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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Plans for Etobicoke’s city centre

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Etobicoke Civic Centre

The concepts for the creation of a new Etobicoke (well, now it’s called “West District”) city centre between Islington and Kipling stations have now been released. The plans include relocating the Etobicoke Civic Centre to this area as a kind of anchor. The city will be holding public consultations about these plans at the end of the month.

It’s a very important initiative. Both the city’s planning and environmental strategies are based in part around the ability to create a more urban environment in the “inner” suburbs that were absorbed into Toronto at amalgamation. Key to that strategy is to develop densely populated “downtowns” for these suburbs where residential and employment are close together and close to transit.

The attempt to create such an area in North York has been mixed, to say the least. For various reasons, there are a lot of challenges to doing it in Scarborough. But in Etobicoke, there is a great opportunity — a large swath of underused land, mostly owned by the city, between the two subway stations.

This is the city’s chance to show that its official plan is realistic, that its goals for the inner suburbs can actually be accomplished in a transformative manner.

The various documents outlining the proposed plans (put together by a consortium of firms) are available on a City of Toronto web page. There will be a public consultation:

An open house and presentation on the consultant’s findings on the West District Design Initiative will be held on October 29, 2007, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., in the Council Chamber of the Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall.

My initial reaction to the plans is that they are certainly a massive improvement over the current situation (they incorporate a separate initiative, the flattening of the notorious “six points” intersection where Kipling, Bloor West and Dundas West all meet). It will convert a pedestrian no-go wasteland into a genuine urban space full of residents and, hopefully, workers.

One issue I noticed was in the version of the proposal where the new Etobicoke Civic Centre would be located at the corner of Bloor and Kipling. The plan envisages a “civic square” located in the middle of the block, cut off from the intersection by the new city building.

We’ve already tried this — a public square in the middle of a block beside a civic centre — twice in recent decades: at Metro Hall, and at North York Civic Centre. Both times they haven’t worked very well, because a mid-block square is not a naturally high-traffic location. A square should be located where people travel and congregate naturally — that is, at an intersection. It would be strange and rather sad for Toronto to make the same mistake a third time in a row.

I also had another response. The new plans for the intersection propose a somewhat convoluted way for Dundas West to avoid its natural route of intersecting perfectly with Bloor and Kipling (hence the “six points”). But the news that the city is looking into roundabouts made me realize that this is the obvious location to try one, and let the three roads meet in one place as they want to. I don’t generally like roundabouts because they make pedestrian trips longer and more uncomfortable, but they are a good solution in locations where more than two roads converge at odd angles, like Six Points. If done right with a lot of thought put into it (good buildings, wide sidewalks), a roundabout can be very urban in character and reasonable for pedestrians, and it would create a real focal point and distinctive character for the new downtown — imagine a piece of striking art in the middle.



  1. Yes, it might be an appropriate spot for a roundabout.

  2. Busy intersection squares aren’t guaranteed success either — the NW corner of Yonge & Eglinton gets tons of pedestrian traffic, but the always-windy square there is almost completely dead.

  3. A Six Points roundabout was discussed and considered on the “long list” of options, but it never made it down to the “short list”. In the end they decided on the “Dundas St. Loop”.

    Seems to make the most sense to me. They’re trying to maximize the amount of land that can be developed into something useful, and making it more cyclist/pedestrian friendly. I don’t think a roundabout would be wise here, especially when trying to make a “downtown” area.

    I really highly doubt the issue of redesigning with a roundabout will come up again.

    I went to on of the public meetings last year. Photos and notes are here:

    Hoping to make it to the next meeting….I pass through there frequently, and used to live in the area.

  4. Although along with Six Points, Eg + Vic Park would be the other obvious candidate for a roundaboutification…

  5. Yeah, NW Yonge/Eg makes pretty much every mistake you can make for a plaza – one would have to hope that wouldn’t happen again.

  6. Eg and Yonge: I don’t even think of that space as a plaza, which is why it probably fails. If even a life-long Torontonian can’t recognize it as a plaza….

  7. If someone who attends the meeting on October 29 could take a picture of the Etobicoke coat of arms hanging in the Council Chamber and send it to me (adamcf at gmail dot com) or post it to the Spacing Flickr group, I would be very appreciative.