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Thriving spaces need more than good design, says Park People report

As the province reviews changes to its growth plans for Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Area and the Niagara Escarpment, the advocacy group Park People is making a case for the importance of creating and sustaining vital public spaces in increasingly densely populated environments.
Its new Thriving Spaces report is something of a toolkit for planners, politicians and other decision makers to get them to think creatively about ensuring that our growing and densifying communities still have space to play and relax. “I also hope that the report places an emphasis on partnerships and people as well as design. We often focus very heavily on design when we talk about parks and public spaces, but the people who use those spaces, the types of activities they want to see there and how they can become more involved in these spaces, need to be considered,” says report author Jake Tobin Garrett, manager of policy and research at Park People.
The report examines 15 case studies, ranging from 11 Wellesley West, used as an example of how to consolidate space while work with developers, to Simcoe Promenade in Markham, used as an example of how linear parks can link residents, retail, and other green spaces. Although ideas that have worked in one community can be borrowed and adapted for other places, rising real estate prices and the density of established communities can create particular challenges.
“It requires planning for new categories of parks such as linear parks and urban squares, but also expanding the scope of the open space network to include opportunities in our infrastructure corridors, schoolyards, streets, and other public spaces,” states the report. “It includes creative designs that leverage adjacent street space as flexible, shared space and all-year amenities that provide people with activities whether it’s hot or cold outside. It also includes new ways of funding and acquiring parkland, whether sharing maintenance costs with nearby property owners or tapping into private donations and sponsorships.”
Tobin Garrett says some municipalities have improved their processes for creating public space, for accommodating varying uses and for taking into account factors like weather. “We do have many months of the year where it’s cold and some of the newer parks and open spaces we’re seeing can be used all year round, and are have active programs in the winter as well as the summer months,” he says.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jake Tobin Garrett

The 519 reaches out to community for Moss Park recreational redevelopment

Community consultations will start this month as the city and The 519 community centre move forward on the possible redevelopment of John Innes Community Centre, Moss Park Arena and the surrounding park space.
The idea was first floated a few years ago, in the midst of the excited lead-up to last summer’s Pan Am Games, as an LGBTQ-focused sports facility. But the initiative has been broadened in the feasibility stage, expected itself to cost as much as $1.6 million, to be a more inclusive community-based recreational facility, not focusing exclusively on LGBTQ users, but building on The 519’s success at creating a welcoming atmosphere for diverse communities at its base at Church and Wellesley.
At the very least, the plan would replace the existing recreational infrastructure and redeveloping the entire park space and sports field. But it could be more ambitious than that. “We imagine, given the evolution of the neighbourhood and the population changes projected over the next 20 or 30 years for downtown Toronto, that that will include a substantial increase in the overall envelope of the building, but we’ve also committed to maintaining as much parkland and sports field as possible,” says Maura Lawless, executive director of The 519. There’s been no financial commitment by the city yet and no talk at this point of bringing private developers on board.
Last month, local activists hosted a town hall meeting questioning whether the 519 plans would speed gentrification of Moss Park, driving out lower-income and other marginalized people like sex workers. Lawless says the public consultation process, which will hold its first public meeting on May 31 and a design-oriented public meeting on June 6, have been in the works for a while and is not a response to the criticism. Still, Lawless says there have been some misunderstandings.
“We understand those concerns and that’s why we think it’s incredibly important that the communities who live in those neighbourhoods now shape and inform the site design, the priorities that are relevant to the current community,” she says.
Three community organizers have been hired to reach out to social-service organizations and bring the voices of homeless people, people living Toronto Community Housing and other marginalized community members to the table. “These are folks who may not necessarily come out to the traditional community conversation,” says Lawless. “We as an organization have expertise in terms of the LGBT community, but this facility is intended to be open and accessible to everyone. At some level there’s been some misinformation that’s gotten out in terms of this being a gay gym or only accessible to some people. That’s fundamentally untrue.”
The consultation period will end September 30, with a report expected to go before council by the end of the year.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Maura Lawless

Shuter wing of St. Michael’s hospital to be replaced by modern glass structure

St. Michael’s hospital has filed an application with the city to demolish its five-storey Shuter Street wing, built in 1910 with additions in the 1950s, to be replaced with a modern six-storey building for an expanded emergency department.
The new Shuter building, currently proposed as “a modern glass volume that provides a sleek foil to the heavy masonry buildings of the past,” will be connected to the Bond wing, a 1937 building by a two-storey entrance hall. Though the 1910 building is not protected, City Council has stated its intentions to designate the Bond wing as a heritage building worth of preservation.
“The proposed development has been designed to balance the evolving needs of St Michael’s Hospital while respecting the existing Bond Wing,” states the Heritage Impact Assessment filed in April. “The proposed alterations will improve universal access to the hospital and will allow for a better user experience of the Bond Wing, appropriately conserving the heritage resources…. While the new Shuter Building will require alterations to the Bond Wing, the design respects and maintains the relationship of the lobby entrance and existing courtyard through the use of transparent materials and setback from the existing building. As part of the rehabilitation of the designated Bond Wing building, conservation work including any necessary cleaning, restoration and repair of masonry will be completed as required.”
The proposal includes improvements to the pedestrian realm on Bond and Shuter streets. “Bond Street carries a complete redesign of the sidewalk and streetscape cross-section, including the reintroduction of street trees, curb side planting, lighting and supportive landscape on the parallel private property adjacent to the street,” states a letter to the city from the hospital’s lawyers.
The plan, on the northeast corner of the hospital site, is just part of a much larger scale renewal. The 17-storey Patient Care Tower, on the southwest corner of the property, is currently under construction.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Heritage Impact Assessment: 30 Bond Street, St. Michael’s Hospital

Downtown residents get early look-see at possibilities for new Wellesley Street park

A new downtown park is a rare thing, especially one of any size.
But this week, residents got a peek at what the 1.6-acre park slated for Wellesley Street between Bay and Yonge streets could look like. Landscape architects dtah presented concepts plans for the park based on what people have so far suggested for the space.
“People have talked a lot about wanting a green oasis, a respite from being in such a dense area. People talked about flexible spaces. For example, spaces that can be used as a market one day, for seating area another day or where kids can run around on another day,” says Corinne Fox, policy and standards development officer with Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
The unique opportunity came out of public demand for a park in the area, and the fact that Lanterra has two other adjacent properties on the block. “And so we were able to combine the parkland dedication of three developments to form a bigger park,” says Fox. Several years ago, Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam had lobbied the province, which had owned the land, to turn it into a park. Instead, it sold to Lanterra, leading Wong-Tam to lobby the developer to create a park next door to its 60-storey condo at 11 Wellesley. Council approved the development and park proposal in 2014. “If Lanterra had not worked with us, where a lot of the park is going to be would be mainly buildings,” says Fox.
Following this week’s consultation, an online consultation later this month and another meeting this summer, Fox says a final plan should be ready by the fourth quarter of 2016, with construction expected to be complete in 2018. The fact that the park will be built on top of a parking garage places some limitations on what form it can take. In 30 or 40 years, everything will have to be ripped up in order to place the parking garage’s water membrane. “That’s just the nature of a stratified park,” says Fox.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Corinne Fox

Seaton House replacement key to George Street revitalization

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee is asking City Council to endorse a revitalization of George Street that would be based around a new, combined community services hub replacing Seaton House, Canada’s largest homeless shelter.

The project would demolish the existing Seaton House to build a 600,000-square-foot multi-purpose facility providing a 100-bed emergency shelter program, a 378-bed long-term care home program, a 130-bed transitional assisted living program, 21 units of supported affordable housing and a community service hub. The existing Seaton House, which has been at its current site since 1959, can accommodate as man as 900 men—more than the proposed facility, which would offer a variety of program streams for people with various levels of need.

“Seaton House, with its aging physical plant and an environment that does not meet the needs of vulnerable men experiencing homelessness, is in critical need of redevelopment,” states the Executive Committee item adopted on October 20. “The combination of abandoned buildings and illicit activities on George Street has resulted in an air of neglect and has raised concerns for community safety.”

The new facility would, it’s hoped, provide “a unique opportunity to transform George Street, while setting a precedent for revitalization in the Garden District that is focused on providing a quality public realm and superior building design,” states the project overview released this month. “The redevelopment of the site will create a safe, inviting and vibrant place that reinstates the scale and rhythm of the greater neighbourhood. This project considers the building, site and streetscape comprehensively. Multiple entrances, new pathways, strong indoor-outdoor connections, dedicated landscaped areas, usable and flexible outdoor spaces all work to de-institutionalize George Street, while the restoration of heritage-designated properties revive the vernacular that defines the community’s
rich urban history.”

If the project moves ahead, City Council is being authorized to spend about $100,000 to conduct an analysis of project procurement and delivery options.

Source: City of Toronto
Writer: Paul Gallant

City adopts idea of food education hub on TDSB property at Dufferin and Bloor

The city is moving ahead on a proposal to a Toronto District School Board property into a hub for food and learning.

As Yonge Street reported in the spring, the 7.3-acre site at the corner of Bloor Street and Dufferin Street) is home of Bloor Collegiate Institute, Alpha II Alternative School and Kent Senior Public School. But the TDSB has designated the property for redevelopment and the city has put together an idea that would turn it into a community hub focusing on food and agriculture.

City council voted this week to enter into discussions with Toronto Lands Corporation (which is tasked with handling underused TDSB real estate), the Toronto District School Board, the province and FoodShare, a non-profit that works with communities and schools to deliver healthy food and food education, and other groups to come up with a plan. FoodShare’s HQ is already in the neighbourhood. The total property involved in a deal would be 10.4 acres and include Brockton High School, though a portion of the property would likely be sold to private developers to generate some revenue from the project.

“The property is strategically important for all four of the city’s defined municipal interests in school properties, and in particular is recommended as the setting for a flagship urban agriculture centre/community food hub, as requested by Council in 2013,” states the city’s agenda item. “Such a hub would promote linkages between education, community economic development and a healthy, sustainable urban food system.”

The staff report points out that there is a significant shortfall of licensed infant child care spaces in
Ward 18, where the property is located, as well as a shortage of parkland, both of which could be remedied with the right kind of facility. Since the provincial government has made the creation of community hubs one of its signature priorities, the city is hoping there will be increased motivation (and possibly cash) to make it happen. “Hubs can provide co-located services that are managed and delivered separately, or the hubs may be coordinated to respond to specific needs, populations, or sectors,” states the report. “Community hubs are advantageous in Toronto for many reasons, including potential cost-savings, service alignments and integration, the ability to target priority populations, bringing services to residents in their neighbourhoods, providing better customer service, and maximizing the use of and repurposing of public property. Every community hub will be spatially and organizationally unique, to reflect local conditions and community needs.”

An urban agriculture centre would provide education and training around growing food, provide economic opportunities and pathways to employment in the food processing and catering sectors, improve the city’s green infrastructure and create a vibrant public space.

The TDSB will review an updated report on the proposal next month.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

UPDATE: The headline and story have been amended to reflect council adopting the item at its Sep. 30 session.

Expansion of Markham Stouffville Hospital receives LEED Silver

After almost four years of construction and another year of paperwork, the Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) has received LEED Silver certification for its new 385,000-square-foot hospital expansion.
“I was jumping for joy,” says Suman Bahl, vice president, corporate services and capital development at MSH. “Overall we finished our project on time and under budget so this LEED Silver certification was like icing on the cake. Not that there was any doubt, but it’s a very tedious process. At one point we managed to get furniture that met the requirements of LEED and it was spreadsheets of every single item we ordered. There were thousands of line items for that one point.”
The LEED features, which are assessed and assigned points by the Canada Green Building Council after the building is complete, include a white roof membrane and green roof areas, exterior lighting designed to minimize light pollution and installation of low-flow fixtures to reduce water use. About 16 per cent of materials came from recycled content, while 31 per cent of material was manufactured and harvested within 800 kilometres of the project, or within 2,400 kilometres if shipped by rail or water.
In the year since the building was completed, hospital employees have gotten quite a bit of feedback, including compliments about the art. “It’s a calm, simple building without a lot of busy details,” says Bahl.
The expansion, which doubled the size of the hospital at a cost of about $400 million, makes MSH the first hospital in Ontario to build a central utility plant that supplies thermal energy, electricity and emergency power through Markham District Energy. Staff are still working on managing the new energy system to achieve maximum efficiency.
“The systems are all there and the technology is there to improve our energy usage, but we need to make a focused effort to get our usage down,” she says. “In some areas, you don’t have the same flexibility. An operating room runs 24/7 and even if it doesn’t run all night, you have to have the systems running in case there’s an emergency case. It’s not like we can just shut the lights off.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Suman Bahl

RAW Design’s whimsical Parapan sculptures deliver time-limited fun

Not every structure has to last forever to provide citizens with delight.
In January, Toronto’s RAW Design hosted a competition (which we wrote about in February) to transform five lifeguard stations in Beaches Park into playful temporary shelters from the winter wind and cold, luring out Torontonians who would have otherwise stayed inside waiting for spring to come. The project was inspired by Winnipeg’s annual Warming Huts competition, and caught the attention of Yvonne Koscielak, the City of Mississauga’s public art coordinator, who was looking for a project to celebrate the Parapan Am Games.
The resulting collaboration, a temporary public art installation called Art of Sport: Fitness Follies, opened last week on the Mississauga waterfront and will close—likely—in just six weeks. The three brightly coloured pieces, called Synchronicity, Velocity and Colosseum, are “designed to engage the body in a different way, provoking participants to test their balance, agility and perception.” In Colosseum, for example, kids can weave around or climb on a circular field of wooden poles of different heights. A platform in the middle is meant to evoke a medal ceremony podium.
“It’s a fun thing to design because it’s ephemeral, not weighty. You don’t have to worry about it hanging around for a long time, which is not to say we don’t take it seriously,” says Roland Rom Colthoff, founder of RAW. “It takes us five years to do a building. This took us five months. The immediate impact and the pleasure of creation and seeing people use it right away is great for us.”
Although the location in Lakeside Park, at the bottom of Southdown Road on Mississauga’s waterfront trail, seems remote, it can be a busy, well-used recreational space.
“At the opening we saw people using it exactly how we thought they would be, climbing all over the telephone poles, sliding and running up and down Velocity and hopping from post to post on Colosseum,” says  Rom Colthoff.
At least two of the pieces are tough enough to find a permanent home somewhere, he says, when the six weeks are up.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Roland Rom Colthoff

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

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

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

Women's College Hospital's façade joins the streetscape

Women’s College Hospital was, geographically speaking, always the outlier, tucked away up Elizabeth Street way, several blocks from University Avenue’s hospital row.

Then it raised a lot of money and started rebuilding itself in 2010. It’s still not on hospital row — its street address is still the same, in fact: 76 Grenville — but its presence in the city has skyrocketed, due mainly to its striking concrete College Street facade by architects Perkins Eastman Black and the IBI Group.

It’s not quite done yet, though the facade in its full neo-brutalist splendour is just now emerging. Though facilities moved into the new spaces in May, the work on the new 630,000 square foot complex is not due to be finished until 2016.

If CEO Marilyn Emery has her way, the new Women’s College Hospital will not only be more visible, it’ll be much more part of the community.

Due to what can only be called extreme consultation measures, including 25 focus groups and 35 online forums, the hospital’s interior design is looking to accommodate the women who live in the city now.

“Like seniors,” she told Yonge Street earlier in the development process, “and lesbian and queer women, lesbian and queer youth, the transgendered, women with addictions, abused women, women with disabilities, women living with HIV-AIDS, street workers, women with mental health issues, lower-income women, recent immigrants, Tamil women, Bengali women, Caribbean women, Mandarin-speaking women.…”

Emery trailed off, acknowledging that the list of Toronto’s diversity, at present and in the 30-year future she’s currently envisioning for the hospital, is more extensive than a single quotation can encompass.

Senior nuns' residence wins international design award

The Sisters of St. Joseph, who once ran much of the Catholic school system in Toronto, are a dwindling breed, but they've decided to dwindle in style, and the commission they gave to Shim-Sutcliffe Architects to build a home cum hospital for the older nuns in need of care has just won the World Architecture News Healthcare Award.

The project included a renovation of their existing residence, built in the 1850s on the Don Valley, and an addition in the form of a private hospital for 58 nuns along side it.

As the jury described it, “Forming a sinuous line between the Don Valley to the north and the low rise urban fabric of the city to the south, the Residence for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto articulates both individual contemplative life and the community engagement of the Sisters ministries, making relationships to Nature and City to reinforce public and private aspects.”

The new structure includes geothermal heating, green roofs, solar panels and a storm water management system.

The project was completed in April, 2013. Shim-Sutcliffe is one of Toronto's most awarded firms, with 12 Governor General's Medals since its formation in 1994, and is best known for Integral House (2009), Weathering Steel House (2001), and Laneway House (1993).

Writer: Bert Archer

North York to get new medical offices at new Finch West subway station

Real Wealth developers have announced there'll be a new medical arts building going up in North York.

The eight-storey, 165,000 square foot building will be 200 metres from the future Finch West subway station, and also near the new Humber River Regional Hospital at Keele and Wilson, which is scheduled to open on Oct. 18, 2015.

According to their spokesman, Stephen Murdoch, the project has been in the planning stages since 2011, and construction on the site of a former gas station and Tim Horton's at Finch and Keele is set to begin this fall.

"Findings showed that there was a lack of supply, namely in relation to all that is happening with the new hospital and all that are relocating to it from around Ontario and the Country," Murdoch says. "Current office and medical facilities are old, maintenance fees high, and inefficient, surrounded by an aging population."

Designed by ACK Architects, the building -- to be called University Heights – will offer its 89 office spaces both for rent and for sale.

The building will also qualify for tier 2 of Toronto's Green Standard, and will include 7,100 square feet of green roof.

Murdoch said the building is scheduled for occupancy in June, 2016.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Stephen Murdoch

Toronto Jail to be replaced by a park

The official handover was Dec. 31, they got the keys on Jan. 6, and if you go down to Broadview and Gerard today, you may see the windows coming off. It’s the end of the road for the Toronto Jail.

According to Shawna Curtis, a spokeswoman for Bridgepoint, the medical operation that runs the nearby hospital and has already occupied the old Don Jail building, the place should be gone by April, May at the latest.

In its place? A park.

"It will be knocked down and made into green space," Curtis says of the red brick building built in 1958 as an addition to its more famous predecessor, "with Blue Rodeo Way between that little piece of land and the old Don Jail."

Blue Rodeo Way, named for the band with strong Riverdale connections (their studio is nearby, and lead Jim Cuddy is a longtime Riverdalian) will link up with Jack Layton Way and Bridgepoint Drive.

The old Don Jail next door, which shut down in 1977 and was scheduled for demolition after it was deemed too dank and cold to be used for anything else, is now home to the offices of, among other Bridgepoint corporate employees, Shawna Curtis. Apparently, it’s a fine place to work.

"They've really paid a lot of attention to the inside o the building," she says. "It's an incredibly workable building."

Landscaping of the old Toronto Jail site is expected to start in May. PCL is in charge of the demolition.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Shawna Curtis
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