Archive | November, 2011

Toronto Star article

29 Nov

Read the article here: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1093262

Hume: Towers and the space in between

Published On Sun Nov 27 2011
Concerned parents and their children gather in Berczy Park at Front and Church Streets in downtown Toronto to show that they want to see a playground built in the park as more and more families move into the area. However, there is not enough infrastructure. (Nov. 26, 2011)Concerned parents and their children gather in Berczy Park at Front and Church Streets in downtown Toronto to show that they want to see a playground built in the park as more and more families move into the area. However, there is not enough infrastructure. (Nov. 26, 2011)COLIN MCCONNELL/TORONTO STAR

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By Christopher HumeUrban Issues, Architecture
Of which imaginary city is Rob Ford mayor? Over which make-believe town does council reside? Whatever the answer may be, it’s not Toronto.

The gap between urban reality and civic illusion has never been greater. City hall’s actions have never been more out of touch.

That alarming truth came clear yet again when our political brain trust proposed further reductions to the TTC, already unable to keep the city moving. This after the commission set a record for daily usage — 1.7 million rides — last September.

If the objective of many decades of public policy has been to get people out of their cars to alleviate the GTA’s $6-billion congestion problem, chopping routes and services is clearly counterproductive, irrational and ultimately self-destructive.

At the same time, the condo boom has brought thousands to the city to live and work. Neighbourhoods once ignored and even abandoned now throng with residents, both singles and families. The presence of so many new downtowners has further exposed Toronto’s growing reality deficit.

The point was made in quiet but telling fashion last week by a group of parents who had gathered at Berczy Park, a compact green space that extends west from the Flat Iron Building on Front St. E. They live on The Esplanade east of Yonge in a high-rise slab — its occupants include more than 40 families with children. While their kids chased each other around the empty fountain, parents dreamed about installing a playground in the park, and making it safer for their kids.

Their idea makes sense, especially considering how many condo towers have appeared in the area and how many more are in the works. By the time the dust settles, there will be upwards of 3,000 apartments in the immediate vicinity of the park.

In other words, the neighbourhood has been domesticated. It has become residential. People don’t just go there to shop or work; it’s where they live.

The same pattern is being repeated throughout the city; even the Financial District now has permanent residents.

“We’ve exploded in population,” says architect, local resident and mother of three, Sybil Wa. “That’s wonderful, but the infrastructure hasn’t kept up. Berczy Park has served the neighbourhood well. But now we need to think of it not so much as a downtown parkette but as a neighbourhood amenity. Our kids have nowhere to play. A swing is something that’s hard to find in downtown.”

As Wa explains, the group is willing to help, either by “rolling up our sleeves” or raising money. She also wonders about Section 37 funds; those revenues developers pay the city (usually) in return for greater height and density. Given that the amounts required are relatively small, this should not be an insurmountable problem.

Interestingly, the St. Lawrence Neigbourhood, built in the 1970s further along The Esplanade east of Jarvis St., is organized around a park that has been the heart of the community since the start. St. Lawrence anticipated needs ignored by a city that cannot keep up with itself.

“It’s more sustainable to live in a high-rise,” Wa argues. “It can be delightful if it’s done well.”

A good example is another local condo that has a playground on its roof. This is the sort of thing that must be part of the plan as Toronto grows ever higher and more vertical.

In a skyscraper city, it’s the space between buildings that matters; that’s where a neighbourhood becomes livable — or not. That’s where a city’s greatness can be seen.

Christopher Hume can be reached at chume@thestar.ca

Berczy Park transformation project

26 Nov

We are residents who live close to Berczy Park (near Front and Scott Street) and we are inviting you to help us transform this downtown park into a centrepiece that reflects the needs of the growing neighbourhood around it.

An explosion of residential development has occurred over the past few years and more will continue. There will be roughly 4000 homes in condo towers within a 2-3 block radius around Berczy Park: 2450 units existing, 1050 units under construction, and 450 units proposed. The infrastructure of the City has simply not caught up to the needs of its growing population.

Join us in the Park at 2:30pm on Saturday November 26th for a discussion on how the park can be changed to meet the needs of our community.

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