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Public art at St. Clair breathes life into intersection

A month ago, the corner of Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. was adorned with large and colourful portraits. The intriguing part of the art instillation is that it wasn’t on a building or a billboard, and it wasn’t placed in a park. The portraits were all hung on the hoarding covering construction of a new podium.

The buildings on the corner of Yonge and St. Clair are owned by Slate Asset Management, who have a total of 10 properties in the area. The company saw an opportunity to engage with the community during the revitalization process, and chose public art as its catalyst.

“One of our first moves at Yonge + St. Clair was to collaborate on the eight-storey mural by acclaimed street artist, Phlegm,” said Katie Fong of Slate Asset Management. “The reaction to the mural confirmed our assumption that there’s an enormous appetite for public art in this city. Incorporating public art at Yonge + St. Clair allows us to add meaning and value to what has traditionally been an overlooked area. It’s our goal to shift this perception and we see art as one of our major avenues for doing so.”

Part of the construction includes the creation of a two-storey podium at 2 St. Clair W., which will feature a new BUCA concept. Fong said it didn’t make sense to keep a blank canvas up for a few months at such a well-walked intersection.

“The art adds a splash of colour and vibrancy. We’re working towards re-establishing the neighbourhood as a destination with our investment in art and prominent tenants like BUCA. The mural sparks a sense of curiosity, and a conversation of what’s to come and it’s helping us continue to build buzz.”

The artwork was created by Daniel Mazzone, a local artisan described by the Toronto Star as the next Andy Warhol. Each portrait is made of a collage of different images, with various colours and textures, coming together to create the face of one of his icons. Each piece took roughly 200 hours to make.

“What we liked about Daniel’s work is the colour and vibrancy that it brings. We really wanted to brighten up the corner. Also, his subject matter is relatable. Everyone can look up and recognize the various personalities. We wanted something that was going to be accessible.”

In August 2016, Slate partnered with StreetARToronto, a city program that finances public art in an effort to revitalize and engage neighbourhoods. They fund a single international project a year and chose to invest in the Yonge and St. Clair community. The mural was designed and painted by international street artist PHLEGM, whose work can be found throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Slate said there are plans for more public art at St. Clair and Yonge, but they are waiting to perfect opportunity to implement them. It will be interesting to see this neighbourhood grow.

‘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.

Toronto approves move to Phase Two of Rail Deck Park

The proposed Rail Deck Park has multiple functions — providing much-needed green public space as well as becoming a connecting area for GO Transit commuters.

This idea was reinforced with an amendment at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting. In addition to recommending staff advance to the second stage of the work plan in 2018-19, staff will also assess opportunities to create “new connections to Rail Deck Park”, including the Green Line along the hydro lands and extensions of the West Toronto Railpath.

Rail Deck Park is expected to be a sprawling 21-acre green space in the heart of the city, built above pre-existing transit lines that stretch from Bathurst Ave. to Blue Jays Way. According to the report presented to the executive committee, it will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley.

“If this growth is to continue, there is a need for significant new infrastructure, including parkland, to ensure the quality of life, health, and sustainability of Downtown neighbourhoods. If this cannot be achieved, it may be necessary for the City to reconsider the pace and amount of future development in the Downtown.”

The cost for the project will be an estimated $1.665 billion, or $83 million per acre. This estimate includes about over $600 million in contingencies. The city plans on taking advantage of Section 42, also known as cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication funds. This revenue is collected from new developments with the sole purpose of developing and acquiring parkland. Not much is known about how the park will be funded other than the city will explore sponsorships, donations, and contributions from other levels of governments.

 

The city of Toronto is growing rapidly, and the downtown core is in great need of more green space to off-set future development. There is also an advantage of ensuring connectivity by integrating access to GO Rail.

City staff will report back on the financial feasibility of Phase Two in a few months.

What do you think of the Rail Deck Park? Let us know in the comments below!