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FORUM (JULY 2016): Building a livable city

July 25th, 2016 · No Comments

Green spaces are critical to sustainability

By Joe Cressy

What makes a livable community? As we continue to see growth across our downtown neighbourhoods, we must focus on building livable communities, not just adding density. We must build vibrant neighbourhoods, and to be vibrant, neighbourhoods need community spaces, cultural spaces, and, critically, green spaces.

Over the last 20 years we’ve witnessed transformational change in the downtown. In the railway lands, an entire new neighbourhood, CityPlace, has been built in two decades. In the King-Spadina district, defined as Front to Queen streets and University Avenue to Bathurst Street, the population has grown from 240 people in 2001 to nearly 30,000 people today, and it will grow to an estimated 50,000 when all approved developments are built.

Green spaces and parks are critical to the livability and sustainability of life.

Despite this tremendous population growth, we have not adequately invested in the vital social infrastructure that makes a neighbourhood livable such as community centres, libraries, affordable child care, and parks. In fact, we are so far behind that we don’t have solid information on which services are most deficient in each neighbourhood. But we are finally working to catch up now.

In October 2015, Toronto City Council approved our plan for a partnership between the City of Toronto and the YMCA to bring a new YMCA centre to the revitalization of the city-owned Waterworks building at 505 Richmond St. W. This partnership demonstrates a real step in building a livable community in the continually growing area.

But, critical to real livable communities and to combatting the ever-growing crisis of climate change is expanding green spaces. We need more parks, creative greening solutions, and most of all, the political commitment to make it happen.

On June 13, I was proud that the city’s government management committee helped us move forward in supporting our ward by taking the next step towards initiating parkland acquisition in King-Spadina. Over the last 18 months I’ve worked with city staff to identify a suitable large site for a new large downtown park. We’ve identified a site, and now we need the political will to acquire it — by sale, or if necessary, by expropriation.

Whether through acquisition or expropriation, proceeding with new parkland in this area is a critical step in building a livable community.

Expanding parks space is critical, but it is just one component. We also need to find creative solutions to green concrete spaces within our neighbourhoods. The Annex Residents’ Association’s longstanding parks and trees committee has been creating incentives to green the Annex for years. And more recently the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) created an innovative neighbourhood plan.

In collaboration with the HVRA, we have created the Harbord Village Green Plan — a local, comprehensive vision to green forgotten spaces throughout the community. The plan identifies opportunities to expand and enhance green spaces throughout the neighbourhood, but zeroes in on laneways and flankage corners as key priorities to enhance our green space. Thanks to hard-working community volunteers, this is a solid foundation from which to grow green infrastructure. Croft Laneway has already been the subject of a pilot project by the HVRA to formalize laneway greening. Moving forward, we will be working hard on laneway planting, creating green punctures, introducing vining, and many other opportunities to restore and foster ecosystem health.

Whether you live in a condo tower or a low-rise residential neighbourhood, green spaces and parks are critical to the livability and sustainability of life. As downtown Toronto continues to grow, we must be proactive and creative about providing the spaces to grow trees as well.

Joe Cressy is the councillor for Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina.

 

READ MORE:

NEWS: Green sanctuaries in the heart of the city (June 2016)

NEWS: New landscaping for Lennox Street (June 2016)

NEWS: Second phase of park revitalization to begin (May 2016)

NEWS: Bloor Street goes green (April 2016)

NEWS: Huron Street Playground renewal (April 2016)

NEWS: City seeking street greening opportunities (February 2016)

 

READ MORE BY JOE CRESSY:

FORUM: Bike lanes on Bloor Street (May 2016)

FORUM: Untapped potential (February 2016)

 

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