
 
“It’s an important challenge for designers of outdoor spaces,” says Victoria Taylor, who has curated this year’s exhibitions with Graham Teeple and the help of Britt Welter-Nolan. Principal at VTLA, Taylor one of the event’s cofounders. “Especially in Canada, we think we have so much outdoor space, we don’t do anything with it. But we should still consider the aesthetics, the ecology and even the economy of our outdoor spaces.”
 
Many artists who have shown during Grow Op’s three-year history have spread their wings beyond the confines of the hotel. The group Play the Walk, which advocate for exploring neighbourhoods with childlike delight, has hosted expeditions through different city spaces since Grow Op 2013. “They’re an alternative to Jane’s Walk that’s more ad hoc,” says Taylor.
 
This year, a group of students with the University of Toronto Master’s of Landscape program will exhibit bee-nest boxes they’ve designed for several specific species of bees. After the show, the boxes will go into community gardens across the city. “Then the science will start and the students will see if their designs will attract the bees they’ve designed it for,” says Taylor.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Victoria Taylor

Sherway Gardens joins other GTA malls in dash toward luxury

Five new retailers opening in Etobicoke’s Sherway Gardens shopping mall signal the early stages of the mall’s multi-phased, $550 million expansion.
 
“Preppy-bohemian luxe” US designer Tory Burch is first out of the gate. Cosmetics maker LUSH, shoe designer Vince Camuto, jewelry and watch retailer Thomas Sabo and Canadian fashion label Rudsak are also making their Etobicoke debuts over the next few weeks. Some of the stores will be located in the existing property while others will be in the most completed parts of the redevelopment.
 
“At Sherway Gardens we are writing the next chapter in retail and we are delighted to share our growing space with some of today's most influential brands,” stated Andy Traynor, the mall’s general manager. 
 
Sherway’s north expansion, set to open this September, will feature a new flagship Harry Rosen, a relocated Sporting Life and a new food court. Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom will open stores there 2016 and 2017. The reboot will add an additional 210,000 square feet of retail space to the centre, bringing the total size to 1.3 million square feet.
 
But it’s not just Sherway that’s getting ritzier. As serious shoppers know, four of the GTA’s best known malls are currently in some sort of flux.
 
Sister Cadillac Fairview property, Toronto Eaton Centre, is also getting a Saks Fifth Avenue this fall and a Nordstrom store in the fall of 2016. Saks will bunk with Hudson’s Bay in the historic Queen and Yonge building, which is currently being renovated to make room. Nordstrom will share the old Sears space at the north end of the mall (formerly Eaton’s, if you’re keeping track) with other smaller retailers.
 
Another Nordstrom location will open at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, owned by Oxford Properties and Alberta Investment Management Corporation, as part of that mall’s $331 million expansion, which started in January 2014 and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016. About 25 smaller stores are also part of the expansion.
 
Not to be outdone, Mississauga’s Square One, owned by Oxford Properties, is expanding to the south, with 113,000 square feet devoted to the first Simons in Ontario and another 120,000 square feet for a flagship Holt Renfrew. That expansion, expected to be complete in the spring of 2016, will cost $237 million.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited, Vanessa Jenkins

More than 40 years later, Robarts Library is getting its third pavilion

When the University of Toronto’s iconic John P. Robarts Library was completed in 1973, two pavilions flanked the enormous main building: the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Claude T. Bissell Building.
 
But on the Huron Street side, there was supposed to have been a third pavilion, which was never built.
 
When Diamond Schmitt Architects studied Robarts for the first phase of a $65-million renovation of Robarts—a phase which maximized the study space inside the triangle-shaped library and brought in more light—they uncovered breakout panels that were intended to connect to the unbuilt third pavilion on the loading dock side of the building.
 
“There is no plan that anybody can find anywhere, but there is a diagram in the opening-book brochure that shows a dotted line where that third pavilion was supposed to be,” says Gary McCluskie, a principal at Diamond Schmitt. “As part of that renovation work we started working on a plan for what could be built on that west side of the building.”
 
The discovery turned into an idea. The development application for the new Robarts Common expansion, about 56,000 square feet over five storeys, was filed earlier this month. And so more than 40 years later, Robarts will finally get its third pavilion.
 
But while original plan was for a 500-seat classroom/special events room, the new building will instead provide 1,222 seats of study space. The free-standing structure, which will connect to the main building via bridges over the loading dock, also shuns the brutal concrete architectural style that has made the original building so famous—or infamous, as the case may be. The five storeys will have a much more contemporary look that recognizes Robarts dramatic style without replicating it. Metal facets will mimic the metal on the existing building. There will be lots of glass, but blinds and fretting on the glass will reduce the amount of light that comes out of the building.
 
“What was really engaging about this project was finding the ways we could be similar so it fits in but is of our time today building for something that’s serving a new purpose,” says McCluskie.
 
Rest assured, since the new build is on the Huron Street side, the building’s striking resemblance to a turkey or peacock, when seen from the George Street side, won’t be affected.
 
If everything goes according to plan, construction could start next winter with an opening two years after that.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Gary McCluskie and Larry Alford
Photo Credit: University of Toronto
 

New ED looking to give Heritage Toronto a higher profile

In the two months since he started his job as the executive director of Heritage Toronto, Francisco Alvarez has realized that the organization is a little misunderstood. Created in 1998 as a successor to the Toronto Historical Board, the arms-length city agency isn’t actually responsible for preserving and protecting historic properties. That’s the job of the city planning department.
 
“But a lot of people call here and ask how they prevent the demolition of this building or that building, or how they can have their home listed as a heritage property–and we have to constantly refer them back to the city planning department,” says Alvarez, who replaced Karen Carter, who is now ED at Museum of Toronto. “They have a huge backlog there, so people don’t get the answer they’re looking for very quickly.”
 
Instead, Heritage Toronto focuses on public programming, education and the promotion of heritage, particularly through its heritage walks program, heritage plaques and markers, and the Toronto Heritage Awards. Although Toronto is relatively young and lost many of its fine historic buildings in the careless 1960s and ’70s, Alvarez would like heritage to play a bigger part in the city’s tourism promotion. And it’s not just about beautiful buildings.
 
“Of course, a lot of the history that happened here before Toronto was established can be better told to visitors,” says Alvarez, who was most recently managing director of the Royal Ontario Museum’s Institute for Contemporary Culture. “For example, many of the roads that don’t fit into the grid like Dundas and Davenport were actually Aboriginal trails. The whole network of creeks, rivers and ravines are interesting forces in shaping the city that visitors would find interesting.”
 
Alvarez would also like to better showcase Toronto’s cultural heritage—the stories of the people who live and work here but often come from elsewhere. If the agency is able to raise more funds from sponsors, foundations and other funders (less than half its budget is covered by the city), technology will play a bigger part in drawing people’s attention to Toronto’s architectural, archaeological, cultural and natural history.
 
“Plaques are great, but they’re very static. I’d love to look at things like virtual reality to tell a heritage story with new tools.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Francisco Alvarez

Winner of Jack Layton Ferry Terminal competition: Now the details

The ridiculously tight space between the Westin Harbour Castle, Lake Ontario and the Harbour Square complex was a key inspiration for the winning design for the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park. Chosen last week from five finalists, the proposal from KPMB Architects, Netherlands-based West 8 and Greenberg Consultants solves the space constraints by creating a park whose hills rise to become a green roof for the terminal itself. The plan puts one use quite literally on top of the other.
 
“It’s a flat area and this elevation is very significant. Being able to get higher changes your perspective completely,” says Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants. “You can imagine people picnicking on those hillsides, and having kids sliding down them in the winter. It will be something special and different on the waterfront."
 
Anyone who’s been to the Toronto Islands knows just how uninspiring the current ferry terminal is. “All the charm of a large public washroom,” says Greenberg. The winning design would provide better views, more green space and, within the terminal itself, a grand wooden ceiling that would better protect people from the elements. The rolling hills also faintly echo other new-generation parks along the waterfront, like HTO and Sugar Beach.
 
What happens next? While the city tries to rustle up the funds to pay for the redevelopment project, the winning team will enter a period of study with the stakeholders to work out the details and technical issues. For example, what will the new ferry docks look like and where will they go? Greenberg figures that could take a year. When construction does start, the port needs to remain open, which makes it a particularly tricky redevelopment.   
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Ken Greenberg

Casey House breaks ground on facility that merges old and new

When Casey House was established in 1988 as Canada’s first stand-alone treatment facility for people with HIV/AIDS, the founders talked about opening a day program which would welcome non-residential clients could just drop by. “But they were so overwhelmed and exhausted [by the AIDS crisis], they had to put a pause on that,” says current CEO Stephanie Karapita.
 
Now, after more than decade of serious planning and fundraising, Casey House will finally be offering a day health program in a new 58,000-square-foot facility being built adjacent to its current premises. A ground-breaking ceremony this week marked the beginning of a construction project at the corner of Jarvis and Isabella streets which will see an existing 1875 heritage mansion renovated and integrated into purpose-built facility designed by award-winning architect Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects.
 
The new building will finally give Casey House the space to offer a day health program in addition to in-patient and home-care programs. But amidst the new modern design—which doubles the existing space and doubles the number of clients Casey House can serve—the new building had to maintain the feelings of compassion that’s been so closely connected to the original and current building at 9 Huntley St.
 
“Our goal all along has been creating a place that’s beautiful and warm and home-like,” says Karapita, “and when you walk in the front door of the new Casey House, the very first thing you’ll see is a living room with big, huge fireplace, just as in the case of our building today.”
 
The fireplace is not the only element that connects the new building to the old one. When the move happens in 2016, some of the stained glass will move, too, as well as the tradition of lighting a candle in the window whenever a patient dies.
 
But to meet the news of the new day health program, there will be lots of new spaces, including a nursing clinic, a physical therapy room, massage rooms, an art therapy room and a number of meeting rooms. A narrow outdoor area that allows patients to socialize, has been dubbed the “sliver courtyard.” Casey House has raised $8.7 million of the $10 million it’s contributing the project.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Stephanie Karapita

Massive redevelopment of Globe and Mail site gets nod from Design Review Panel

When the revised design for The Well development went to Toronto’s Design Review Panel last week, the Diamond corp team came out smiling. The presentation, which showed off the new-look main 36-storey office building on the massive 7.7-acre site between Front and Wellington, was approved by unanimous vote without conditions—and with a few compliments.
 
“I actually wrote them down,” says Lucy Cameron, vice president of planning at Diamond corp, which is working with RioCan and Allied Properties to redevelop the property that’s the current home of The Globe and Mail, plus an adjacent site at Spadina. (In 2016 the paper plans to move to a new building on King Street East, next door to rival of sorts, the Toronto Sun.) The panel also got a more detailed sense of The Well’s master plan, which would be 40 per cent public space, including walkways connecting Front and Wellington streets.
 
“We think it’s a missing link between Clarence Square and Victoria Memorial Park, where Wellington can act as a green space and open space connector between the two, so we’re putting that forward as a public realm improvement,” says Cameron.
 
The new renderings for The Well also depicted the development as being connected below-ground to a subway-type stop facing the train tracks south of Front at Spadina. It’s a nod to Mayor John Tory’s proposed SmartTrack plan, which would use existing rail lines to improve city transit. The plan hasn’t gotten to the point where people are talking stops yet, but…. “It’s a little nudge. We’re putting ourselves forward that we’re interested in talking about whether a station could be a reality here,” says Cameron.
 
When they began the project more than two years ago and were first grappling with how to handle such a large and complex development, the Diamond corp team, along with architect, David Pontarini, went on a field trip to Europe, particularly central London, looking for inspiration.
 
“We knew we wanted it to be a little bit different. We wanted an amazing urban design that would integrate office, retail and residential all in a community that had a bit of heritage character, but needed to respond to new urbanism and the modern city living experience,” says Cameron. London gave them ideas about how to manage so much retail—more than 400,000 square feet—while maintaining a village feeling.
 
If the planning department accepts the proposals, construction would start in early 2016 or late 2017.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Lucy Cameron

Contract awarded for Milton District Hospital expansion

An international infrastructure company specializing in public-private partnerships has been awarded the contract to design, build, finance and maintain the expansion of the Milton District Hospital.
 
Plenary Health, which has built has several other health facilities in Canada, including the Archives of Ontario, the Humber River Hospital and Bridgepoint Hospital, expects the $512-million project to be completed in spring 2017. The expansion will add 330,000 square feet of space to the existing 125,000-square-foot hospital.
 
The developer has committed to target a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver certification rating. Nancy Kuyumcu, a communications advisor with Infrastructure Ontario, couldn’t give details on how the Plenary Health would meet LEED criteria, which is typical done through construction innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use energy, water and other resources more efficiently. RTKL and B+H are working together as architects on the project.
 
The project will expand emergency and surgical services, medical/surgical inpatient units, critical care, maternal newborn and diagnostic imaging and support services, increase impatient bed capacity from 63 to and provide the hospital with its first Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, says Kuyumcu.
 
Plenary Health is a division of Plenary Group, which has roots in Australia.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Nancy Kuyumcu

Great Gulf abandons luxury for affordability with new Queen and Dufferin condos

Sometimes a developer has to admit when it has misjudged the neighbourhood.
 
Back in 2012, Great Gulf Homes announced a plan to build luxury townhouses on Florence Street at Dufferin, north of Queen West. Although the area has been rapidly gentrifying, the steep prices for Lighthaus, starting at $1 million, raised a few eyebrows. Even though the units were big and the design innovative, it seemed a little misplaced in the emerging neighbourhood. So about 15 months ago, Great Gulf set aside its Lighthaus idea and went back to the drawing board.
 
The new vision, Brockton Commons, will go on sale in the four to six weeks, with construction slated for the fall. And it’s much more in line with the relaxed up-and-coming-but-not-establishment-yet feel of the neighbourhood. Even the name is a nod to history, community and modesty, not hipness.
 
“The market in that area is really more value-oriented and more family-oriented,” says Chris Wein, president of Great Gulf Homes. “We spent the last year doing the redesign, doing public consultation, working with the city, the planning department and the local councillor to arrive at what we have now.”
 
Rather than 20 homes starting at 2,200 square feet, Brockton Commons will be 36 units of stacked towns and row houses starting at 900 square feet, priced from $370,000. The build will be less daring, though several units will have rooftop terraces. Designed by TACT, a firm that’s worked on nearby projects like 2 and 8 Gladstone and Edge condos, Brockton Commons will bring a solidly modern look to a street that’s a bit of a hodge-podge.
 
“Brockton really represents a new opportunity for us,” says Wein, who’s also behind the landmark (and very upscale) tower at 1 Bloor East. “You’re going to be seeing more and more inner city in-fill sites like this one. It’s pretty exciting to look at neighbourhoods like Parkdale, Queen West, Leslieville, which have pockets where that scale of development can come to fruition.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Chris Wein

Architects seek feedback on St. Lawrence heritage conservation plan

This week Torontonians got a chance to provide feedback on proposed strategies to protect and nurture the heritage character of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, an area that includes the first 10 blocks of the city laid out by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1793.
 
Council identified the district a high priority area for a Heritage Conservation District back in 2012 and commissioned a study that was endorsed in 2014. Now Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés architects (FGMDA) have put together draft policies and guidelines to show off to the public.
 
“It’s been building on material from the study,” says Caitlin Allan, a planner with Bousfields Inc., which has been working with FGMDA and the city on the heritage district process.
 
Since the study, FGMDA has compiled a detailed list of all the properties in the area and has divided them into two groups: buildings that contribute toward the heritage character of the district and those that don’t. Each group would be subjected to different proposed policies and guidelines that would determine how their buildings should look and how owners can contribute to that character. Torontonians got their first opportunity to look at those proposals Tuesday, and the feedback from that session will be taken into account for another consultation later this spring. A final document could go to City Council for approval some time this year.
 
Will the designation of Heritage Conservation District have a noticeable visual impact on the area in the next five or 10 years? Maybe not. The policies and guidelines likely won’t force existing property owners to make their properties look more historic.  But they will shape future development—and heritage rules have more force than comparable zoning-based policies and guidelines.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Sarah Corey and Caitlin Allan

Will community hubs find room in underused schools?

Two new enthusiasms of the provincial government could end up having an interesting synergy across the GTA, especially in neighbourhoods looking for increased community services.
 
On one hand, there’s the beleaguered Toronto District School Board, currently being sized up by an expert panel led by former mayor and chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission Barbara Hall. Hall and her panel will lead up to 20 public consultations between March and May 2015 to make recommendations for improving the governance of the TDSB.
 
Under pressure by the Ministry of Education to balance its budget, the TDSB has been selling off underutilized property and has raised more than $400 million from the sale of 66 properties since 2008. And it’s doing a further review to see how it can consolidate its real estate assets.
 
“The province is telling the TDSB, you have a lot of surplus [space], maybe you can turn that surplus into revenue,” says Daryl Sage, the CEO of the Toronto Lands Corporation (TLC), the TDSB offshoot tasked with the redevelopment and sales of property no longer required by the school board. In the process, the TDSB has upset many communities who don’t want their schools closed and replaced by housing or commercial developments.
 
On the other hand, last week Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed Karen Pitre as chair of the new Premier’s Community Hub Framework Advisory Group. The advisory group will review provincial policies and develop a framework for adapting existing public assets to become community hubs.
 
That’s where the two initiatives collide: Can underutilized schools share space with community organizations, or be repurposed as community centres?
 
“TLC is not just in the business of disposing of sites, it’s really trying to find a way to maximize the benefits from a site,” says Sage. “With the province’s interest in community hubs, we’ll be looking through that lens now. If you step back, you realize there are so many amenities that a school may have—gymnasiums, classrooms, fields, tracks, swimming pools. If there are ways that those benefits can be shared in the community, you can see that’s where the province would like to go.”
 
With the city also asking for more input into how TDSB handles properties it deems underused, the possibilities for more intensive use of school properties becomes very impressive indeed.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source Daryl Sage

The street food conversation goes on... and on

About 50 people turned up on March 5 for the latest in a seemingly endless procession of consultations, amendments, rule changes and other perambulations regarding the city’s policy in street food.

According to Carlton Grant, director of policy and strategic support with municipal licensing, the main sources of concern included the cost of running an operation and the rule that disallows a vendor from being within 50 metres of an open restaurant or on any side street.

The latter restriction means that spots where people gather for food are the precise places new, untested vendors are not allowed to sell, and the former means that the very reason for street food’s success in cities that are known for their street food — that it’s cheap and home-made — is unlikely to become a reality in Toronto.

Unless these consultations end up carrying more weight than the Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), whose members include those restaurants and their buffer zones.

According to Grant, a permit to sell food on the street costs $5,066 for a year, or $13.88 a day, plus the cost of hourly metered parking.

“We'll take the information that we heard from the various industries, food trucks, food carts, restaurants, BIAs and the public and continue to refine the city's street food program,” Grant says. “We're considering potential improvements to the program to create further opportunities for vendors including a 6 month or a 9 month permit, increasing the time a food truck can vend to 5 hours, adding Green P parking lots over and above the 58 commercial parking lots we made available last year and including pay and display parking spaces on collector streets.”

Currently, there are just 17 food truck operating in the city, in addition to 39 ice cream trucks, a number that may rise if the public’s concerns make it into the recommendations.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Carlton Grant
Photo: Richie Diesterheft
 

Toronto wins award for the way it handles graffiti

The key to the way Toronto handles its graffiti is co-option. Instead of anathematizing vandals, Toronto works with street artists. The result: We will have no Banksy to call our own, but Vogue does seem to like Queen West an awful lot.

“We recognized from the outset that we would not be able to eliminate graffiti vandalism,” says Elyse Parker, a director in the city’s transportation services, but that they would be able to achieve goals in enforcement and support for victims of vandalism and for street artists. “What is unique to Toronto and the graffiti management program is it was recognized that what look like mutually exclusive approaches to graffiti can exist simultaneously. Our new by-law recognizes that graffiti art is permitted, provided there is agreement from the property owner, the graffiti is created for purposes of enhancement, and consistent with the local neighbourhood character.

“The city now has an excellent relationship with the graffiti and street art community. We have a street art directory which lists about 90 artists, who the public can access and engage with. We continue to develop programs, projects and services that will meet our four areas of direction. For example, in year two, we started our ‘outside the box’ program where we engage artists to paint or wrap traffic signal boxes, which are unattractive and magnets for tagging.”

The by-law, which was passed by council in 2011, has resulted in mass erasures of graffiti determined to be vandalism, over 200,000 square feet of the stuff in 2014 alone, with more, Parker says, if you count the independent efforts of individual business improvement areas (BIAs), school boards and homeowners.

The definition if vandalism is simple: Does the painter have the permission of the owner of the property she is painting on? If not, she’s a vandal. It might be argued that the very nature of graffiti and other forms of street are is transgressive, that it draws much of its energy from the unilateral commandeering of public or private property for its own ends.

But then again there is something to be said for painted traffic signal boxes over tagged ones.

And it seems the Institute of Public Administration of Canada and Deloitte agree. They've awarded the city a silver-level Public Sector Leadership Award for its program. (The gold went to a similarly successful effort in co-option, the Quebec city of Repentigny’s Skate Plaza.)

As far as the Queen West BIA is concerned, the graffiti program has helped them enormously.

“They believe that one of the reasons that Vogue magazine named them last July as the second coolest neighbourhood in the world is because of the street art in their neighbourhood and the relationship they have with street artists,” Parker says. “They claim that their costs to remove graffiti vandalism have been reduced by 40 per cent since the inception of the program.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Elyse Parker

Midtown plan wins national award as "model for other cities"

A plan that would entrench, expand and entwine midtown’s green spaces has won recognition from the body that governs those who design the nation’s outdoor spaces.

The Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), which counts 1,900 of the country’s approximately 2,000 landscape architects as its members, named it one of the best pieces of work in the country, excelling in craft, leadership, project management, innovation, as well as environmental and social awareness.

The plan, developed by a team that included landscape architects Public Work and infrastructure consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, identifies five potential green space continuums which the team describes as “large scale public space proposals that bring together changes in the design of parks, streets and open space.” The include a long stretch of green along Yonge Street on either side of Eglinton, anoher along Eglinton itself, the transformation of Broadway, Montgomery, Roehampton and Orchard View “into a lush, green, multi-purpose promenade,” and a “re-imagined” Redpath Avenue to be bookended by “two great parks.”

“This is a project that was given an award for planning and analysis,” says CSLA executive director Michelle Legault. “Many landscape architects consult, and they develop plans for cities. This one developed with the City of Toronto, a blueprint that will help guide the evolution of the public spaces and public realm in midtown.

“Essentially what we’re saying is that this is a really high-level, highly efficient, extremely innovative plan. It’s a model for other plans for other cities.”

Plans are just plans until they are executed, of course, but this one, approved by council in its Aug. 25 session, is meant to be executed over a period of two to three decades.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michelle Legault
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