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FOCUS: Revitalization of Robert St. Field (Mar. 2021)

March 26th, 2021 · No Comments

Long-awaited renewal of U of T park space for community use

Emerging from its confusing past, Robert Street Field has upgraded the playground and the field is now the largest geothermal project in Canada. COURTESY STUDIO tla OBTAINED FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

By Mary An

Robert Street Field has emerged from the ashes of its past. Located at the intersection of Robert Street and Sussex Avenue, the park, playground, and field are being revitalized by the University of Toronto and designed by Studio TLA

The new playground brings needed greenspace to Harbord Village. Residents can enjoy the year-round greenery and playground as early as June. MARY AN/GLEANER NEWS

“I think overall, the benefits are there, and the park is going to be a nice addition to the community,” Nicholas Provart of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) said in a phone interview with the Annex Gleaner.

The park’s history indicates a very confusing past in terms of ownership and management, which led to the park’s neglect. After tearing down thirty-two houses in the late 1960s, the university created Robert Street Field with a skating rink and tennis courts which was greatly enjoyed by the community. The university came to an agreement with the City of Toronto where the city would pay the cost to maintain the area. In the years following this agreement, the community was disturbed when the ice rink became a storage space for garbage cans, and the tennis courts became a home for landscaping materials. 

In 2013, the university proposed that a student residence be built in the area, which was an opportunity to address the community’s needs for the park. Adam Vaughan, councillor of Ward 20 at the time, held a public meeting to identify concerns and input them into a terms of settlement such as; preserving the heritage of the community, ensuring low noise impact, and improving the park and the Robert Street Field. 

The plan for a 23-storey student residence at 700 Spadina Ave. is moving forward. The University of Toronto is renovating the park before construction begins.

“The majority of hard landscaping at the site has been completed,” said a spokesperson for the University. “Installation and further landscaping will take place as soon as the weather allows.”

The ice rink and tennis courts will not be revived. According to Provart, the location of the ice rink will be used as a staging area for the construction of the 23-storey building, and will then be converted to “multi-use courts.” 

The public park will feature a wide green space with a central lawn, playground equipment, unique shade structures, various seating areas, and bicycle parking spots. There will be seasonal planting and a “mix of deciduous and coniferous plants so that there is year-round greenery,” the university stated in an email.

“It’s a big plus for the community with this green space in the village,” Provart said. “Could they have done more? Yes. Nonetheless, Harbord Village is quite under-serviced in terms of green space, so I think it’s a win.” 

Alongside this revitalization of the park, the deepest large geothermal project in the country is being installed underneath the adjacent Robert Street Field. With this geoexchange technology, the university will be able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions for heating and cooling the new student residence by 90 per cent compared with natural gas. 

According to the terms of settlement obtained by the Gleaner, the public will have access to the park and the playing field whenever it is not in use by the university or other organizations. It also states that the University of Toronto will ensure events on the playing field end by 10 p.m.

Understanding the history of Robert Street Field, the university is implementing measures to ensure the field is maintained. 

“The University of Toronto will maintain the Robert Street Field including planting the area, maintaining the lawn and beds, removing waste, and repairing relevant systems. There will not be winter snow clearance and maintenance,” A spokesperson from the University of Toronto said. 

Residents can expect Robert Street Field to be fully completed by the end of June, 2021.

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