Category Archives: Roncesvalles Renewed

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 (info@roncesvallesvillage.ca). 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.

Stay awesome, Roncesvalles!

More than a month after heavy machinery rolled onto Roncesvalles, our community seems to be taking the disruption in stride. While plenty of grumbles are heard in local coffee shops, the fact that these grumblings are actually taking place in the coffee shops suggests that the noise and rubble (and the occasional mental image of a giant fireball of death) are not scaring away customers. Indeed, the disruption has become an ideal way of starting a conversation, at least until December when the construction pauses, and we can begin grumbling about the cold Toronto winter instead.

Amidst the grumbles, some folks are actually having fun with the reconstruction. Like the people in Uxbridge, who decided to turn their reconstruction into a  local attraction, some Roncesvalles residents seem to be quite enjoying themselves. Parents can be seen snapping pictures of the massive pits, while their kids gawk at the mighty machines. And blogger Daddy-O snapped the work of some anonymous local artist or artists who turned the rubble pile into sculpture overnight.

Sukha Health SpaAnd some enterprising merchants see opportunity in the disruption, such as the clever folks at Sukha Health Spa (right) who are offering tired souls a chance to de-stress from all the mess. They understand that a positive attitude is good business.

And while our community is remarkably free of whining, a new “Shop Local” campaign shows what truly loyal and supportive customers we have.

Other business areas have launched Shop Local campaigns during reconstructions before, such as the taxpayer-funded campaigns along St. Clair (which have been somewhat undermined by a recent lawsuit whose success depends on convincing people that the reconstruction is a disaster).

But ours is the only Shop Local campaign we know of that was conceived, developed and implemented by the community itself.  Those new posters are the result of volunteer work by our own customers, who understand the neighbourhood’s need for a healthy and successful main street. Local designer Richard Peachey created the poster, and volunteers from Roncesvalles Renewed are distributing them to every business and to homes in the neighbourhood. This is truly amazing, and we are deeply grateful for such generosity.

The BIA would like to thank Mary Wiens, Martha Goodings, Veronica Feihl, Richard Peachey and all the hard-working volunteers at Roncesvalles Renewed. And thanks to all our great customers who have not let the disruption prevent them from enjoying the best street in Toronto! With your support our street will survive and thrive during this reconstruction, with our good humour and positive spirits intact.

Stay awesome, Roncesvalles!

Public Realm to lead Roncesvalles redesign, hosting public meeting Sept. 21

Councillor Gord Perks has announced that the City’s Public Realm Section is leading the detailed design phase of  the Roncesvalles Streetscape Improvement Project. The project leader will be Elyse Parker, the heavy-hitting director of the Public Realm Section, within the City’s Transportation Division.

Ms. Parker’s appointment is fantastic news for Roncesvalles.  Before becoming director of Public Realm, she was Project Manager for the Clean and Beautiful Secretariat (which was absorbed into Public Realm earlier this year).  Spacing.ca describes her as “someone with proven experience in improving pedestrian spaces in the city.” Among her accomplishments is the development of Toronto’s Boulevard Transformation Program, which seeks to “replace hard, impermeable concrete in neighbourhoods with greened sustainable boulevards.” Clearly, Ms. Parker has the clout and vision to help our community realize its top streetscape priorities.

The community will get a chance to meet Ms. Parker and her team at a public consultation meeting, to be held at the High Park Baptist Church (9 Hewitt)  from 6:30 to 9 pm.  At the meeting, community members will receive a briefing on the design parameters. There will be four stations set up where consultations with relevant City staffers will take place. The themes will be: 1) tree opportunities, 2) design of bike/transit platforms, 3) street furniture and 4) overall public realm design, location of platforms, sidewalks, crosswalks, etc. Community members will be free to focus on one station or move about. The discussions will concern design details within the scope of the overall design concept established during the recent EA process,  approved by City Council on May 27.

Please download the meeting notice here (to read the notice in Polish, please click here).

National Post: TTC to begin Downtown Relief Line study this fall

Downtown Relief Line

Roncesvalles TTC riders may have a new subway option within the next decade. The National Post reports that the TTC will “seriously study” the long-proposed Downtown Relief Line (DRL) this fall. Under the proposal, the new subway line would likely begin at Dundas West station, travel underneath Roncesvalles/Dundas West towards Liberty Village. From there, it would travel east alongside Queen Street West to Union Station.  It would then continue east along the rail corridor, then head north towards Pape station. This is one of a number of proposed routes.

What has changed since last year, when the Post similarly reported the TTC would “seriously study” the DRL? Well, back then the TTC said only that it would study the DRL by 2018. Since then, interest in the new line has gained momentum, with even conservative members of City council supporting the new line.

Flushing Out the Truth: Roncesvalles needs a Living Sidewalk!

Wastewater is the very definition of an unsexy subject, but the issue seems to be attracting more and more attention from environmental activists and regulators. The attention explains the urgent need for Roncesvalles Renewed’s proposed Living Sidewalk, which would transform Roncesvalles from a concrete funnel flushing stormwater down our combined sewers into a massive absorption pad, with healthy trees sucking up huge amounts of water and reducing the frequency of raw sewage overflows  into our lake.

Ecojustice - Flushing Out the TruthIn June, Ecojustice (formerly the Sierra Legal Defense Fund) published a report on municipal sewage overflows in Ontario, called Flushing Out the Truth. According to the report, in 2006 Toronto released over 284 million litres of raw sewage into our lake. Ecojustice also created a report, called Green Cities, Great Lakes, which recommends green infrastructure to prevent Combined Sewage Overflows. Among its recommendations is street trees to soak up rain flow; i.e.: a Living Sidewalk! CTV did a story on the Ecojustice report a few weeks ago.

And last week, federal environment minister Jim Prentice announced new rules governing wastewater discharges by municipalities. “Each time we close a beach or issue a boil-water advisory, we are reminded that we must do more to protect our water resources,” Mr. Prentice told the CBC. He said the new rules, to be published in December, would set national standards for wastewater treatment facilities, and would require new monitoring and reporting of sewage discharges. Municipalities wishing to upgrade their facilities will be able to draw from the $33 billion Building Canada infrastructure fund.

Despite the increased focus on wastewater pollution, the Roncesvalles Living Sidewalk project is not yet adequately funded. The BIA will be contributing nearly all its capital savings towards the project, and this will receive municipal matching funds under the City’s BIA Capital Cost-share program. This program is normally used by BIAs for branding opportunities or decorative features, but the Roncesvalles Village BIA believes the Living Sidewalk will provide far more substantial benefits for the community and the city than say, themed banners with the BIA logo. Meanwhile, Roncesvalles Renewed is still waiting for news about its Live Green grant application, a process which was delayed by the strike. But even if the grant is approved, there remains a major funding gap.

The BIA and its community partners had hoped the remaining shortfall would be made up by funding secured through the federal infrastructure stimulus fund. However, the Living Sidewalk was not among the 500 or so projects applied for by the City last June. Councillor Gord Perks said that information critical to the application was not yet available, and unfortunately the strike meant that this information remained unavailable by the application deadline. However, Councillor Perks says he hopes federal funding for the other projects will free up some money for the Living Sidewalk. It will require some tricky manoeuvring for the City to move up the schedules of all these projects in order to fulfill the federal government’s March 2011 project completion requirement, and so we hope the City has better luck with this second application than it had with the first. But even if most of these projects are approved (and not a nickle of federal infrastructure  stimulus cash has yet been spent in Toronto), there remains the sticky issue of funding the City’s new fleet of streetcars, which might be expected to command much of any money freed up. It would be a bitter disappointment for the Roncesvalles community if the Living Sidewalk got lost among all these complex funding acrobatics!

The BIA will keep everyone posted about the funding applications. In the meantime, please write Councillor Gord Perks to show your support for his efforts to secure full funding for the Roncesvalles Living Sidewalk!

EARLIER:

The measurable benefits of urban trees (May 21, 2009)

Western Waterfront Master Plan aims to clean up Sunnyside Beach (April 1, 2009)

What stormwater management is really about (Hint: rhymes with “spit”) (March 19, 2009)

The challenges of greening Roncesvalles (May 29, 2008)