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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

New citizen’s panel brings fresh perspectives to the planning process

Reviewing the city’s Townhouse and Low-Rise Apartment Design Guidelines, Jason Wong offered some suggestions about locating gas and electricity meters where they could be readily inspected, but not so visible as to be eyesores. Though it remains to be seen if Wong’s ideas explicitly become part of the guidelines, the issues raised by the engineer from Scarborough will become part of the broader discussion about and evolution of the planning document.

“The writer of that guideline was sitting in the room with us, so there was active feedback,” says Wong, one of 28 members of the inaugural Toronto Planning Review Panel, a new body designed to bring a wide range of perspectives to the city’s planning process. Last year 12,000 households received an invitation to serve on the panel for a two-year term. The city chose members from more than 500 people who accepted the offer, using a civic lottery system that considered factors like age, geographic location, gender, household tenure (owner or not) and ethnicity to achieve diversity and bring in voices beyond the people who usually show up for planning meetings.

“We have a process that’s about improving our engagement process across our division and it has identified three population groups we’re not reaching as well as we could be, including youth, newcomers and renters,” says Daniel Fusca, chair of the Toronto Planning Review Panel and lead of stakeholder engagement in the Office of the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner.

Though other cities have various kinds of citizen-engagement planning processes, the panel is an especially made-in-Toronto solution meant to be cost-effective and relatively red-tape free. Members agree to attend six meetings a year and attend a series of orientation sessions to help them understand the broad strokes of the planning process. Fusca has been impressed so far. “They are eager, curious, progressive and sophisticated in their approach. They even insisted that meetings be longer than we had originally planned, so that they could have a greater opportunity to sink their teeth into the projects we brought to them. It is both inspiring and humbling to work with them.” Their feedback will be made available in a summary report so people can see how the feedback has been used.

Irv Raymon, an architect who lives in North York, is something of an insider on the panel, but sees the process as very worthwhile. “It’s an amazing effort on the part of the city to educate a group of randomly chosen people and then to get knowledge back from them on how things might be done in a better way for the city,” says Raymon.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Daniel Fusca, Jason Wong & Irv Raymon

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

Yonge Street between Bloor & College set to become Historic Conservation District

Grungy and greasy in spots, charming in others, Yonge Street between Bloor and College streets has a tremendous amount of history if you look closely enough.

This spring, City Council will consider a motion to designate that stretch of Toronto’s main street as Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District, which would set out a plan to preserve the look and feel of the area and restrict what many property owners can change about their buildings. Considering the number of developments in progress and proposed for this part of downtown, the designation could have interesting implications.

“A Heritage Conservation District is a planning tool that municipalities use to manage and guide change. It isn’t about freezing a neighbourhood,” says Tamara Anson-Cartwright, program manager of Heritage Preservation Services with the city’s planning department. “The reality is that Yonge Street has a very a dynamic history. This plan recognizes it’s not just about the Victoria buildings, but about the evolution of Yonge Street until the 1960s.”

A draft plan, released in January, was prompted when the Bay Cloverhill Community Association and the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association nominated the area as a Historic Conservation District (HCD). The plan, likely what council will vote on, states that this part of Yonge Street is “valued for its commercial main street character which is expressed, in part, by mixed-use and commercial buildings that housed the services, amenities, and employment opportunities to support daily life in neighbouring residential areas. St. Nicholas Village, and the residential buildings within it, reflects this historic relationship and reinforces [the area’s] sense of place.”

The plan also sets out guidelines for buildings that are listed as contributing to the area’s character. Additions, alterations, maintenance and repair work could only be undertaken after the impact on the area is considered. Contributing façades would have be be preserved. Demolition or removal of buildings or structures on contributing properties would not be permitted and new construction would have to reflect the height and massing of the existing building stock.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tamara Anson-Cartwright

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

BILD talks state of GTA housing market at Green Homes Summit

GTA home buyers are still very reluctant to pay more for an environmentally friendly place to live, but rapid changes in technology and construction methods are bringing the prices of greener homes down, says the president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

Bryan Tuckey is speaking this week about the state of home building in the GTA at the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council’s Green Homes Summit. The gathering of industry folk will explore new developments in greening for residential construction ranging from “ground-related” homes—that is single-family, semi-detached and townhomes—up to 12-storey midrise buildings.

“Embedded in BILD’s strategic plan is sustainability and green buildings. Our members are leaders in building greener homes,” says Tuckey. “Consumers are still price sensitive and tend to look in the shorter term than the longer term, so you really have to educate the buyer about energy efficiency and that’s still one of the challenges in front of the industry.” Faced with a choice between floor-to-ceiling windows or a lower energy bill, many buyers will still pick the former.

Amidst all the speculation about whether the GTA housing market is a bubble that will some day burst, Tuckey says the numbers suggest otherwise. Household formation in the region—which has held steady at about 36,000 annually since the early 2000s—is still proportional to the number of homes built here each year, about 35,000 in 2015.

“There’s not really a bubble. You’re just building to family formation,” says Tuckey.

But the market has essentially split in two, the low-rise and the high-rise market. The demand for ground-related homes far outpaces supply, fuelling double-digit price increases, up 17 per cent from 2014 to 2015. Condo prices, by contrast, have flat-lined, as supply has managed to keep up with demand.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Bryan Tuckey

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

Environmental assessment clears way for phase two of West Toronto Railpath

When the West Toronto Railpath was first talked about back in 2002, it was possible to imagine a multi-use trail system running from the Junction right downtown right along the railway tracks to Union Station.

Though Metrolinx’s transit ambitions and condo development have over time limited the scope of where such a path can go, a long-awaited environmental assessment (EA) now points the way forward on how the path can be extended further toward the city centre. Phase one, which opened in 2009, provided a path from Cariboo Avenue to Dundas Street West. Phase two could extend the path to Abell and Sudbury streets relatively quickly.

“It is very exciting to have the EA closed so that Railpath 2 can finally move into the design stage,” says Scott Dobson, a member of Friends of West Toronto Railpath. “The great thing about the EA process is that frankly everybody loves Railpath. Everybody [who has seen it] gets it and wants to see it expand.”

For all extension possibilities beyond Abell, the EA calls for further study, leaving out Liberty Village. But Dobson says he’s pleased the EA cleared the way to get the path south of Queen, though between Dufferin and Abell the path will have to run adjacent to, not in, the rail corridor.

“There was no point in doing something that made nobody happy and strayed from the spirit of Railpath, but at the same time nobody wanted to stall the rest of the route up to Dundas where Railpath currently ends. So all stakeholders felt that getting it built to Abell, while continuing to explore southerly options, was the best option,” says Dobson. “A few years ago, nobody wanted land near or in the rail corridor but now that land is scarce and valuable. At the end of the day, it is because of increased density and new transit projects, which is a good thing. But figuring out the exact route has been time consuming.”

The next step is for an RFP to be tendered for detailed design of the extention. Beyond expansion south, Dobson says advocates are also in the early stages of looking north to go from the north tip of Railpath at Cariboo up to St. Clair Avenue.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Scott Dobson

29-storey tower initial move to redevelop entire Queen East block

The city block bounded by Mutual, Queen East, Shuter and Dalhousie streets will be completely re-imagined over the next few years, starting with a 29-storey mixed-use building called 88 North, with the project slated to launch this spring.

The development application filed last month by St. Thomas Developments, the company behind One St. Thomas Residences and 7 St. Thomas, will offer 421 residential units and approximately 810 square metres of retail at street level fronting on Shuter Street, all on a 0.29-hectare site that’s now the home of a parking lot. But this project, designed by Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects, is just the first phase in a larger plan for the entire block.

There have been development applications for the block dating back to 1979, and during that there have been many changes to the proposals and the zoning by-laws governing the property. In the early 2000s, three 28-storey towers, at the same 30 Mutual/88 Queen East address as 88 North, were proposed, as well as other mid-rise buildings. At that time, city staff recommended permitting that development, though St. Michael’s Cathedral was concerned about the shadow impacts of the development on the cathedral.

According to a description of current proposal by the developer’s lawyers, “the base of the proposed tower is intended to be dominated by food-related retail uses at the street level, with retractable glazed storefront partitions that will oopen up in good weather to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces with patios animating the street and park, creating a vibrant and active urban environment.... The podium is conceived as a series of stacked glass boxes that enclose two-storey loft units. The glass boxes of the podium are composed as a series of interlocking objects that add architectural interest to the podium.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto, Devine Park LLP

Sauna, fur-lined dome among winners in Winter Station competition

When the architects at RAW Design launched Toronto’s Winter Stations competition last year, asking designers to come up with whimsical installations to liven up the waterfront east of Ashbridges Bay during the tough winter months, they were thinking locally: The Beach neighbourhood specifically and the City of Toronto more generally.

But the 380 entries in this year’s competition, themed Freeze/Thaw, came from designers from all over the world, with one of the four winning 2016 submissions hailing from the UK.

“We kind of went viral and once stuff went on the web, we attracted interest from all over the place,” says Aaron Hendershott, an architect at RAW. “There’s an interest in recreating some of these installations and bringing what we do here to other cities. Certainly there’s a lot of interest in design for the wintertime, something that gives people an excuse to go out and enjoy the city in the winter. The beach isn’t just a summertime environment.”

The UK winner, Sauna by Claire Furnley and James Fox at Leeds-based FFLO landscape architects, is an actual sauna, where passersby can see through the transparent exterior to bathers thawing out on tiered seating inside. “I’m interested in stations that are really going to provoke a new type of community space. The Sauna entry is calmer from a design perspective but I’m intrigued how this will work in a public space,” says Hendershott, who worked on the competition with the jury and fellow organizers at Ferris + Associates and Curio.

The station called In the Belly of a Bear, by Caitlind r.c Brown, Wayne Garrett and Lane Shordee of Calgary, has visitors climb up a wooden ladder into a domed interior lined with fur. Floating Ropes, by MUDO (Elodie Doukhan and Nicolas Mussche) of Montreal, offers a suspended cube of ropes in which visitors take shelter. Flow, by Team Secret (Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh) of Toronto, allows 3D star-shaped modules to be reconfigured into different structures with slot-fitting wooden connections.

The four winners, along with stations designed by students at OCAD, Ryerson and Laurentian universities, will be built from February 10 to 14 along Kew, Scarborough and Balmy beaches south of Queen Street East, between Woodbine and Victoria Park avenues. Installations will debut on February 15, and stay open to the public until March 20. Each station is required to cost less than $10,000 in materials and labour.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Aaron Hendershott

PortsToronto releases first annual sustainability report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: PortsToronto

Council votes for tougher enforcement of tree violations, less notice for tree removal

Earlier this month, City Council backed revisions to Toronto’s tree by-laws to improve enforcement and transparency, and to provide better, faster customer service.

The by-laws that protect trees on city property and privately owned trees of a certain size were last amended in 2011. The revisions would change how fees applied when a possible contravention of the by-laws takes place.

“The collection of fees will serve as a deterrent and make the contravention inspection process more equitable and efficient,” states the staff report. “Since the creation of the tree by-laws, their administration has been primarily based on an educational and compliance model. As a result, thousands of property owners, developers and builders have been educated on the importance of protecting and enhancing the city's urban forest. While most individuals respect and follow the tree by-laws, numerous contraventions are reported and investigated each year. Urban Forestry is aware of increasing community expectation that enhanced enforcement activities should be utilized as a tool to improve tree protection.”

Urban Forestry would have more clout in ordering that contravening activity be stopped or that work be done to correct the contravention. “Urban Forestry can also take legal action and pursue prosecution when warranted by the magnitude of the contravention.”

Urban Forestry issues approximately 5,600 permits annually, generating revenue of about $1.13 million. Although the changes are intended to improve response times and compliance, the staff report says the proposed amendments will not have an impact on total revenue. Organizations like the Swansea Area Ratepayers group have expressed concern about the new rates.

The action item would fine-tune several other regulations and policies regarding trees. For example, it would make by-laws more explicit about the definition of a “boundary tree” whose trunk crosses one or more property line, eliminate the need to post notices of application to injure healthy trees (notice will still be posted for the removal of trees), require that replacement trees be maintained in good condition for two years after planting, require that replacement trees that die or are in poor condition within two years shall be replaced and eliminate the current permit exception for injuring or destroying a tree for the purpose of erecting a fence. “In most cases a fence can be erected while protecting trees. Amendments are proposed that will eliminate this exception and require property owners to submit an application when a fence will be erected and trees may be injured or removed,” states the report.

Some community groups have expressed concern about reduce the notice process in “as of right” applications. “Basically, the recommendation would neuter councillors,” Jim Baker, president of the Avenue Road Eglinton Community Association, wrote to council. “It would make councillors the brunt of the public’s ire when the public becomes aware that a mature tree has been approved to be removed with just one day’s notice to the public advising of the approval.
Presently reducing the notice period from 14 days to 0 days is a substantive shift in the process.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto
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