Public Forum participants discuss vision for Berczy Park

29 Feb

While images of lively public spaces from around the world flashed on the big screen, more than 40 community members spent their Monday evening in the subterranean Rainbow Cinema to begin transforming Berczy Park.

Hosted by the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood Business Improvement Area (BIA), the February 27th event was the first step towards remaking both Berczy Park and O’Keefe Laneway behind Massey Hall. Initiated by the BIA, with funding from the City and Province, the Berczy Park project is being lead by 8-80 Cities, a non-profit organization that has inspired pedestrian-friendly spaces from Melbourne, Australia to Guadalajara, Mexico.

With encouraging words from 8-80 Cities Executive Director Gil Penalosa, and City Councilors Pam McConnell and Kristin Wong-Tam, the audience heard the importance of improving Toronto’s overlooked public spaces to create a vibrant communities.

Explaining how the City has designated Berczy Park as a ‘signature park’ (to ensure developers don’t encroach on or over-shadow the pie-shaped sliver of greenery), Councilor McConnell noted that, “Berczy Park is a jewel that has not been cared for as jewelry should be kept.”

To kick-off the 8-80 Cities consulting process, urban and community issues speaker Jay Walljasper shared tips for creating great cities. Based on successful urban renewal projects, his insights included ways to encourage people to congregate and interact, by giving them well-designed spots to sit, walk or do something (like watching an impromptu tango show, gardening, or bread-making in an outdoor oven).

To wrap up the evening, Walljasper and Penalosa invited the audience, including representatives of Friends of Berczy Park, to list their priorities for Toronto’s public spaces. Responses ranged from organized public activities and art, to lush trees and lighting, as well as play structures and enclosed off-leash areas for dogs.

8-80 Cities organizers collected suggestion cards and invited Public Forum attendees to sign-up for future focus groups.  Details on timing to complete the project, or precise funding from the City, Province or private sponsors, are yet to be announced.

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