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Plan for new bus terminal at Kipling Station moves ahead

Metrolinx is moving ahead with plans for a new 14-bay bus terminal for Kipling Station to improve the integration of GO Bus, GO Train, Mississauga Transit and TTC services at the hub.
The proposed GO and Mississauga MiWay terminal would be to the west of the site at Dundas Street West and Kipling, separate from the existing TTC bus terminal. The new parking and access arrangements would reconfigure the local road network, including a new intersection on Dundas. The plan also attempts to improve access to pedestrians and cyclists.
As a provincial agency, Metrolinx is not required to obtain site plan approval from the City of Toronto, but it filed one this month, agreeing “to work with the City and to take in City comments as input,” states a letter from Jill Hogan, manager of Community Planning in Etobicoke York District that was filed along with several reports on how the new terminal will affect the area.
With major MiWay connections moving to Kipling, the TTC would be able to rebuild the Islington bus terminal “to provide full accessibility and increased redevelopment potential at that station,” states an FAQ from Metrolinx.
An earlier design concept had the new bus terminal located under the transmission lines in the Hydro One corridor/easement, but because of “changes in Hydro One restrictions on development in their corridor, that concept no longer satisfies Hydro One requirements.”

March 30 Update: Kim Johnson, media relations and issues specialist for Metrolinx, says the agency is working on having a preliminary design for the hub ready by the end of 2016 for posting for tender bids.With a design-build contractor on board by mid-2017, the tentative completion of the facility would be the end of 2019.

“Public input is very important during the planning stages and we take all resident concerns in account as we continue on with the project. Extensive stakeholder collaboration is currently ongoing as further design development continues,” says Johnson. “The mobility hub concept is not just about the transit station—it includes the surrounding neighbourhood and is about creating an opportunity to live, work and play, while also being regionally connected.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Metrolinx, Kim Johnson

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

Marriott's Courtyard Toronto Downtown could be replaced with much taller towers

If Yonge Street south of Bloor already seems like an endless series of excavation and construction sites, a new plan for the site of the Marriott’s Courtyard Toronto Downtown may add even more hustings to the mix.
The address 475 Yonge Street is currently home to the largest Courtyard Marriott in the country, with 575 rooms in two buildings, nine and 16 storeys each, connected by a one-storey commercial podium. The proposal submitted this month by Hunter and Associations Ltd. on behalf of CYM Toronto Acquisition LP, would replace the existing structures with two towers, one 65 storeys, the other 45 storeys, connected by a five-storey podium, all designed by Toronto’s Quadrangle Architects.
 “KingSett Capital and InnVest REIT are pleased to announce major plans to position a key downtown Toronto hotel property for the future,” says Nicholas Lakas, vice president of asset management at InnVest REIT.
The new complex would contain 988 residential units, a 289-suite hotel—about half the rooms of the existing hotel—four levels of underground parking, two stories of retail and commercial property and a mid-block pedestrian promenade on the east side of the property to link streets and open spaces in the community. “In our opinion, two sensitively designed tall towers elements are appropriate for the site and fit this key site along Yonge Street, just north of College Street. It will positively contribute to the downtown skyline, with heights that are compatible with the recently approved buildings,” states the report.
In the meantime, the Courtyard by Marriott Toronto is undergoing a $14-million renovation project to renew all the guestrooms, meeting rooms and public spaces. “The renovation project, scheduled for completion in June, demonstrates ownership’s commitment to the on-going operations of the hotel and the delivery of memorable customer experience to our guests,” says Lakas.
The project is certainly in the middle of a hot development zone. Immediately north, at 501 Yonge, excavation has begun on Lanterra’s TeaHouse, which will have two towers at 52 and 25 storeys each. Across the street at 484 Yonge, Kingsett Capital has a 45-storey tower planned, while just a smidge south at 460 Yonge, Canderel is putting up its 66-storey YC Condos building.
The skyscrapering of Yonge aside, the proposed reduction in the number of hotel rooms on the site is also noteworthy. Just a few blocks further south, a proposal for the Chelsea Hotel submitted last fall would see the existing building at Yonge and Gerrard replaced by four towers—80, 50, 74 and 46 storeys—and one six-storey mid-rise structure. Although that plan would create 1,897 residential units, as well as more commercial space, the number of hotel rooms at the Chelsea would drop to 300 from the 1,590 it now has.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Nicholas Lakas, Planning Rationale Report

Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District approved

Council voted last week to designate the stretch of Yonge Street between Bloor and Carleton/College streets as a Historical Conservation District (HCD), providing increased protection for the area’s architecture and history.
While the plan, currently in draft form, will preserve the look and feel of the area and restrict what many property owners can change about their buildings, Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Yonge BIA, says he wish the city could go further to maintain the gritty, indie character of the “old bastion” of Yonge Street.

“This is one of the last remaining sections of downtown that really has those old iconic businesses, retailers that have been there since I was a kid. I think the HCD is a good thing to preserve the heritage component, but for me it may not have enough teeth around protecting the lived experience. What I’m always afraid of is the usual Toronto façade-ism,” he says. “We have to maintain the independent retail space. We’ve done studies that people want to have the small independent coffee shops, the chocolatiers, the butchers, the vegetable and fruit stands that provide a great retail experience.”
The city states the HCD is “not meant to prevent new development or prescribe the style of new development within the district. Rather an HCD Plan allows for the ongoing evolution of a district, while guiding new development to be sympathetic to its character.”
The Downtown Yonge BIA currently only extends to Carleton/College—just outside the new HCD. But the organization expects to absorb Yonge Street south of Bloor, which does not have a business improvement area, within the next year. The BIA would have to balance the more bombastic and chain-oriented Yonge and Dundas area with the quirkier and sometimes seedier stretch north of College. “I think our BIA respects what the neighbourhoods are about so we’re advocating for the right things,” says Garner.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mark Garner

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

City hosts open house showcasing design options for Bloor bike lane pilot this summer

Almost 40 years after Bloor Street was first identified as an ideal candidate for bike lanes, the city is taking another small step toward making it a reality.
At an open house this week, the city will show off possible designs for a pilot project on Bloor Street West between Shaw Street and Avenue Road, opening up the possibility of “Bikes on Bloor” by late summer. After a survey, an earlier open house and many other stakeholder consultations, the city is presenting what it’s calling Option C: a curbside cycle track lane which features separation elements (parked cars or flexiposts) between the bike lane and the traffic lane, as well as between the bike lane and parked cars (the “door zone”). Options A, with no parking lanes at all, and B, with curbside parking have been set aside since the last open house.

 “Bloor and Danforth been sought-after by the cycling community for so long because, as streets in the city of Toronto go, they’re relatively rare: long east-west streets without streetcar tracks that connect a lot of places of origin with lots of destinations, with a vibrant shopping district,” says Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto. The advocacy group has been working on convincing business owners along Bloor and Danforth that bike lanes would be good for them and their customers. They’ve signed up more than 80 businesses who support the project and collected more than 8,000 signatures on its petition.
The city has seriously wrestled with the idea since it commissioned a study in 1992. An earlier environmental assessment of bike lanes on Bloor and Danforth, which was eventually waylaid by Mayor Rob Ford’s administration, was supposed to look at the possibility of bike lanes on more than 20 kilometres of road from Kipling to Victoria Park.
The current initiative is much more bite-sized and, as a pilot project, will be subject to monitoring and re-evaluation. City staff will be making the case that Option C, which will be the focus of Wednesday’s meeting, will provide a more comfortable experience for cyclists, discourage motorists from parking, standing or stopping illegally in the bike lane, provide opportunities to improve the pedestrian environment and streetscape, and eliminate the need for motorists to yield to cyclists to access parking. On-street parking will alternate between the north and south sides to provide “an equitable approach to businesses and residents, and provides drivers with potential parking in either direction.”
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jared Kolb, City of Toronto

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

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.

Sourcing materials tough for pioneering wooden mid-rise

Building Toronto’s first modern wooden mid-rise has certainly been a learning curve, starting with where to get the construction materials.

Following the lead of British Columbia, Ontario changed its building codes last January to allow wooden building structures of up to six storeys. First out of the gates in Toronto is Heartwood the Beach, a six-storey, 37-unit condo building by Fieldgate Urban and designed by Quadrangle architects to wear its wood soul right on its sleeve.

“We went with cross-laminated timber because we wanted it to be an expressively wood building,” says project principal Richard Witt. “Because it is very thick timber, the fire ratings are inherent in the wood. These slabs of wood can burn for three hours, similar to concrete. Because of that, it doesn’t need drywall protection and you can have the wood exposed on the ceilings and sometimes also the walls. Not having drywall is a huge advantage. You can be sitting on the couch and you look up and it’s wood. I don’t know if that’s ever been the case before, except for loft conversions.” Though the cladding of the building must be non-combustible, the designers are using Oko Skin on the exterior, a product that evokes planks of wood, and board-formed concrete where you can see the imprint of the wooden planks used in the form.

Though wood construction is considered to be somewhat cheaper than traditional concrete-and-steel construction techniques, these are still early days in the province and the supply chain can’t be described as particularly robust right now. Many of the components for Heartwood the Beach will be built with machines in a factory and then installed at the Queen East and Woodbine location, reducing the on-site construction time, as well as the on-site noise and dirt. But the Heartwood team has not been able to source cross-laminated timber in Ontario and is considering suppliers in British Columbia, Quebec and Germany. Yes, shipping components from Europe could be the best option. With four or five wooden mid-rise projects currently on the go after Heartwood starts in March, Quadrangle hopes more local suppliers will come online.

“After we’ve done a few of them, the potential for savings should be there,” says Witt. “People are beginning to think of wood construction. There’s a lot of interest in it. There’s also a lot of people who are waiting to see someone else do all the heavy lifting before they jump in once it’s all figured out.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Richard Witt

Exhibition focuses on architect behind the Balfour Building and other early 20th century gems

A new exhibition at Urbanspace Gallery will spotlight one of Toronto’s most significant architects of the early 20th century.

Four of the buildings designed by Benjamin Brown—the Balfour and Tower buildings, the Hermant building, the Primrose Club and Beth Jacob Synagogue—have made indelible marks on the city with a a design that’s Art Deco and traditionally functional. The show, Benjamin Brown: Architect, curated by the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) and the Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA), features original drawings, blueprints, watercolour presentation boards, historical photographs and maps that will help Torontonians understand Brown’s approaches and his contributions to the urban landscape.

“The OJA is thrilled to showcase the life of this relatively unknown, yet brilliant, architect while providing a lens into the Jewish community during this time,” stated Dara Solomon, director of the OJA, in a news release.

A young immigrant from Eastern Europe, Benjamin Brown studied at the Ontario School of Art and Design and the University of Toronto architectural program to became one of the first practising Jewish architects in Toronto. Perhaps his best known building is the Balfour Building at 119 Spadina Avenue, which was something of the epicentre of the city’s garment district in the 1920s and ’30s. “Many Jewish-owned garment businesses such as furriers, cloak and coat makers, and tailors set up shop here,” states a note about the exhibition. “The floor plans revealed that large open spaces were incorporated into the design for rows of sewing machines and large fabric swaths to be unrolled and cut.”

The exhibition runs until April 23 at Urbanspace Gallery at 401 Richmond Street West.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Urbanspace Gallery

Confused pedestrians rejoice! Improvements coming to PATH system signage

For almost a century, Toronto’s downtown has been criss-crossed with underground passages that have allowed pedestrians to avoid the weather and traffic, if not each other.

After a growth spurt in the 1960s and ’70s, there are now more than 30 kilometres of pedestrian walkways known as PATH connecting the basements of 75 buildings and 1,200 retailers, mostly in the financial district, with more tunnels planned in downtown south and toward the St. Lawrence Market area.

Despite iconic signage and maps designed in 1988 by Gottschalk, Ash International, and Keith Muller Ltd., navigating PATH is not for the easily befuddled. PATH has evolved haphazardly and inconsistently. There are maps in most building entrances, but it’s hard for a neophyte to know when they’ve left one building and entered another, or find their way into the system at all. So the Toronto Financial District BIA is doing a survey with the intention of improving the PATH wayfinding system.

“Last year we completed a PATH audit where we looked at every PATH location, every PATH sign and every PATH map to identify the key problems that are currently out there,” says Tim Kocur, communications manager at the BIA.

The seeds of the initiative started in 2011, before the founding of the BIA, when the city initiated a master plan study to shape the growth and enhancement of the pedestrian network over the next 30 years. The plan found that “many tourists and first time users of the network in particular, have difficulty interpreting the existing signage and mapping to find their way. It’s also clear that many people simply do not know how and where to enter the PATH. Connections between the PATH and the street are often difficult to find, and poorly signed. Survey work by the Master Plan
team indicates that about 25 per cent of entrances to the network are indicated by signage.” That plan suggested a separate study on wayfinding and signage, a project the BIA has taken on.

The ’80s-era logo will not likely change. “The PATH is an extremely well-known brand. The original branding firm did an excellent job. It’s very well used by the city and by the buildings. When you say PATH, most people in the downtown core know exactly what you’re talking about,” says Kocur.

Kocur says the BIA expects to have a proposed new map ready in May for further public and stakeholder input.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tim Kocur

Parts of CAMH’s ‘Lunatic Asylum wall’ to come down

City council has voted to permit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to alter parts of the historic 19th century Provincial Lunatic Asylum wall that once surrounded the property at 1001 Queen Street West so the organization can build two new buildings and create new publicly accessible open spaces and roads.

CAMH is allowed to remove the northernmost bay of the historic east wall along Shaw Street and to make alterations to the south wall, as long as the alterations are in accordance with the conservation plan prepared by ERA Architects.

“The current conservation strategy for the historic wall includes the preservation of the masonry wall [on several segments], including repointing, cleaning, resetting of displaced stones, replacement of damaged/missing bricks, removal of cementitious material and installation of new flashings and stone caps,” states the report. “Two modern additions flanking the east storage building will be removed allowing for the restoration of the portions of the south wall that are currently concealed. Later openings will be bricked in, all masonry, original steel windows and doors will be conserved while the roofing, flashings and downspouts will be replaced.”

City staff acknowledge the removal of the section at Queen and Shaw Streets represents “the loss of a very prominent portion of the historic wall,” but stated that the section is “severely deteriorated due to water saturation, that there is an opportunity to open this corner to the new park and that the much-needed salvaged materials from the dismantling will be reused in the preservation of the wall in other areas.”

“The wall is dated to 1851 with additions through that decade and is strongly associated with the social and architectural history of Toronto,” states the report.

The proposed CAMH redevelopment is part of the 2002 master plan to create a new multi-use neighbourhood on the site.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

U of T picks architects for new Civilizations and Cultures building

The University of Toronto’s new Centre for Civilizations and Cultures, proposed for 90 Queen’s Park Crescent, has the daunting task of not only providing a home for a number of academic departments that may not otherwise find themselves rubbing shoulders, but also living up to the standards of the heavy-hitting museums and cultural institutions that will be its neighbours.

“We have a president [Meric Gertler] that’s made an engagement with cities and taking advantage of our physical location a significant priority, so we’ve also been thinking of the outward connections of this building to the campus and to the greater city of Toronto,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations.

Last week the university announced that Toronto’s Architects Alliance, partnered with New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, have been chosen to design the high-profile new building, to be built on the site once occupied by the Royal Ontario Museum’s McLaughlin Planetarium.

The budget and what the building will look like are still undermined, though a consultation process with tenants, the community and other stakeholders over the next few months should contribute to a preliminary schematic plan by the summer. The two architecture firms were chosen not for a particular design proposal, but after an extensive interview process that evaluated the success of other projects the firms had worked on.

The centre will provide a home for the department of history, the department of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations, the Institute of Islamic Studies and the research arm of the Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. It will also feature a 250-seat performance hall for the Faculty of Music.

“Our Faculty of Music sits behind this location, so the recital hall will help give the faculty a presence on Queen’s Park,” says Mabury. “It will give them a gateway onto Queen’s Park, as well as a compelling entrance, taking advantage of the plaza possibilities and doing that in a way that connect the activities in the building with the greater public and the city.”

The architects are also tasked with improving access to Philosopher’s Walk, one of the city’s best-loved hidden secret, which passes by Trinity College, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the ROM.

“We won’t be tinkering with the walk itself but we do think that gem deserves to be accessible. One could imagine folks exiting the ROM or the Gardiner Museum across the street or coming to an event in the Civilizations and Culture building, who might want to finish off their experience with a stroll through Philosopher’s Walk,” Mabury says.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Scott Mabury

Developers open conversation for Galleria Shopping Centre redevelopment

At the open house about the future of the Galleria Shopping Centre at the corner of Dufferin and Dupont streets last weekend, there weren’t any architectural renderings but there were a lot of ideas on sticky notes.

Developers Elad Canada Inc. and Freed Developments hosted the well-attended public meeting at the mall itself, which is often maligned for its dated 1970s vibe, slim offerings and oversized parking lot. The 12-acre site, which sold for an estimated $80 million, has had a long redevelopment history of false starts. A 2004 application went the furthest, proposing 1,600 residential condominium units in six buildings ranging between six and 19 storeys, as well as a block of 20 stacked townhouses, four new public streets and 1.35 acres of parkland added to adjacent Wallace-Emerson Park. The current developers have said the 2004 proposal does match what they see for the site—they want the property to be mixed use with commercial—and seem to be in listening mode. So were community members, some of who fear massive towers, while others see any proposal as an improvement.

“My takeway is that the developers recognize that it’s a site with enormous potential just because of the size,” says Evan Castel, an attendee and co-chair of the Davenport Neighbourhood Association. “They’re also aware of the diverse interests and diverse needs of the neighbourhood and so they seem to want to move forward in a collaborative way.”

Residents were concerned about density and the ability of the neighbourhood to absorb large numbers of new residents; the Dufferin bus can be pretty packed. Green space was also up for discussion, says Castel.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Evan Castel

Harbord Village Green Plan paves way for un-paving

A new plan to green up Harbord Village could become a template for other Toronto neighbourhoods to replace asphalt and concrete with trees, plants and grass.

“It’s a real breakthrough for us because this will be the first time the city will have rules of engagement over all the paved spaces that have been identified as possible green spaces,” says Sue Dexter, a member of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association and co-author of 2015 Harbord Village Green Plan. “It’s the beginning of a roll-out of a change in the landscape in a significant part of town, which could be replicated wherever there are lanes or flanking spaces.”

Though the area, bounded by Bloor, College and Bathurst streets and Spadina Avenue, has a lot of greenery, it has very little designated park land. The area’s 16 “pinchpoint planters”—concrete structures which narrow streets, signal one-ways and calm traffic—require regular care by residents and are frequently the target of graffiti artists.

The study proposes using “flanking spaces”—the often unoccupied city-owned paved spaces separating commercial and residential zones—for tree plantings, bike parking and seating. “Such spaces are contingent on sight-line priorities for safe routing of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians,” states the report. “In many places however, especially on corners along Harbord and flanking businesses on Bloor, there are lost opportunities to establish in-ground planting or raised container beds.” The plan also proposes greening some of the neighbourhood’s 25 laneways, starting with Croft Laneway and Sussex Mews.

“I think there will be an increased sense of stewardship and pride in our back spaces,” says Dexter. “People see the front of their house as the public space, so they put in gardens, doll it up. I think that if people realize they’ve also got a rear address to the world, then they’ll see they don’t need to give their rear address over to their automobiles.”

Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) Councillor Joe Cressy has championed the plan. Dexter says the association is working with him to bring a motion to council that would better coordinate the street paving cycle and ad hoc utility digging to create opportunities to increase green space. Though the initiative may first apply only to Harbord Village, Dexter expects other Toronto residents would want to have access to the same process.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sue Dexter
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