Archive

January 2018

Browsing

Woman of the Week: Janet Zuccarini

Janet Zuccarini is the CEO and owner of Gusto 54, a global restaurant group that encompasses a number of Toronto’s top restaurants, including Trattoria Nervosa, Gusto 101, PAI Northern Thai Kitchen, and Gusto 54’s Catering and Commissary Kitchen, among many others. She describes her role in the company as “the visionary”, responsible for finding locations, managing real estate, determining the concept, and assembling teams for each restaurant.

Zuccarini has an intense passion for international cuisine, with a specialization in Italian foods. She is the first Canadian woman to become an AVPN-certified Pizzaiola and was featured as a resident judge in Top Chef Canada’s fifth and sixth season. While her responsibilities now are more business-related, she started in this industry because of her love of food — both cooking and eating it.

Zuccarini has received the RBC Woman of Influence Award in Entrepreneurship and the 2017 Pinnacle Award for Independent Restaurateur of the Year. One of her restaurants is currently under review for consideration as one of Canada’s 100 Best New Restaurants of 2018. Here is what she had to say to Women’s Post in an email conversation during her travels.

Question: You are from Toronto, but you moved away for schooling, why?

Answer: I have a passion for traveling, which began at age 19 when I traveled to Europe on a one-year trip. I spent a few months in Italy on that trip and decided at that time that I needed to find a way to stay in Italy and experience living in that culture, so I found an American University in Rome and completed my undergrad there. When my four years was up and I completed my degree, I felt strongly that I needed to spend more time there, so I searched for another post-grad opportunity. I then found an MBA program at Boston University, which had a campus for a few years in Rome, and stayed in the city for another four years.

Did you always want to be a restauranteur? 

It all started with my father, who loved Italian food and was an incredible cook. We ate very well at home; always whole foods cooked from scratch. Living in Italy for eight years and being a student, I had to learn to really stretch a dollar (or back then it was the Italian lira), so I began cooking for myself and my friends. During that time, my friends would suggest that I open up my own restaurant, but I never thought that would become a reality. After I finished all of my university work, I traveled back home to Toronto for a friend’s wedding and went to Yorkville to get my hair done at Salon Daniel. I was chatting with a stylist there who told me that the corner of Yorkville and Belair was under construction and was set to become an Italian restaurant. I was intrigued, so I walked over and introduced myself to the guys who were opening it. Shortly afterwards they asked me to be a partner and literally overnight I was in the restaurant business. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was marrying my two passions: business and food.

What was the first restaurant you opened? 

I opened Trattoria Nervosa (back then it was known as Cafe Nervosa) in 1996 with two partners, which very quickly turned into only one partner. During that period of transition, I had to thoroughly immerse myself in the business to learn its ins and outs. In the early days, I worked every position; six days a week, 17 hours a day. I learned every aspect of the business, which is incredibly important to creating procedures so that you can step away from being a “technician” and put yourself at the top of your company where you can more efficiently and effectively run it. After the four-year mark, I bought out my partner (thankfully, as it was a soul-destroying partnership) and that’s when my life took this extraordinary turn. The business was stable. I had learned every aspect of it. I successfully bought out a toxic partner, and I really started to run my business instead of letting it run me.

How did Gusto 54 come about?

Three years ago when we decided to consciously transition the company from owning three restaurants in Toronto to becoming a global restaurant group. Gusto 54 was created in honour of my father, who opened up the Sidewalk Caffè at the corner of Yonge and College Street in 1954, which at the time featured the very first espresso machine in Canada, as well as the first wood-burning pizza oven and heated patio. My father was a pioneer and I owe any entrepreneurial spirit that I possess to him.

Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen is your latest restaurant to open – how is it doing?

Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen opened to Toronto’s King West area in early December and we are busy, which is great considering that we opened our doors during that time of year.

What does it take to run a successful restaurant?

To be successful in the restaurant business you need to deliver on all fronts of the experience, including service, food, location, design and music. You also have to consider what exactly you aim to deliver with your restaurant, as every concept will have different requirements. A destination restaurant will not have the same formula as a restaurant that services a neighbourhood. The restaurant business is arguably the toughest business at which to succeed due in large part to the fact that the margins are so slim. To help mitigate this risk we analyze sales and our numbers every day. All in all, you need to possess a certain level of business acumen, as well as consistently keep your finger on the pulse to deliver what people are looking for in order to truly succeed in this business.

What is the biggest challenge?

This can be a challenging business where you need to keep a very close eye on food and labour costs and keep the operations very tight. Systems, procedures and technology become integral in operating a profitable business that consistently delivers against our mission. Consistency in both food and soulful hospitality can also be a challenge given the number of people we rely on every day to serve over 3,500 customers. This is where training becomes essential in ensuring everyone is set up for success.

How do you make sure the food served is following the newest trends – or even leading the trends?

My job as the visionary is to make sure that my finger is always on the pulse of what’s happening in the world as far as food and industry trends go. I have a passion for dining out and checking out all kinds of restaurants wherever I go in the world.

What advice would you give to a young female business professional with dreams of starting their own empire?

You can do anything if you have grit and don’t let anything stop you.

What’s next for you?

I feel like I’m just getting warmed up in the restaurant business. We’re opening Gusto 501 to Toronto’s Corktown area this year, we are looking to open in New York, and we’re currently working on rolling out two additional concepts.

What do you do to help women?

As a woman operating in a primarily male-dominated industry, supporting and helping to empower women is extremely important to me. Many of the key leadership positions within our company are held by women including chefs, GMs, and our President, Juanita Dickson. In addition to contributing to various local organizations such as Women in Capital Markets, Dr. Roz’s Healing Place, and Dress for Success, I always strive to make time to personally meet with women to provide mentorship or advice.

What do you do when you are not working?

I live in Los Angeles half of the year, so I love taking advantage of the weather there and doing a lot of activities like tennis, hiking and biking. I’m also super passionate about yoga and, whenever possible, I love checking out new restaurants and hosting friends and family at my house for dinner.

I’m currently reading “The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance” by Timothy Gallwey, as well as “Becoming Supernatural” by Joe Dispenza.

 

Enjoy these profiles? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and have them delivered directly to your inbox!

Why consent should be included in #MeToo movement

A woman has made allegations of sexual misconduct against television actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. In her claim, she says the two went out on a date and when she indicated, using “nonverbal and verbal cues” that she wasn’t interested in having sex with him, he tried to seduce her over and over again. Eventually, he called her an uber and she went home.

Ansari has told the media that “it was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned.”

While the allegations may not be as serious as those against Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, these kind of stories do expose an important issue of consent, or basic respect, on the dating scene. The criticism this woman is receiving online is reason enough why this story is so important. People are saying this woman should have been clearer about her sexual desires, and that it wasn’t fair to Ansari to ruin his career over something he didn’t know he did wrong. An opinion columnist in the New York Times actually said the only thing Ansari is guilty of is not being a mindreader.

Essentially, those responding to this story are saying that because this woman didn’t cry out “no” and push Ansari away, this story has no value to the #MeToo movement. I disagree.

This story is one many women, and probably a few men, are familiar with. Their date indicates a need to slow down, and are promptly ignored. You kind of like the person, so you try to express your consent in a different way. You do this by joking around, distracting your partner, suggesting alternative activities, and finally, by saying you aren’t in the mood. This can result in anger, frustration, embarrassment, and sometimes lead to dangerous situations.

I was dating a man for a few weeks I met online. He was funny, smart, and nice — pretty much exactly what I was looking for. During conversation at dinner, my date invited me back to his apartment. I said that while I liked him, I wanted to take our relationship slow. I like to really get to know a potential partner before jumping into bed with them, especially considering the dangers of the online dating scene. I was about as clear as a person could be about my romantic intensions, and my date seemed understanding. He said there were no strings attached to the invitation, and we could simply watch a movie, drink coffee, and spend more time with each other.

Isn’t that sweet?

Of course, once I arrived at the apartment, there was no coffee. He did put on a movie, but as soon as the opening titles started scrolling along the screen, he was blowing in my ear (is that a thing!!??). The next thing I knew, his hand was on the back of my head, pushing me towards his face. I broke away a few times, joking about how we were going to miss the movie. A few minutes later, his hand was on my cheek, guiding my face back to his.

I consider myself a strong and independent woman, but when I was confronted with such an uncomfortable situation, I am ashamed to say that I lied. Instead of telling my date that his behaviour was unacceptable, especially considering our conversation at dinner, I looked at my phone and said “my dad just called me. My dog is badly injured and he needs help lifting her into the car. I’ve got to run.” And out the door I went.

All that is to say it is not as easy to say “no” as people may think. When you are alone with a person in their home, you are vulnerable. Your partner has the advantage.

It’s also important to remember that consent is not the absence of the word “no”. Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied.

Again, let me stress, consent is not defined by the absence of the word “no”. And that is why this conversation should be a part of the #MeToo movement. Understanding this definition is part of that patriarchal mentality women are trying to change. It is something that will take time and needs to be exposed in order for people to learn.

Could Ansari really not understand this woman’s non-verbal cues? It is absolutely possible. Should he be punished professionally and personally for his actions? I’m not too sure. His reaction is probably similar to hundreds of thousands of men out there who were in similar situations. Men who don’t understand what those non-verbal cues mean and are subject to retaliation in the media.

For those men, here is a very simple guideline: just ask. Ask your partner if it is okay to kiss them. Ask if they want to go to the bedroom. Ask if they are willing to have oral sex. Always ask. When you ask, you will get a firm answer. And continue to ask! Is this okay? Are you okay with me touching you there?

It’s really rather simple. And no, it doesn’t detract from the mood. Trust me, it’s actually quite attractive to have a man stand by your door, saying “you look absolutely beautiful, I would like to kiss you. Can I?”

Sexual assault and sexual harassment within industry and the workplace may be the foundation of the #MeToo and TIME’S UP movement, but it shouldn’t end there. Let’s add consent to the discussion.

December data shows King St. pilot working

Ridership has increased on the King St. streetcar during the morning commute by 25 per cent, according to city data.

Last week, the City of Toronto released the December statistics for the King Street Pilot. It showed an increase in ridership and an improvement in traffic times. In total, reliability has increased by 33 per cent — a shocking statistics only two months into the study. Prior to the pilot, travel times varied at an average of 10 minutes. Throughout December, that average was reduced to 6.7 minutes.

Afternoon rush hour has also improved by about four minutes in each direction, therefore the city is adding more buses along the 504 and 514 routes to accommodate the increased ridership.

“The benefit of pilot projects is that they allow us to learn as we go,” said Councillor Joe Cressy. “We’re able to make improvements, adjust to fill gaps and continue to evaluate options and work together to ensure the pilot works better for everyone.”

For those concerned about traffic on parallel streets, the data shows vehicle travel time on neighbouring streets was only minimally affected. The city will now be offering up to two hours of discounted parking around the corridor to help support local businesses. Ninety parking spaces will be added to side streets in the area to replace the spaces that were removed.

Store owners have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances. The city will now be measuring point of sale data and providing that information in February’s data set. This will allow staff to determine once and for all how businesses are being affected by the pilot.

“We are dedicated to making sure King Street works for everyone,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “I believe these updates to the Pilot will help transit riders, businesses and drivers. I remain committed to listening to everyone about this project and making changes where they make sense.”

The “Everyone is King” design competition will continue until spring 2018 in an attempt to introduce new and creative public art instillations to fill empty spaces along the corridor.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time.

Please use a real pregnancy test — not an Ikea ad

I can’t believe this needs to be said: Don’t rely on an Ikea advertisement to determine if you are pregnant. Use a legitimate pregnancy test from a pharmacy, or see your doctor.

Ikea released a new magazine advertisement that encouraged women to pee on a page within the publication to determine if they were pregnant. If the results are positive — those women get a discount on a crib.

The Swedish magazine reads: “Peeing on this ad may change your life.” Watch the instructions here:

IKEA – Pee Ad from Ourwork on Vimeo.

The advertisement was created by Swedish agency Åkestam Holst in collaboration with Mercene Labs, and uses the same technology found in a pregnancy test. They told media customers don’t actually have to bring in a urine-covered magazine to receive the discount (members of the Ikea Family program are all elligible), which means the advertisement is essentially a very weird and glorified pregnancy test. In this case – it is literally no different than taking a legitimate, trustworthy test provided by a doctor. So, why is it that people are freaking out about this Ikea ad?

Interactivity goes a long way in marketing. While urinating on an advertisement doesn’t seem like the most dignified form of interaction out there, it is quirky enough to entice people to try it, especially if they think a discount is waiting for them. It also has the media, Women’s Post included, intrigued enough to write about the campaign. That’s free advertising for Ikea (although the campaign is only available in Sweden, sorry Canada).

Typically, interactivity in advertisement is conducted through technology; a mobile app, a touchscreen, or a URL that allows a customer to insert a coupon name, play a game, or scan a barcode for a chance to win a discount at a store. Magazines have frequently used scent as a form of interactivity, but the use of bodily fluids is a new idea.

On a side note: is anyone else wondering how these ladies manage to do their business on a specific section of a magazine? The video shows the use of an eyedropper, but I foresee a number of accidents.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, this advertisement will most likely be successful for Ikea Sweden. Is it gross and really weird? Definitely! But, I imagine many women out there will be tempted to try it out, just to see if it works.

But please, don’t use it as an official pregnancy test! Don’t trust a company that can’t seem to make bookshelves with all the pieces. Take a real test — and then you can try this weird magazine advertisement.

Would you pee on a magazine for a discount? Let us know in the comments below!

3 rules to follow when he’s a saver and you’re a spender

I like to shop. Every single trend that could be found in the stores of a mall was, once upon a time, present in my closet. Even the questionable items. I buy candles for every corner of my room because one is never enough, and I once purchased face cream the price of multiple dinners at Sephora — merely because the make-up artist told me it was nice.

On the other hand, my husband likes to save. You know that thing at the bank called a Saving’s Account? He actually has one. While I scroll through my favourite online stores, he scrolls through his budgeting applications, all while checking on his many investments and stocks; a side hustle he plans to take advantage of during ‘rainy days.’ Frugality is his specialty. Extreme couponing, I think it’s safe to say, is one of his life time goals.

Like other couples, we have very different spending habits. Given this, it’s no surprise that money is the most common topic that couples argue about. A recent survey from the American Institute of CPA’s concluded couples argue at least three times a month about finances. Researchers believe the conflict may stem from failing to discuss money on a regular basis. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed who were married or living with a partner said they don’t regularly set aside time to talk about financial issues.

So, let’s talk.

Take these three steps to avoid the ongoing kerfuffle of choosing between the $14.99 or $19.99 bundle and thank me later.

  1. Communicate. You hear it repeatedly. So why is it so difficult to follow through? Talk to your partner about how you want to handle your finances as a couple, along with any individual expectations that you may have of one another. Discuss whether you want to share any expenses such as utility bills or groceries or if you want control over your own finances. Ensure you go over any debt that either of you have to take care of and that you are transparent when it comes to your purchases. What is the point of buying a car without a discussion if you have to drive around alone because bae is mad at you?
  2. Speak their language. Try using a reference from their favourite TV show and watch how googly their eyes get. Its important to be able to relate to your partner. Get on their level. If they start pricing matching or looking at deals, keep your cool – and let them be. Don’t try to change them and don’t let them try to change you. Habits build over time, making it difficult to break. Instead, take things away and implement them in your daily life. Find the positive aspects to their habits. Think about it; saving up for an emergency prevents either of you from having to get a second job if the time came. Thus, you’ll have more time to spend with each other. Because love.
  3. Have your own savings. Whether you agree to share your finances, contribute to expenses, or manage your own money, always have funds set aside solely for yourself. Although there are many advantages to a joint account, there will always be a reason to have at least one bank account dedicated for your own use. This is especially important if you and your partner are on different financial levels or if you have different spending habits. After merging two lives together, it can be easy to feel a loss of independence. By having something that is solely yours, you can guarantee you still have some control over your life.

Relationships take a lot of work to be successful. It’s about compassion, patience, and compromise. Despite this, you may still find yourselves butting heads with your partner from time to time over things you just can’t seem to agree on. Follow these steps to ensure you spend less time arguing about finances, and more time arguing about things that matter; like which show you want to Netflix binge (and chill). Lastly, don’t forget to give him a kiss when he splurges on you! Your relationship will grow stronger and better because of it.

Why are reporters still describing female athletes as ’emotional’?

Last week, fans were shocked to hear that well-respected coach John Herdman will be leaving the Canadian women’s soccer team and heading up the men’s national team.

Herdman has led the women’s soccer team to two Olympic bronze medals and two CONCACAF champions, as well as numerous other international wins. The Canadian women’s soccer team is a force of nature, and is the only Canadian olympic team to win medals two Games in a row.

But, the article I’m going to write is not about Herdman himself or his move to the men’s team. Instead, it is about an article written in the Toronto Sun by Kurt Larson that diminishes the women’s soccer team’s accomplishments and frames Herdman’s transition as a step up within the industry.

The article itself contains a number of condescending remarks, but the top zingers are these:  “Matches aren’t won via athleticism and emotion as they are in the women’s game. Results are secured through tactics and technical ability on the men’s side” and “The source invoked San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the site of Canada’s infamous 8-1 loss, as being far different from playing at BC Place in front of thousands of screaming pre-teens, donning red face paint and Christine Sinclair jerseys. Simply put: The stakes are higher on the men’s side.”

Herdman’s experience with the women’s team far outweighs the capabilities of the former men’s soccer coach over the last few years. The women’s team has gone to the olympics to win medals while the men’s soccer team…well, they haven’t competed on that stage in a while.

My household is full of soccer fans. I often come down in the morning to the sport being played on television on Saturday mornings. I’ve watched the men play and I’ve watched the women play. I can personally tell you the women are stronger players on many levels. Their athleticism, their sportsmanship, and their skill far outweigh what I’ve seen at a men’s soccer game.

I urge you to watch a game for yourself. When the women are knocked to the ground or hurt, they get back up immediately and jump into the game with a level of ferocity unseen on the men’s playing ground. The men? Well, they hang on to their ankle and shed crocodile tears until the referee calls for a free kick. Is that the “tactic and technical skills” this reporter was talking about? If so, I’m not sure that is something to celebrate.

This year, people are celebrating the strength of women — and yet reporters are still using words like “emotion” to describe female athletes. My question is why? What makes a female athlete so damn more emotional than a male athlete? They both put their heart, soul, and body on the line each time they compete. They each try their best to represent their team and country on an international stage. And yet, every year some journalist seems to fit the word “emotion” into a sentence about a female athlete, despite the only difference being reproduction organs. It’s incredibly disappointing.

The Sun even admits their own feelings for female athletes when they explain why Herdman is so respected. “He even showed a bit of fire last year when he took the Toronto Sun to task over not covering his women’s team with the same enthusiasm it covers the men.”

I guess nothing’s changed.

Featured Image taken for Canada Soccer.

Why is no one describing Celine Dion’s stage mobbing as assault?

Iconic Canadian singer and businesswoman Celine Dion was mobbed by a female fan.

In the middle of one of her concerts in Las Vegas, a fan rushed the stage and grabbed the singer, gyrating against her body with her legs wrapped around her waist. The woman was obviously drunk and it is unclear how she got past security.

Dion handled the fan like the magical woman she is. She calmed the woman down, sent security away, and proceeded to speak with the woman. “I’m glad you came up on stage tonight,” Dion said. “I’m glad that you wanted to come closer to me.” The exchange took about five minutes before the woman was escorted off stage.

“Some people go through a lot,” Dion tells the crowd. “And some people need to talk, and I want to say thank you to all of you, because for maybe five minutes we have given this lady a moment to talk.”

Dion is an incredibly classy and kindhearted woman, so it’s not surprising that she handled this challenging moment in such a dignified way. But, what was surprising is the media’s description of the event.

“Celine Dion uses the power of love to deal with drunk fan”. “Celine Dion is a model of kindness”.

While it is true that Dion was a model of kindness, she was also a victim of assault — something no one seems to be talking about.

In an age where women are standing up and telling their #MeToo stories, the media needs to be harsher in exposing instances, no matter how small, in which women and men are being harassed. This fan did not have Dion’s permission to touch her or gyrate against her body.

Sexual assault is described as sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent. Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks. Gyrating against another person’s body would absolutely fall within these definitions.  

In the video, at one moment, Dion asks the woman “can I touch you”, and she takes her hand and walks her to centre stage. There was consent in that moment for that particular form of physical contact. There was no consent for this fan to start humping Dion on stage, even if Dion was open to keeping her on stage. Just like an invitation into someone’s house isn’t an invitation for sex, an invitation on stage is not an invitation for physical contact.

I also wonder if these headlines would have read differently if the fan was a man? Is it less of an incident because it was a woman gyrating against another woman?

If 2018 is the year of TIME’S UP — it has to be universal. Just because you are a celebrity or an entertainer, doesn’t mean it is okay to be attacked by a fan. It doesn’t mean you should have to handle it with dignity and class. And it doesn’t mean the rules are different for men and women.

This incident, no matter how compassionately it was dealt with, was assault — and it’s time to start describing it that way.

Featured image by celebrityabc.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Linda Hung

Linda Hung is a theme park enthusiast. While speaking on the phone with Women’s Post, she talked excitedly about Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. The experience, she said, was made unique by the magical landscapes and the transitions from island to island.

And Hung knows what she is talking about. As Senior Director of Theme Parks for FORREC, it is her job to ensure theme parks and resorts are designed in a way that cultivates the best possible guest experience — and the most fun.

FORREC is an international entertainment design agency based in Toronto, responsible for designing some of the world’s most attended and admired theme parks. This includes Canada’s Wonderland, Universal Studios in Florida, and several LEGOLAND properties, among many others.

Hung was always fascinated with design and architecture. “It was the idea of being able to create something with your imagination and then believing you can transform that image into a real place,” she said. “I day dreamed a great deal when I was young. I had an interest in art, design, and drawing, coupled with technical skills in math. I fell into landscape architecture.”

After graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture, Hung moved to Asia. Employment in Canada was scarce, and in Hong Kong she was able to get a job as a Junior Architect and Intermediate Landscape Architect, while learning more about her family history.

While she loved her work, she loved theme parks and resorts more. Ever since she was young, she visited these attractions as much as possible. When a position opened up at FORREC for a master planner, Hung jumped at the opportunity. That was 19 years ago.

“I often think of how lucky I am and stay engaged and inspired in one place all these years. I’m constantly learning from my peers and clients. Projects are so diverse, I’m never bored.”

Now, she serves as Senior Director of Theme Parks, a role that incorporates her knowledge in design and architecture with business and finance. “I’m not just trying to sell them a theme park. I understand what they need to make their project and development viable, efficient, and compelling to guests. Plus, I love the whole industry, bringing entertainment to projects. We have a unique skill set with FORREC to marry it with our projects to make it stand out.”

With so many options around the world, the theme park industry is highly competitive. Each project needs to be looked at through different lenses and must cater to the client, location, brand, culture, and story. With so many entertainment offerings out there, Hung needs to constantly think about what is going to make their parks unique. How will they capture the free time of their guests?

According to Hung, the key to a successful resort is integration, ensuring guests are entertained and occupied from when they get up in the morning to when they return to their rooms at night. At a theme park, great rides and attractions are absolutely necessary, but Hung says it is about more than that. “The park in itself is also a destination. We look for things that create a whole story or environment so that once you walk in you are entering a different world. You are escaping your world and walking into a fantasy.”

FORREC also helps design smaller, local projects such as a playground at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. The playground included elements of waterplay, handwork, and food, set around a chimney, which acts as a central gathering space. Hung says that working internationally is a thrill, but it is even more rewarding to work in your own backyard.

Hung also helped create Splashworks at Ontario Place, an experience she enjoyed greatly.

“I remember working on that project and bringing the master plan home and my kids were inspired by it and said we have our ideas, and this is what we would love to see in a splash park. And I implemented some of their thoughts. Years later they recognized some of those things in the waterpark. Those are the little moments that make it really special. Creating things in your mind and having it built into a physical place. You can experience it in design.”

Hung has an entrepreneurial spirit, and encourages creativity and adventure within business. “I would encourage a curious mind. If you have a new concept, whether it;s landscape architecture or entrepreneur. You shouldn’t stop there. Always think what could make it better. For women, being sensitive is a good thing. It’s what makes us keen observers, that’s what enables us to explore.”

When Hung isn’t working, she spends a lot of time volunteering. She does work with World Vision, Toronto City Mission, The Scott Mission, and Sketch Toronto.

Enjoy these profiles? Sign up for our weekly e-newsletters to have them delivered right to your inbox!

CEO Sidewalk Labs answers Toronto’s questions

Back in October it was announced that Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto and the Canadian federal government, was chosen as a partner to create an innovative city hub in Toronto, coined Quayside. 

Sidewalk Labs will be helping develop “a new kind of mixed-use, complete community” on 12-acres of unused Waterfront property. The aim is to use new technology and sustainable practices to address urban problems. They claim this new “smart” will help improve economic growth and bring international attention to Toronto.

Dan Doctoroff, Chairman and CEO of Sidewalk Labs, answered questions from the public about the project on Reddit. A lot is still unknown, but here were some of the big, and quirky, questions**:

Question: What is the timeline for this project, when do you hope to break ground, and are there plans to have mix use housing? 

Answer:  Great questions. The only timeline right now is the year-long community planning process that we launched with the Town Hall on November 1. We’ll be releasing the formal engagement plan in early 2018. At the end of this process, Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto, and the local community will determine whether we should proceed.

As for mixed-income housing — I answered that above but it’s worth repeating. We are strongly committed to making Sidewalk Toronto affordable and accessible to people with a range of incomes, ages, and abilities. We also believe strongly (this is in our RFP response) that mixed-income housing should exist within buildings.

What can you and your company do to ensure that there will be housing available for all kinds of families from various income brackets?

Right from the very beginning of this project, we and Alphabet have committed to making Sidewalk Toronto representative of the socioeconomic characteristics of the greater Toronto area. As a result, we think one of the great opportunities is to figure out ways to make housing more affordable to far more people than is typically done in new developments.

We’re looking at new types of buildings that can reduce construction costs; new approaches to making buildings more adaptable, which can lower cost; and innovative financing programs to make housing more affordable. I was very proud in New York to have led the development of a housing plan that created or preserved 165,000 units of subsidized housing over an 11-year period of time and would hope we can adapt some of those approaches to Sidewalk Toronto.

I was wondering if you can comment on what it is about Toronto that is unique or unprecedented when it comes to urban planning?

We have studied the idea of building a neighbourhood of the future since I formed Sidewalk Labs, in partnership with Larry Page, in 2015. Since then we’ve looked all over the world for the perfect place to bring that vision to life — and we found it in Toronto. Toronto is unique in its incredible diversity and openness, its rich legacy of urbanism, and its rising tech sector. It’s also suffering the problems facing many growing cities around the world, such as affordability and sustainability, which makes it the perfect place to explore new ideas to improve urban life. We did a tremendous amount of research on Toronto while preparing our vision response to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP — and we look forward to getting to know the city even better this year.

With the challenges that Toronto faces to transit and moving people across its sprawling “downtown” – coupled with Quayside’s somewhat remote location – how do you see Quayside attracting people from outside of the bubble to come visit/work/play?

A second core assumption that we made right from the beginning is that this would never be a bubble! It should be fully integrated into the fabric of the metropolitan area. We’ve done a lot of work thinking about the ways that this site — which sits on the water, separated by the Gardiner from the rest of downtown — can be stitched together into Toronto’s existing neighbourhoods. That includes potential expansions of mass transit, new forms of shuttles (over time potentially using self-driving technology), heated bike and pedestrian paths, and other ideas. We also believe some of the approaches we pilot here, including using technology to manage flows of pedestrians, cyclists, transit vehicles, as well as cars, can be applied more broadly in other Toronto areas.

I would love to see some of this area opened up to a low-tech thing – fishing. Are there any plans to include a fishing node or assess areas for fishing the new harbourfront areas? 

Having spent a day last week fishing and having caught nothing, that’s a sore subject right now! I think Fishing as a Service would be a great thing to include in Quayside. (Promise I’m joking.)

Your point is really about waterfront access for the local community, which is a great one. Many Torontonians feel disconnected from the water by the Gardiner Expressway. One of our goals is to support the city’s plans to stitch together the waterfront with downtown neighborhoods, and we’ll be exploring many potential ways to improve access via transit or other means (I mentioned some of them in another answer). We’re also big fans of the recently launched Bentway project (Waterfront Toronto is a project partner) to create a lively public realm beneath the Gardiner and help draw people down toward the waterfront — to fish or otherwise.

What is the first structure you plan on building?

A statue of Jane Jacobs? The real answer is we don’t know yet. What would YOU like to see us build first?

How can I have a job with you?

That is the question I get most often! The truth is, we can’t achieve our goals with Sidewalk Toronto unless we create an organization that combines skills that no single company has ever had. We are looking for people with experience in government, product and engineering, real estate development, business development and investment, communications — and others. The Sidewalk Labs website will give you a sense of what types of jobs are available right now (several are potentially based in Toronto). We also have a way for people to submit their resumes to our “talent network” so that if a job opens up we can see if there are any qualified applicants already in the system. Here is that link — you should apply! https://boards.greenhouse.io/sidewalklabs/jobs/594339#.WlYuYbQ-dE4

Some members of the civic policy community are concerned that giving a private agency greater control over municipal space will result in reduced public ownership and oversight of regions of the city. How will Sidewalk Labs ensure that its activities are transparent, accountable, and that its outcomes serve the people of Toronto – as opposed to financial interests of Alphabet/Google? 

Answer: The short answer is we don’t see this as a private entity controlling this. We see this as a robust partnership with the public sector. Many of the staff members of Sidewalk Labs (including myself!) have spent much of their careers working in local government, and we believe strongly in its power to improve the lives of people in cities.

We also believe strongly in transparency, which is why we’ve been releasing documents at the Sidewalk Toronto site as often as possible, as does our partner, Waterfront Toronto, which will be taking the lead on making records of open meetings publicly accessible. (Waterfront Toronto also has an Open Meetings Processes that applies to board meetings and board committee meetings.)

**Questions shortened for space. Full Reddit Q&A can be found here

‘Everyone is King’ aims to appease Toronto business

Businesses along King Street in Toronto are not happy. They have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances.

A coalition of business owners are even considering legal action against the city if it doesn’t allow cars full access to the corridor on nights and weekends.

To counter these complaints, Toronto Mayor John Tory launched a design-build competition for the public spaces along the pilot. The hope is that these public spaces and the initiatives that are tied to them will encourage more people to visit King St.

The competition is called “Everyone is King” and calls for ideas on how to animate the curb lanes (15 to 140 metres in length) of the corridor.

“I am pleased we have seen improvements to the efficiency of King Street as part of the downtown transportation network,” Tory said in a statement. “I want to make sure that King Street remains a great place to eat, shop, gather and be entertained during this pilot. This program will encourage people to continue to come out to King Street.”

Local businesses are also being given the opportunity to claim additional space outdoors to support their stores, such as a patio. Any space not claimed by a business will be transformed into something the public can enjoy. Some of these installations will include warming stations, ice sculptures, fire performers, and artwork. Food will be provided through an initiative called “Eats on King”, which hopes “to promote local quick and full-service restaurants in the King Street Transit Pilot Area” on Feb. 19 and March 29.

The mayor reminded residents and businesses that King street is open to car traffic; albeit limited to certain intersections. Drivers may use any of the designated pickup and drop-off locations, and there is $5 off parking in the area around the pilot thanks to a partnership with the Toronto Parking Authority, available until November 2018.

While I understand the complaints by businesses, it is also important to note there may be external factors in play, such as the horrendous weather Toronto has experienced over the last month or the fact that most people are broke after the holidays. And remember, the pilot study began only two months ago, and people are still trying to learn the rules. Give them time to adjust.

Despite the complaints and potential law suite, the first set of transit and traffic data released in December showed improved transit service during the afternoon rush hour. Travel time has reduced from 25 minutes to 22 minutes eastbound, and 24 minutes to 19.7 minutes westbound.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time. It began on Nov. 12.

New Data will be released on Jan. 12.