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Design review panel suggests 'pencil towers' for Chelsea Hotel redevelopment

The plan to demolish the Chelsea Hotel at Yonge and Gerrard, replacing it with a cluster of tall buildings and open pedestrian spaces, got generally favourable reviews at the City of Toronto Design Review Panel last month.
 
“Panel members were appreciative of this remarkable opportunity to transform the site from the existing “Chelsea Hotel blight” to a pedestrian-oriented area with open space connections,” state the minutes to the April panel meeting. “Several members noted the significant improvements from the first iteration of the project shown in the presentation.”
 
The proposal from Great Eagle Hotels would replace the hotel, which currently has 1,590 rooms in a single 26-storey building, with four mixed-use towers containing residential, hotel, office and retail space. There’d be towers of 80, 74, 50 and 46 storeys, challenging the skyline dominance of the 74-storey Aura building to the north. The complex would provide 1,897 residential units, 300 hotel suites and 5,776 square metres of office and commercial space. The existing building was built in 1975 as apartments and a hostel, but was modified into a hotel, with a 600-room addition built in 1990. Not surprisingly to anyone who’s taken a look at it, the building is not a candidate for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
 
Experts on the city’s review panel liked the “porosity” that the multiple buildings will bring to the block, particularly the creation of new north-south and west-east connections. Several members suggested that the design needs a strong connection to Yonge Street, with bold visual elements and a welcoming pedestrian experience. Despite its size, the current building is relatively hidden from Yonge Street.
 
The separation space between the towers and the setback from neighbouring properties were concerns for some members. One suggestion was moving the south tower further west, which might also help enclose the back of 18 Elm Street and provide better views to the northeast tower looking south.
 
“A panel member noted that ‘pencil towers’ (towers with smaller floorplates) are likely possible here and would improve setback conditions,” state the minutes.
 
The panel’s feedback are non-binding, but will have an effect on planning decisions for the project.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto Design Review Panel

No billboard for West Donlands park after citizen complaints pile up

Outfront Media has withdrawn an application to erect a digital billboard facing Serena Gundy Park in the West Don park corridor after an outpouring of community protest.
 
About 32.54 square metres of flashing screen would have been located on the south side of Eglinton Avenue East, east of Leslie Street, within a Canadian Pacific rail corridor. The city received 68 letters about the proposal, all but a couple (from the proponent) opposed to it.
 
“It would have affected thousands of people in three categories. One is the people living near it. For this type of sign, it flashes every 10 seconds. It’s incredibly bright. If you live within a half a kilometre, it could change the light in your room as it flashes,” says Dave Meslin of the group Scenic Toronto, which fights to safeguard the “visual character” of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, parks, roadways and public spaces. “Then you’ve got all the people who use the park and then third, you’ve got drivers. These signs are designed to distract drivers. So while the government is going out of its way to minimize distraction from cell phone use or whatever, it’s insane for us to give permission to design and install a product which has the sole purpose of distracting drivers’ attention from the road.”
 
Digital billboards aren’t allowed in most areas of the city but in special areas, a five-person Sign Variance Committee can grant permission. “They’ve done a very good job, but the process only works when the committee hears from both sides, and it’s not a level playing field. The billboard companies have paid lobbyists who know when these meetings are, know how to navigate the agenda and can wait there for hours for their item to show up,” says Meslin, a long-time advocate of better democracy and citizen engagement. “Citizens don’t know about these applications, they don’t know about the meetings, they don’t have time to attend the meetings and they don’t know the procedures.”
 
Meslin says the city should use plain language, rather bureaucratese, to explain proposals and procedures. Right now the city doesn’t use the word “billboard,” only “sign.” And the city uses the word “static” to describe digital signs that change every 10 seconds.
 
A staff report to the Sign Variance Committee described the area for the proposed Outfront Media billboard as “largely pastoral and bucolic” and recommended against granting the variance.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Dave Meslin

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

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

$25 million donation to fund public spaces under western Gardiner

As the city frets about what exactly to do with the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway, a generous donation from philanthropists aims to transform a western stretch of the expressway from an eyesore into an urban gem worth visiting.
 
Judy Matthews (herself a professional planner) and her husband Wil Matthews are contributing $25 million toward creating more than four hectares of new public space and 1.7 kilometres of multi-use trails beneath the Gardiner from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. The project will knit together seven communities with parks, trails and programmable space featuring music, food, the arts, sports and recreation, all sheltered by the ceiling of the five-storey expressway. The spaces will be designed as “rooms” defined by the concrete post-and-beam structures that hold up the Gardiner.
 
With construction starting next year and the first stage from Strachan to Bathurst slated for completion by July 2017, the project is exceptional not only in scale and imagination but in its ambitious timeframe. Public consultations to hear what locals and Torontonians want to see in the new public space and what it should be called will happen very quickly, marshalled by Waterfront Toronto, which is leading the project on behalf of the city.
 
“We had been looking for an interesting project, a neglected vacant space that had the power to be a new kind of public space,” said Matthews at the announcement Tuesday. She and Wil were driving forces behind the Toronto Music Garden on the waterfront and the revitalization of St. George Street where it runs through the University of Toronto. “Imagine in winter if you come down to find a skating rink with hot chocolate there.”
 
More than 70,000 Torontonians live in neighbourhoods adjacent to the project, from Liberty Village to CityPlace, most of them high-rise dwellers dependent on public space to give them some room to move. The project will serve them, but also aspires to be a tourist destination comparable to New York’s High Line, linking attractions like the Molson Amphitheatre, Historic Fort York, Queens Quay and The CN Tower. The donation will be entirely devoted to the design and creation of the spaces; discussion about how to fund the maintenance and programming will take place while construction is underway.
 
“Toronto is an amazing path now where we’re going to find ways to say yes to things like this,” said Mayor John Tory at the unveiling. Restoration work worth $150 million is currently underway on the structure of the Gardiner itself.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Judy Matthews, John Tory, Waterfront Toronto

RAW Designís whimsical Parapan sculptures deliver time-limited fun

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

John Street gets pedestrian-friendly summer facelift

John Street’s pedestrian zone opened for the summer this week.
 
Planters and seating areas will take up a lane of traffic on the east side of John between Queen and Adelaide streets until October 19, allowing passersby and the neighbourhood resto-bar patrons to hang out more comfortably along the strip. The one big difference from last year’s pilot project is that the zone now stops short of the corners of Richmond and Queen.
 
“One observation we had last year was to make it easier for cars to make the turn,” says Janice Solomon, executive director of the Entertainment District BIA, which is operating the zone at a cost of about $80,000.
 
Two students from OCAD University will work art magic on two Muskoka chairs, which will eventually be available for sitting on, while a third student will make art on the street’s surface. Although the main goal is to make for a pleasant pedestrian passage, the BIA is open to the idea of hosting events in the space. “We’d welcome conversations with cultural organizations that are interested in doing something, but we wouldn’t want people to feel squeezed,” says Solomon.
 
The temporary zone also warms people up for the long-term plan for John Street as a cultural corridor linking institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario, north of Grange Park, TIFF Bell Lightbox on King and the Rogers Centre south of Wellington. The street would eventually get widened sidewalks and boulevards, a gentler curb from the sidewalk to the street, more greenery and more public art. One of the reasons the summer closure covers the two blocks it does, says Solomon, is that the sidewalk is particularly narrow there.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Janice Solomon

The street food conversation goes on... and on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toronto wins award for the way it handles graffiti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Elyse Parker

Toronto comes in global top 10 for hotel wifi speed

It’s not the sort of thinig you tend to know about your home city, but according to a recent global study, Toronto hotels have the 9th best WiFi in the world.

According to Yaroslav Goncharov, head of the Hotel WiFi Test, 39 hotels were tested 171 times by volunteer guests, who used Goncharov’s test site to clock and record the speed of the service in their hotel. This data, along with information about where it was available and whether it was free or a charged service, went into compiling the ranking.

The study found that 76 per cent of hotels tested in Toronto have free WiFi, and the quality of the WiFi was marked at 61.5 per cent, which represents the number of hotels that offer what the organization considers to be “adequate WiFi quality” in the city. The top-ranked city, Stockholm, came in at 88.9 per cent and 89.5 per cent, respectively.

He says the quality of hotel WiFi, which is of increasing significance to tourists and can play a large role in a city’s image abroad, rests on the quality of local Internet service providers, “and whether local hoteliers understand the inportance of good WiFi,” Goncharov says. “For example, in some cities, hotels value their location so much that they forget about other amenities.” He gives Las Vegas as an example, where WiFi tends to be worse on The Strip than in other parts of the city.

Though Montreal came in fifth, Canada did not make the top 10, losing out not only to No. 1-ranked South Korea, but Ukraine (No. 3), Romania (No. 5)  and Hungary (No. 10).

The top 10 city list also included Budapest, Tokyo, Dublin, Portland, Moscow, Amsterdam and Kowloon.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Yaroslav Goncharov

One King West gets a reno for its 100th birthday

One King West is receiving a centennial makeover. 

“The goal of the entire project,” says Matt Black, director of marketing for the iconic building, “is once it’s done for people to say ‘What did they do?’ That would be a huge success.”

The 51-storey hotel and residence is giving its 100-year-old base, the old Dominion Bank, the rough equivalent of a $3-million spit shine.

“Externally we are beginning removing the terracotta as well as some pointing work,” Black says of the work going on this week. “Each terracotta tile has to be carefully copied and replicated by a specialty company in the US. There are over 700 individual tiles that have to be painstakingly replicated in order to maintain the exact look and design as originally intended by Darling and Pearson.”

Darling and Pearson was a late-19th- and early 20th-century Toronto architectural firm who did work all around eastern and central Canada, including U of T’s Convocation Hall, the original AGO and ROM, the North Toronto CP Rail station, better known these days as the Summerhill LCBO.

Inside, they’ve almost finished another renovation covering the hotel suites and corridors, which Black says cost another $9 million.

Black estimates the work will be done by April.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Matt Black

 

Newly renamed ferry terminal to get new design

If you live in Toronto and have spent any time at all around the waterfront, you will almost certainly have been asked by a tourist at least once to direct them to the ferry terminal. Unless you already know where it is, is can be difficult to find from the street.

That is, no doubt, one of the issues that is being tackled by the entrants for the design competition, run by Waterfront Toronto, to comprehensively redesign not only the ferry terminal, but the 4.6 hectares of public space surrounding it on both sides, from the east side of Yonge Slip to the east side of York Slip, which includes the area around the Westin Harbour Castle and Harbour Square Park.

“The intent is that the designers have an opportunity to think of the space holistically in order to come up with a vision for that area,” says Waterfront spokeswoman Samantha Gileno, “and then we can look at creating a master plan so we can start prioritizing and funding the revitalization for the area.”

The first phase of the competition, the Request for Quotation (RFQ) closed on Friday, and Waterfront expects to release a shortlist of up to five by the end of the month. There will be a public consultation in the form of an exhibit of the proposals in March. The exhibit will also go online to ensure as much public participation as possible. Taking public opinion into effect, a jury will then select one design, at which point funding and timelines will be set.

“Sugar Beach came from the Jarvis Slip competition,” Gileno says, “and the mouth of the Don was also a design competition. Until the competitions were held, we couldn’t envision what might come out of it. You get so many great, innovative ideas flowing through these competitions.”

The ferry terminal, which was renamed after Jack Layton in August, 2013, is the city’s chief entryway to the Toronto islands.

“I think we all agree that this is a really important waterfront gateway, a site that in some ways isn't as accessible, prominent and beautiful as it deserves to be,” Gileno says. “I think it’s just time we rethink this.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samantha Gileno

 

Public consultation on sidewalk cafes draws unprecedented enthusiasm

The preliminary results of the latest public consultation on the subject of sidewalk cafes makes it look as though we in Toronto may be on the verge of fully accepting our urbanity.

“We’ve heard from pretty much everybody that patios make streets vibrant and are an important part of our culture,” says Chris Ronson, the City of Toronto’s project manager in charge of outdoor cafe design guidelines.

In addition, the City of Toronto heard that people want them to reduce what they see as “over-regulation” of patio operators, and create more flexibility for them. “We’ve been suggesting that more cafe types are a good idea, that they can be closer to the curbside, or on a curb lane, occupying parking spots on the road. We’ve had really positive response to that.”

There have been some complaints, mostly about certain patios leaving too little sidewalk room for crowds, or people with various mobility problems, to get comfortably past. Ronson pointed out examples on the Danforth that leave as little as 1.1 metres between patio and road, when even residential sidewalks average between 1.5 and 1.7 metres in width. The city standard for commercial strips is 2.1 metres, which is roughly the amount of space required for two wheelchairs to pass each other.

The consultation, a joint project between the transportation department, which occupies itself with design, and Municipal Licensing and Standards, which handles behavioural guidelines, is also floating the idea of extending the closing time for patios.

Looks like Toronto's growing into the big city it's become, after all. 


Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Chris Ronson

Airport tunnel enters final phase

It's hard to tell which is more impressive: That the Billy Bishop Airport tunnel just won project of the year from the Tunnelling Association of Canada, or that there’s such a thing as the Tunnelling Association of Canada.

Last week, the concrete was poured to create the floor of the tunnel’s mainland pavilion, and this week, the first of two water mains that have been built into the tunnel will be hooked up.

It’s the final stage of the project begun in 2012, to create a six-minute pedestrian connection to Billy Bishop Airport, Canada’s ninth busiest. Beginning in a few months, passengers and employees will be able to use an elevator to descend 30 metres to subterranean moving sidewalks that will take them under the bit of water known as the Western Gap at a speed of 2.3km an hour so they no longer have to wait for the ironically named Marilyn Bell ferry to transport them across one of Lake Ontario’s shortest spans.

“Right from the start, the Toronto Port Authority has worked to ensure that this tunnel was designed and constructed in a manner that puts the traveller experience first,” said Ken Lundy, the city’s director of infrastructure, planning and environment in a prepared statement. “Building a tunnel of this scale and complexity while maintaining efficient operation of a busy airport is no easy feat, but we were up to the challenge and are proud to have the project recognized by the Tunnelling Association of Canada.”

The tunnel will open as soon as those moving sidewalks and elevators are installed, and the final landscaping is completed.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ken Lundy
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