Roncesvalles to be designed to the top City standard, says Perks

Roncesvalles bike/transit platformRoncesvalles will be designed to the top City standard for main streets, says Councillor Gord Perks.  The design will follow two key priorities: 1) a strong public realm and 2) an expanded canopy of healthy trees.

What this all actually means is unclear, but the City has webpages that outline current design standards and guidelines. The tree planting guidelines can be found here.

Councillor Perks has previously expressed uncertainty about funding for the enhanced streetscape, but he now says he knows where the money can be found once budget room is freed up due to new infrastructure funds. With the confirmation of federal funding last month, he will now have the opportunity to prove it.

UPDATE (Oct. 16): At the Sunnyside Community Association’s AGM on Wednesday, Councillor Perks confirmed that about 120 new trees will be planted along the entire length of Roncesvalles, in healthy conditions. These trees will be planted at grade if possible (such opportunities exist mainly where the sidewalk is to be widened, at the transit stops), but most will likely be planted near grade, with a slightly raised planting configuration, surrounded by a concrete lip, to allow the root ball sufficient clearance over the underground utilities.

While this is very good news, Councillor Perks regrettably says there appear to be few opportunities for a full Living Sidewalk, where the street’s stormwater drainage would be integrated with the tree’s root system, so that water first goes to the trees instead of our combined sewers. This is because there are large utility conduits under the sidewalk, whose locations could not be fully confirmed until after the completion of underground surveys, conducted over the summer. Federal law gives utility companies a right-of-way on our streets, which means they cannot be compelled to move their services. Urban Forestry says a smaller-scale Living Sidewalk remains possible between Neepawa and Grenadier and between Geoffrey and Westminister, but this project would still need funding above what Councillor Perks is currently seeking.

Councillor Perks said that existing healthy trees will be preserved in their tree planters. Unhealthy or immature trees will be replaced with new trees planted in the sidewalk. He defined a “healthy” tree as one that you could not quite get one arm around (we guesstimate about 20 cm in diameter or more). Urban Forestry says these mature trees cannot be moved without killing them. The BIA and the community have previously expressed a strong preference for preserving the healthy tree canopy, although one could argue that a new tree planted in proper conditions would quickly catch up with a healthy, but young enough tree contained in a planter, such that the loss of a healthy tree in this case would be a reasonable short term investment in the long term canopy. In any case, Councillor Perks confirmed that over the long term, the “tree coffins” will be phased out, as trees die naturally and are replaced with new trees, planted at or near grade, as above.

The City’s streetscape designers are currently seeking community input about local priorities and local conditions. Your input or questions can be sent directly to Councillor Gord Perks or to the BIA ( We will ensure that your comments are sent to the right people at the City. The BIA also encourages community members to discuss these questions with neighbours, fellow merchants, at your residents’ association meetings, at church, and at other public gatherings. Roncesvalles Renewed, a partnership of local community organizations, is hosting online discussions, and invites your participation. More information about the reconstruction is available here and here.

6 thoughts on “Roncesvalles to be designed to the top City standard, says Perks

  1. Bob Warburton

    I recently attended the information session at the High Park Baptist Church where, while a rather disorganized and chaotic affair, I did learn some rather disturbing things that are not consistent with some of the information communicated in this update. It was explained to me both a city official, who’s name is unknown as from what I could tell, none of the city representatives were identified or wore name badges, and Councilor Perks, that aside from track replacement, several of the blocks would remain untouched – that the sidewalks would not be replaced nor would the trees be replaced and that the “coffins” would remain on these blocks. When I suggested that leaving block of sidewalks untouched would be at odds with the objective of renewing Roncesvalles and also inconsistent with how the renewal plan has been “sold” to us (to justify the two years of disruption to the businesses and residents) my comment was met with derision and laughter. I was told that replacing all the sidewalks and trees would cost 5 times the budgeted amount (10 Million was the figure quoted) for this project and that only selected sections of the street would be “renewed” – typically where the pedestrian ramps were to be located to create level access to the streetcars.

    So which is it? Are we getting a new streetscape or is this just a patchwork job driven by TTC priorities as opposed to that of the local citizens? There is tremendous confusion over exactly what this project entails and a growing concern over the consistency and veracity of the information being communicated to the residents and business owners.

    Also, the removal of approximately 10% of the parking spaces on the street to accommodate this TTC plan are of great concern, in particular to the owners and merchants of the area. Councilor Perks has stated that the removal of these parking spaces was supported by the BIA – while it may be true that the “executive” may have voted for the least disruptive plan that was presented, (lesser of all evils) I can assure you all that the virtually all of the owners and merchants are vehemently opposed to the removal of any parking spaces and advocate strongly that additional, not fewer, parking spaces be included in this project. Unfortunately, the owners and merchants have not been polled nor consulted on this matter and do not believe that the BIA has properly represented our interests.

    Bob Warburton

    Roncesvalles Village Resident,

    Home Owner, Commercial Building Owner,

    Business Owner

    Pedestrian, Cyclist, Car Driver

  2. Douglas Shepherd

    Thank you for the clarification on the tree coffins. At our last RMRA meeting Gord mentioned that the tree coffins would stay with the exception of where the new transit platform areas are going to be. Most people that I talked to where appalled by the tree coffins staying. After reading your explanation it makes more sense.

  3. Roncesvalles Village BIA

    Mr. Warburton, the BIA has contacted the City to find out why the two descriptions of the tree plan are so different. There is indeed an inconsistency, and we will get to the bottom of it. We have removed the detailed description of the tree plan from this post, and we will re-post the confirmed details when we have them.

  4. Roncesvalles Village BIA

    Mr. Warburton, Councillor Gord Perks has reconfirmed that the City is indeed committed to a healthy tree canopy along the entire length of Roncesvalles, not just at TTC bumpouts. As for the apparent inconsistencies, unfortunately, there has lately been a great deal of poor communication between the City and the community, with the Sept. 21 meeting being a good example. Gord Perks has acknowledged this, and the BIA hopes the communications will improve.

    Please see the posted update, above.

  5. Nye Smith

    Why aren’t the above ground wires buried also while the street is opened for other services. The architectural renderings never include the multitude of ugly above ground wires. Seems logical to bury these during this time ?

  6. Keith Denning, Coordinator, RVBIA

    Hi Mr. Smith:

    This was indeed looked at, but would have added a huge cost to the project (somewhere around $20 million, if I remember rightly) and would have also added a great deal of time to the project.

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