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NEWS: PARA plans for a green future (July 2018)

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

Annual general meeting includes Mirvish Village update

By Ahmed-Zaki Hagar

Future development and maintaining community green spaces were the main topics at a well-attended annual general meeting of the Palmerston Area Residents’ Association (PARA) on May 15.

Kristina Reinders, a senior urban designer with the City of Toronto, spoke about the TOcore initiative, focusing on parkland and community spaces.

TOcore — approved by Toronto City Council on May 22 — is a long-term plan to redesign the city’s downtown core aimed at preparing for the upcoming population and employment growth in the next 25 years.

As a public and private investment, TOcore aims to improve the downtown core for residents, workers, and students, ensuring that “growth positively contributes to Toronto’s downtown as a great place to live, work, learn, play, and invest”, said Reinders.

She added that the increase of high-rise buildings will result in “an [increased] need for parks”.

According to census data, downtown residents only have 5.5 square metres of parkland per resident, whereas the city average is 28 square metres per resident.

“Downtown residents have among the lowest percentage of parkland space in the city,” she said. “The land is just not available, but what is important is how we use the space that we have and that we design it in a way that is most useful for residents and employees.”

The Parks and Public Realm Plan consists of “five transformative ideas”: the core circle, great streets, the shoreline stretch, park districts, and local places. According to the plan, these ideas “establish a clear vision for the Downtown’s future urban landscape”.

Reinders said that the city has tools to pay for implementing the plan, like a bylaw amendment currently under consideration by council that would require new developments to provide more park space. In addition to what she called a “sizable capital budget”, she said that other ways of funding the project include partnerships with public and private agencies and philanthropy.

After Reinders spoke, board member Frumie Diamond presented the PARA Green Plan, which is currently in draft form. The plan will be an official green document that’s approved by the city and advocates for bylaws that support the environment.

“We want to promote…green initiatives that contribute to the wellness of our community,” Diamond said. “We need to respond to climate change because it is happening now and it is already impacting our community.”

The plan identifies public spaces — like the Palmerston Gates, Healey Willan Park, churches, and synagogues — for improving or adding green spaces.

It addressed PARA’s discussions with Westbank Projects Corp., which is redeveloping Mirvish Village, on adding park space to the new development.

“We need to make sure that the whole [Mirvish Village] project is integrated into a continuous green space,” she said.

The green plan will also include a community greening project that is still to be decided.

“There are a lot of educational opportunities to educate our neighbours and people in our community,” added Diamond.

Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) spoke with Roy Sawyer, one of PARA’s representatives of the Mirvish Village Task Group, about how construction will impact movement around the neighbourhood.

Sawyer said that progress has been made in planning for vehicle movement in the Village, including making Markham Street a one-way street and widening Lennox Street near Honest Ed’s to include a dedicated left-turn lane.

He added that the development will connect with the rest of the neighbourhood and make the streets “much more beautiful.”

“On the Palmerston [Boulevard] side of Mirvish Village, there are all these beautiful heritage houses that had lost green space behind them, that is going to be combined with park space,” Sawyer said. “That will be partially used as outdoor space for a new daycare.”

Layton said that he wants the development to not only accommodate movement but also provide the community with “a very special public space”.

To accomplish this, Layton and Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) proposed a motion to work with several city divisions, including Transportation Services, to help with planning the movement and street priorities in the development.

“It will take many years to build this development,” Layton said. “Before these 1,800 people move in and the retail opens up, we will have a significant opportunity to look at the traffic pattern, model it, and try to figure out solutions.”

Layton said that the development is currently at the site plan application phase, and that he hopes to involve the community, including PARA, and not “try to work in isolation”.

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