Category Archives: Roncesvalles Renewed

Roncesvalles redesign: your input is needed

Toronto’s Public Realm section is leading the detailed design phase of the Roncesvalles streetscape improvement project. The City needs your input to help them understand our local priorities and the local conditions.

For example, a number of businesses have told the BIA that they are currently unable to build a patio out front due to a bus shelter or a tree planter. The locations of such items are currently being considered, so it may be possible to locate these items elsewhere nearby. But the City designers cannot know about these preferences unless we inform them.

Here are some questions that only the community can answer:

  • which businesses need patio/display space, and which would prefer a tree?
  • where would benches be best used?
  • where do pedestrians feel the most vulnerable?
  • where do cars speed, or bottleneck, or otherwise get into mischief? what is the likely cause?
  • where have accidents or “close calls” occurred?
  • where do cars park illegally? or make temporary stops? or make other unauthorized use of the street? should this be tolerated or not?
  • do people feel comfortable jaywalking, or does everyone cross only at the crosswalks?
  • where do pedestrian bottlenecks occur? what is the cause?
  • where do people gather (as opposed to loiter)? And where do people loiter (as opposed to gather)?
  • where are the “dead zones” along the sidewalk, where people don’t wish to linger? What can be done to improve these areas?
  • where do the elderly need to rest?
  • do strollers need a place to park/lock up? if so, where?
  • how many bike parking spots do we need? where should they go?
  • where do parents pick up/drop off their kids? what routes do the kids take to and from school?
  • when is parking most needed, and by whom?
  • how many people buy their coffee to go, making quick stops in their cars? how many people drink at the coffee shop?
  • which spaces should be greened, and which should be paved (for patios, displays or other features)? Can we do both, and if so, how?
  • do people prefer an nice uncluttered street, or is a little clutter desirable if it adds interest?

Obviously, our community is not expected to design the street. That is the City’s job. But there is a difference between a street as it appears on a designer’s computer screen and a street as it actually is used. By informing the City of our local priorities and the local conditions, be are best able to ensure that the City builds the best possible street for our community.

Your input or questions can be sent directly to Councillor Gord Perks or to the BIA (info@nullroncesvallesvillage.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.

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@nullroncesvallesvillage.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.