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NEWS: Planning for the future

May 13th, 2016 · No Comments

U of T to present latest vision for St. George campus

By Marielle Torrefranca

The University of Toronto will hold a public open house on May 17 to discuss its latest development plans for its St. George campus.

These development plans are not new but rather an ongoing evaluation of the university’s needs and how they’re changing over time, said Pino Di Mascio of Urban Strategies, the firm U of T has contracted to lead its development planning, consultations, and applications.

A specific area of change will be around King’s College Circle at the heart of the campus.

Urban Strategies will be present at the open house to assist with explaining what the proposed developments are, its guidelines, and where growth is intended by executing mini presentations and holding public consultations.

Currently, the plan is in its early stages, and it will take shape through a vision and policy document called the University of Toronto Secondary Plan. According to Di Mascio, Urban Strategies has been working on the plan’s revisions for almost a year, fusing amendments of existing projects from 1997 and 1993 to craft guidelines that reflect expected changes in the next 20 to 25 years.

Some changes are predictable.

As some of U of T’s buildings are reaching their end of life, a specific area of change will be around King’s College Circle at the heart of the campus, said Di Mascio. New additions are likely to be renovations to existing buildings, and it’s expected that heritage buildings will keep their heritage core. The firm also has its eye on the area west of St. George Street and east of Spadina Avenue, an area that features 1960s modernist buildings, but lacks good public open spaces. According to Di Mascio, there’s an opportunity for growth there.

However, this growth does not extend to the student population. At a community briefing of the secondary plan in February, it was explained that student numbers are expected to stay static at 58,000 through to 2030. The expected shift is in ratios. The percentage of graduate students, who require different kinds of buildings and infrastructure, is expected to increase from 25 to 40 per cent.

“The university is in a puzzling position because it’s not taking on new students,” said Sue Dexter, the U of T Liaison at the Harbord Village Residents’ Association. “And yet they’re seeking to expand their build sites on campus, saying that they’re going toward graduate students [who] need more space.

“The problem is that if you start getting the kinds of densities — uncontrolled densities — or density that doesn’t have effective control, you change the nature of the campus and the neighbourhood,” said Dexter, who noted a possible loss of green space as one of her chief concerns.

Di Mascio said he hasn’t ignored these issues.

As Urban Strategies tries to cater to the needs of what he calls a “dynamic university” and “one of the most diverse, broad, and large universities in the world”, he said bridging the needs of the school and the community are on his to-do list.

“It’s all kind of a tricky balance,” said Dexter. “So when the university is going forward with their plans, we say, ‘What are you contributing to us other than your university?’ We’re all part of the same community. The relationship should be very tight.”

As for what exactly the new secondary plan entails, it’s still a watercolour sketch, said Dexter, who also noted the document is only “aspirational” at this point.

“We need more hard information about what their intentions are,” she said. “What we’re asking for is some precision.”

The public open house meeting will take place on May 17 in the University of Toronto’s Medical Sciences Building at 1 King’s College Circle from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.



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