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FOCUS: Bloor Street BIA parkettes win prestigious design award

January 24th, 2023 · No Comments

Architectural association praises conversion of asphalt lots to “dynamic green public amenities”

Major Street parkette with artist Daniela Rocha’s mural in the background. COURTESY DTAH

By Hailey Alexander

The Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA) has presented the designer of Bloor-Annex Business Improvement Area (BIA) parkettes with a National Award of Excellence. The landscape architectural firm DTAH designed these public spaces at Robert Street, Major Street, Brunswick Avenue, and Howland Avenue.

CSLA states that their awards of excellence honour distinctive design, ground-breaking research, sustainable landscape management, and more.

Landscape architects, says CSLA “shape our urban landscapes, spearheading city-wide planning and design.” 

DTAH earned the Small-Scale Public Landscapes Award of Excellence thanks to DTAH’s James Roche, landscape architect hired by the Bloor-Annex BIA. CSLA states in their assessment that Roche’s designs “highlight what makes the Bloor-Annex such a unique space in the city,” adding that these spaces provide space for contemplation and “rest in Toronto’s bustling downtown.”

Over several years, Roche developed design concepts with the BIA and the City of Toronto, then worked through the construction with contractors. Between the residential north side and south side of Bloor, there is an urban corridor showcasing a “dynamic and multicultural stretch of the city,” as he put it.

This project, says DTAH, has converted overlooked and disused city-owned land into “dynamic green public amenities.” 

These parkettes complement the Bloor-Annex area while respecting community needs and supporting sustainability. Colourful murals erected by the BIA now cover formerly barren walls, and unique wooden decking replaces old asphalt lots. Developers salvaged wooden beams from the demolition of a nearby landmark, Honest Ed’s, to create custom wooden benches. Local artist Robert Cram utilized quarry cut-offs to design special granite seating. All these features involve ecological creativity. 

The Bloor-Annex BIA’s parkettes also brought 43 new trees to Bloor with pollinator gardens blooming through all three seasons. In addition to the beauty it brings, this fresh greenery provides habitats for Toronto’s birds, bees, and butterflies. Neighbourhood pets are no stranger to these green spaces, either.

Brian Burchell, of the Bloor-Annex BIA (and publisher of this newspaper), who alongside a board of management, led the 2019 Bloor Street revitalization project. He says he is extremely proud of the positive response their work has received.

“It’s a completely unique use of public space within our commercial mandate,” says Burchell. “We were going for a village feel, making welcome public space.”

This project was funded by the Bloor-Annex BIA and the City of Toronto’s economic development and culture division. Business and property owners within the city-mandated BIA boundaries contributed a large portion of the funds to create these functional spaces while the city’s planning division provided additional contributions.

A friendly university student was happy to share her thoughts when asked for her opinion. “This area is peaceful and nice even though it’s near the centre of the city,” said  Yorbanka. “It’s busier further downtown, so I like it here.” Whenever she finds time, she says, she sits by one of the parkettes, accompanied by her music and a book. 

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