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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

Mississauga’s Sheridan Park gets $46-million reno

SNC-Lavalin’s Mississauga digs are getting more than a facelift, with a $45-million investment by its landlord.

Slate Office REIT will revitalize two key properties in Mississauga’s Sheridan Park, which will house SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear work in 215,000 square feet of research, development and office space for an initial term of 10 years. The buildings at 2251 and 2285 Speakman Drive will be re-purposed and modernized, incorporate optimum energy and environmental efficiency technology.

“We’re extremely pleased to have strengthened our relationship with SNC-Lavalin over the long term in a deal that represents tremendous value for both sides, and in doing so helped to re-invigorate an important business centre such as Mississauga’s Sheridan Park,” Scott Antoniak, Chief Executive Officer of Slate Office stated in a news release.

SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear team provides nuclear technology products and full-service solutions to nuclear utilities around the globe, though the work they do at Sheridan Park doesn’t involve handling nuclear materials. The company has owned the building at 2233 Speakman Drive since the 1980s. The area was one of North America’s first corporate research parks.

Source: Slate Office REIT
Writer: Paul Gallant

Opposition builds against Metrolinx Davenport Diamond railway plan

Residents living near the Davenport Diamond railway crossing are worried that Metrolinx is pushing through a plan to build a 1.4-kilometre rail overpass through their neighbourhood without consultation or sufficient forethought.

Metrolinx released a feasibility study last month that endorsed the overpass option, claiming that it would cost $140 million compared to $406 million for a trench and $626 million for a tunnel. Metrolinx also estimated the overpass would be much quicker to build. But Sam Barbieri, a member of the newly formed group Options for Davenport, says that in choosing the overpass, the government agency didn't seriously consider other options or sufficiently address the possible negative impacts on the area. Metrolinx released the plan in the spring, much to the surprise of the community and the City of Toronto, soliciting ideas for what to do with the space under the overpass as if that was the only topic for discussion.

“Metrolinx has a way of saying things that promote their preferred option only,” says Barbieri. “We've been very frustrated because we haven't gotten a lot of straight answers from them.”

Metrolinx wants to remove the crossing of its tracks and the east-west CP freight line at Davenport and Lansdowne, known as the Davenport Diamond, to increase GO train service along the Barrie corridor. Options for Davenport describes the overpass proposal as a “Mini Gardiner” that would be as high as three storeys, creating noise and casting shadows on the surrounding area. Metrolinx created a community reference panel to come up with ideas to mitigate the impact of the overpass, including cycling and walking paths, as well as possibilities for lighting and design. But Barbieri says there are no plans or money to maintain the space.

The City is expected to release a report on the proposal in advance of a streamlined provincial environmental assessment, set to take about six months beginning in November. Construction could start soon after that.

Barbieri says that not only should the overpass itself be reconsidered, but whatever option goes ahead should take into account the long-term goal of electrifying the GO Train system. “Right now all the thinking is so short term,” he says.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sam Barbieri

Humbertown redevelopment goes under the microscope at Swedish conference

How do you accommodate large-scale sustainable growth right next to low-rise neighbourhoods?

In a presentation last month at the Performative Places conference in Lund, Sweden, Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker, a partner at Toronto's Urban Strategies, used the company's Humbertown project as an example of how smart urban design can reduce environmental impact through increased density, greener buildings and shared community spaces.

The project at Royal York and Dundas West, which last year won the Excellence in Planning Award for Urban/Community design from the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI), would replace a 1950s shopping plaza with a mixed-use village within Humber Valley Village, doubling the commercial space and adding 1,000 residents in a variety of building types, with 12 storeys as the highest building.

Despite the increased density and more intensive uses, there would be five times the number of trees on the site, including green roofs, and a goal of LEED Gold sustainable buildings. Interestingly, the site plan, broken down into five blocks, echoes the existing shopping centre's footprint, a nod to the historic significance of one of the GTA's earliest modern shopping plazas. But the parking, now a dominant feature of the site, will move underground to make way for public spaces that recognize the Kingsway as a main square, knitting the development back into the broader community.

“Humbertown is taking a site which is highly underutilized today, but still plays an important role as the focus of its community from a single-use development pattern to a mixed use development, which is by its nature more efficient, introducing opportunities for different forms of living into the Humber Valley community,” Rottenberg-Walker told Yonge Street Media after the conference. “Children who have grown up there can conceivably buy their first apartment there. There's a retirement housing component, so at the other end of the spectrum, once you've finished with your large house, there's a possibility of moving into a condominium or something that has assisted living.”

Initial community opposition has largely evaporated after extensive consultation. “You're asking for people to buy into something they can't see or feel,” she says. “The reason it happens is that people care passionately about where they live.”

The project is currently awaiting site plan approval. After about a year of infrastructure work is done, construction could start within the year.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker

Residents try to avoid OMB hearing over massive Esplanade development

Both the city and local residents are pressing Sentinel (Sherbourne) Land Corp./Pemberton Group to rethink its development proposals for an entire block of land between Front and The Esplanade, Lower Sherbourne and Princess as they approach an Ontario Municipal Board hearing next year.

A couple of weeks ago, city council voted to oppose the July 2015 zoning amendment application for the lands at 177, 183 and 197 Front Street East, 15-21 Lower Sherbourne Street and 200 The Esplanade, sometimes called the Acura-Sobeys site. That application proposed four towers on 10-storey podiums, ranging from 25 to 33 storeys, creating 1,679 residential units and 1,913 square metres of ground floor retail along Front Street. The city wants the heights reduced to below 30 and 20 storeys, among other changes.

A working group was struck in the spring. Suzanne Kavanagh, president of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, says they have been making progress in coming up with a proposal that's more acceptable to the neighbourhood.

“We've been asking them to think of what they'll be most proud of in 20 years,” says Kavanagh. For starters, residents would like the buildings to recognize David Crombie Park with appropriate setbacks and provide an east-west connection through the site. The buildings also have to be appropriate for the area's heritage district status. “We are optimistic that they're listening to us.”

The first proposal was a wall of three 34-storey towers.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Suzanne Kavanagh

Waterfront Toronto presents feedback on Queens Quay revitalization

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

Vacant Sherbourne lot gets art, tender loving care in advance of new apartment building

When rental apartment developer Oben Flats filed its application to redevelop the property at 307 Sherbourne, kitty-corner from Allan Gardens, the site had been vacant for more than a decade after its last occupant, a gas station, closed up shop.
 
So a couple of years for city approval and construction of a 13-storey residential rental apartment building with 94 dwelling units didn’t seem so long to wait. Yet Oben Flats decided it would animate the site in the meantime in order to forge connections with their future neighbours. Last week, working the PATCH public art project, the developer unveiled a mural that signals that the space will soon be put to better use. Danny Brown, an urban planner at Urban Strategies and a local resident, helped spearheaded the initiative after an earlier guerilla beautification of the site.
 
“We think of ourselves as a different developer. We didn’t want to just leave it empty like that,” says Max Koerner, project coordinator at Oben Flats. Partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation and Sustainable TO, the company is planning to have host facilities and activities as varied as a skating rink, pollinator garden or temporary market. Following feedback from the community, Koerner expects that a Halloween gathering and other small events could take place over the fall and winter before the space is greened up in the spring.
 
In condo-obsessed Toronto, new downtown rental buildings have been few and far between. Many high-rises apartment buildings built in the 1960s and ’70s are often seen as outdated and rundown. Oben Flats, which originated in Germany in 2007, is launching into the Toronto market with three rental projects, the first of which, in Leslieville, will open in 2016. (The company has already built six for-sale townhouses on Harbord Street.) The company has focused on eye-catching design and the demands of young Torontonians who may not be able to afford to buy, but still want modern digs.
 
“These so-called Millennials appear to be more interested in design and style,” says Koerner.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Max Koerner

Next step of LGBT sports and recreational facility gets green light from city

City Council has voted to strike a steering committee to look into the feasibility of a new sport and recreation facility with an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender) focus.
 
The project, which emerged out of The 519 Community Centre’s work on PrideHouse for the Pan Am Games, would redevelop Moss Park, including the John Innes Community Centre, a two-storey structure built in 1951, and Moss Park Arena, a single storey building housing an ice rink.  Current centre amenities include a pool, games room, gym, weight room, craft room, kitchen, dance studio and wood shop, while the park already has a softball diamond, two tennis courts, two basketball courts and community gardens.
 
The feasibility study and community consultations are expected to cost between $1 million and $1.6 million, with the whole project costing as much as $125 million, though that estimate will likely change as the process unfolds. “The determination of final contribution amounts by partners has yet to be formally negotiated,” states the city backgrounder. “This project will not displace other capital projects currently identified in the City of Toronto 10-year capital plan.” The 519 has secured a private donation expected to cover the costs of the feasibility study and will fundraise to cover capital costs if the project goes ahead.
 
The Moss Park location has moved forward after the first proposed site, the Wheel and Foundry complex located at Eastern Avenue and St. Lawrence Street, was determined to be unsuitable.
 
Despite the LGBT focus, the project will also be expected to serve the local community. “The 519 is well positioned to lead the delivery of inclusive sport and league programming, particularly for the communities of common bond and create new employment and economic benefits within the neighbourhood,” states the city backgrounder. “Moss Park is a unique neighbourhood that is home to a diverse range of communities including marginalized and vulnerable people, and agencies that provide services for these communities. Many of the immediate communities are experiencing homelessness, living with substance use and mental health issues, Aboriginal and First Nations peoples, youth from diverse ethno-racial communities, as well as those experiencing poverty.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

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.

How can the suburbs woo younger residents?

Can developers spark a love affair between Generation Y and the suburbs?

Certainly, the stereotype is that Generation Y dreams about social networking, not cars, craving connectedness that sprawling commuter communities have difficulty delivering. But high home prices in metropolises like Toronto, combined with better planning and transportation in smaller cities, may encourage Gen Y to re-evaluate the merits of living in 905.

A September 28 panel hosted by the Urban Land Institute Toronto examined how planners and developers in 905 can do a better job of building and shaping residential, commercial and recreational spaces that will attract those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

“They’re not necessarily going through anything different than previous generations, but their response to it may be different because the economic circumstances they're in,” said moderator Lou Iafrate in an interview with Yonge Street before the event. He’s executive vice president of research, valuation and advisory for Altus Group, which provides solutions for the commercial real estate industry. “The affordability issue wasn’t the same when Baby Boomers went through this part of their lives.”

Much of what panelists considered important to Generation Y may sound good to homeowners and renters of any generation: urban villages where people can live within walking distance—or easy transit distance—of where they work and play. While some complain that 905 cities aren’t especially pedestrian friendly, not all of it can be blamed on poor planning and design. Many of the cities are young and not particularly built up. Increasing density can fill in some of the gaps.

“Certainly 905 has a lot of work to do in streetscaping,” said panelist Lisa Lafave in a pre-panel interview. As senior portfolio manager at HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan), she helps manage a portfolio of more than $10 billion annually, including investments in real estate development. “It takes time to densify an area. It’s not going to happen overnight. In Mississauga, there are some areas where there are no sidewalks or bus shelters.”

Lafave says she won’t invest in a project that’s not transit-oriented. “I’ll move with the transit, but I won’t speculate on something that’s not transit-linked. By that definition, cities are denying themselves more investment in the city if they don’t invest in the infrastructure first,” she said.

The cities along the top of the GTA can also be smarter about connecting to each other, so work and recreational patterns aren’t all under the influence of Toronto. “If you can link Vaughan, Brampton, Markham, Richmond Hill, then people living in the 905 don’t necessarily have to come into the 416 for entertainment. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre or the Markham City Centre are good examples of where they’re trying to create that urban village feel, that urbanized centre, in a traditionally suburban market. But it’s going to take time,” said Iafrate.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Lou Iafrate and Lisa Lafave

 

Greenland Group starts construction on theatre district complex

When Mansoor Kazerouni began working on 355 King Street West, David Mirvish had applied to have the site, currently home to the historic Canadian Westinghouse Building, rezoned for redevelopment. When Mirvish sold the property, the executive vice president at Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects worked with Easton’s Group of Hotels and Remington Group to come up with an elegant design that integrated two towers (one 48 floors, the other 44) into a street-level podium that included the preservation of the six-storey heritage façade.

Then a year ago, the King Blue project was sold to Shanghai-based Greenland Group, the Chinese government company’s first foray into the Toronto market, which added “by Greenland” to the development’s name. The transition did not affect the original concept in any serious way. Theatre Museum Canada, promised by Mirvish back in 2012, is still there, as is the street level retail, shared courtyard, luxury condo (now with 910 units) and mid-sized hotel, though the hotel will now be run not by Easton’s but by Greenland’s hotel offshoot, Primus. With construction starting last week, the complex is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2018.

“If you were to stand back, squint your eyes and look at it, nothing has changed,” says Kazerouni.  

Still, the design has subtly evolved and the floor plans of the condo units in the north power have been redesigned. “The south building was largely sold when Greenland acquired the project. There wasn’t much that could be altered. For the north tower, we redesigned all the unit layouts based on their requirements,” he says. For the hotel, seven storeys with 122 rooms, Greenland brought in B+H Chil Architects, who Page + Steele will be collaborating with.

With about an acre to work with—a lot of which is now parking lot—it’s a tight construction site, especially considering the six-storey Westinghouse façade, particularly tall for a historic building in Toronto, which must be held in place to be maintained.

What’s Kazerouni most proud about with the project? The building’s contribution to the public realm, which includes the publically accessible courtyard which creates a pedestrian passageway between King and Mercer. “It’s about city building more than individual towers. I think this project will enhance the urban experience.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Mansoor Kazerouni

 

Ontario needs to make better infrastructure spending choices, say reports

Two reports out this month aim to give Ontario some advice about improving the bang it gets for the buck from infrastructure investment.
 
In last spring’s budget, Ontario announced a $130-billion commitment to building infrastructure over the next 10 years, about 1.9 percent of provincial GDP per year. That includes $81.5 billion for transportation infrastructure, more than $11 billion in hospital capital grants and more than $11 billion in school board capital grants.
 
Both the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity have released hefty reports this month suggesting that the government should adopt new approaches to this spending.
 
“One thing is certain: assuming Ontario society and its various governments can continue into the future by following the paths of the past is the route to unpleasant surprises, with expensive and embarrassing policy failures. Even in a fog, the best course is to look through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror,” states the RCCAO report, which lays out some key questions Ontarians should be asking: What new forms of infrastructure will emerge and which will be obsolescent? Can new technologies render some major infrastructure unnecessary, or open the door to more modest solutions? How will major societal and economic trends influence the kind of infrastructure we will need? How will these trends change the economy, ecology and society that infrastructure must support?
 
The report suggests trends like the pace of technological change, increasing urbanization and connectivity, social trends like our aging population, economic and workforce trends, environmental and energy trends, and political and fiscal trends should drive decision-making. The authors make three key recommendations: Firstly, elevate the ministry division responsible for infrastructure to a full-scale Policy Secretariat, headed by a minister and deputy minister, advised by an ongoing “Ontario Future Council;” secondly, use research grants to engage post-secondary and healthcare scholars and leading thinkers from the various sectors of Ontario society to address infrastructure issues; and lastly, appoint a Royal Commission on Ontario’s Future, with a particular focus on the role that infrastructure can play in creating a prosperous, productive and equitable society.
 
The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity report, called Better Foundations: The Returns on Infrastructure Investment in Ontario, also calls for infrastructure planning to focus on increasing prosperity. Some kinds of infrastructure spending are more likely to increase productivity than others.
 
“The institute recommends that the province prioritize productivity-enhancing investments in ground transportation infrastructure and machinery and equipment that support public transportation services, as well as projects that improve trade with the United States,” states the report. “At the same time, the institute recommends that the province be extremely cautious and use sound, case-by-case cost-benefit analysis for investing in other forms of transportation.” infrastructure.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: RCCAO, Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity

Energy efficiency retrofit conference hits Toronto

Canadian builders, architects and planners will get the chance to learn about cutting-edge energy efficiency retrofits during a conference this month with a delegation of German companies.
 
The September 22 conference brings eight German tech and manufacturing firms with an expertise in energy efficiency to the city to talk about opportunities to work together on making existing buildings more energy efficient.
 
“For us Canadians, it’s interesting because Germany is number one in the sector of energy efficiency and renewable energy because they have a long lasting program to turn their energy completely to renewable,” says Emma Sargsyan, manager of business development for the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Participating companies offer a range of products and services including more efficient windows and doors, measuring and control technology and engineering services.
 
Although Toronto’s building boom, with all its shiny new condo towers, has attracted much attention, Toronto also has a serious appetite for retrofits now, particular within the city’s tower renewal program. Though the chamber hosts regular conferences aimed at pairing Canadian and German companies, this is the first time they’ve hosted an event solely dedicated to retrofitting.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Emma Sargsyan

Sharon, Lois and Bram Playground getting an elephant and other improvements

One elephant will have to wait until spring to come out to play on a spider’s web, as work gets underway to make a Davisville playground worthy of its musical namesakes.
 
The space in June Rowlands Park at Davisville and Mount Pleasant was named the Sharon, Lois and Bram Playground last year in honour of the musical trio. Now a $300,000 revitalization will see new equipment, playful new names for amenities, a performance stage and an elephant sculpture (a nod to the group’s The Elephant Show from the 1980s) installed to create a more tangible connection to Sharon, Lois and Bram’s sensibility and music.
 
“We were deliberate about starting construction a week after Labour Day, because we didn’t want to interfere with the height of the season,” says Josh Matlow, councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s. The first phase of the project is new wayfinding signs, including renaming the natural ice rink the Skinnamarink after Sharon, Lois and Bram’s most ubiquitous earworm. Upcoming community consultations will determine what kind of new playground equipment the park will get, with installation expected to be completed by spring.
 
“What was originally proposed by staff just didn’t fit into the earthy character of the playground,” says Matlow.
 
Though group member Lois Lilienstein passed away last spring (a playground concert was her last performance), Sharon Hampson and Bram Morrison have continued to be very involved in planning the park, which will have a stage where children can perform music. “They’ve attended every meeting,” says Matlow. A father himself, Matlow confesses that his own childhood was full of the trio’s music.
 
In other musical park news, Matlow is also hosting consultations this month on playground improvements at Glenn Gould Park, named after the famed Canadian pianist. “I expect there will be a musical component on the table for that project too,” he says.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Josh Matlow

Leslie Spit wetland creation project hits new milestone

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

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