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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Entertainment District’s Master Plan

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This morning, the Toronto Entertainment District BIA unveiled their “Master Plan” to redevelop much of the downtown core. From Queen to the Gardiner, and from Spadina to Union Station, the BIA states their large transformation will be guided by several main principles; the preservation of historic buildings, the promotion of local businesses and tourism, and the enhancement of streetscapes, open areas, and livable pedestrian environments.

Looking at the renderings, it’s easy to agree with most of what’s promised. However, the plan lacks in completely car free spaces, but does suggest creating several pedestrian friendly plazas, hinting at the following locations:

• The south terminus of the proposed John Street Promenade.
• The north side of Rogers Centre and the base of the CN Tower.
• Along Bremner Boulevard between Navy Wharf Court and the Rogers Centre.
• At the north and south entrances to Union Station.
• At the north-west and south-west corners of Metro Square
• Two potential small-scaled plazas associated with new developments at the north-west corner of John and Front Streets and on Nelson Street between Duncan and Simcoe Streets.

John Street rendering

The plan also refers to the importance of maintaining height restrictions, improving street furniture, installing a significant amount of public art, and sustainable design practices. In other words, everything you would expect it to. Although their isn’t guaranteed funding for this project and nobody would agree to a final dollar figure, Councillor Adam Vaughan explained that the project will be an ongoing one, and that funding will likely come from a variety of sources over time.

Front Street

At the end of his speech, Councillor Vaughan suggested that this effort, along with returning Adelaide and Richmond streets back to two-way traffic, will restore the creativity and economic vibrancy that once characterized this part of the city.

Photos of panels by Shaun Merritt



  1. You have to take away from the cars! Get it through your thick bourgeois skulls!

  2. Since the Spadina streetcar short-turns at Adelaide, why not extend it along Adelaide to serve the entertainment district?

  3. This is a pretty funny cartoon, james, but you may wish to rethink your use of it as a political strategy.

  4. Always lots of plans in this city.

    I have not seen anything come of them since I moved here 8 years ago.

    Nada. Unless you count condos.

  5. @joe

    Have you seen the Waterfront recently? From HTO Park, to the new wavedecks, there’s a lot happening. If not, perhaps you’ve wandered through Dundas Square.

    And while we’re talking about the city, let’s not forget the ROM, the AGO, the new subway line, dedicated streetcar lanes, St Clair ROW, revamped subway terminals, new street furniture, and on and on.

    I think you just need to venture outside to see all the changes that have happened in Toronto recently. It’s actually exciting to see plans because things are actually happening now.

  6. Except that many of the grand plans end up being half-finished, scaled-back, and then neglected after they’re built because of a lack of financial resources in the long term. Meanwhile the rest of the city that doesn’t happen to be a trendy downtown location falls to bits out of decrepitude: park facilities, residential roads, sidewalks, arenas, street trees…

  7. joe has only himself to blame for not getting out more. I can’t keep up with the changes. I took a group of folks along the waterfront on the weekend and they were flabbergasted with the many improvements in the past few years.

    I am pleased with these proposed changes, and I’ve always thought John was an ideal street to act as a kind of anchor for the Entertainment District – I love the symbolism of its endings at the SkyDome and the AGO. However, I also think that John is particularly well suited to pedestrianization, as it is not a through street and seems superfluous for cars, so it would have been nice to have that happen.

  8. are height restrictions really so important here?

  9. Sure the HTO park is a great small new park, and the wavedecks are are eye-catching. How many years from concept to completion?

    And don’t get me started on transit in Toronto. Too little too late.

    I’m talking about large sweeping changes to city districts like the one in this article.

  10. I think Joe has a valid point. I can’t really get into all the details as I don’t know them, but as someone who spends some time following the proposed improvements (and a lot of time outside, fyi!), there does seem to be a disproportionate number of ‘plans’ in this city.

    I don’t say this to be cynical, but I do find it interesting (perhaps symptomatic) that many good ideas get bogged down in consultations, various assessments, and ‘nit-picking,’ while some plans seem destined to remain plans and only plans. Some examples come to mind: having a design contest for a bridge over the train tracks, though it doesn’t seem any of these designs will actually be used; John Lornic asking Spacing readers for ‘ideas’ about implementing some ‘new urbanism’ with very little hope any of these ideas will actually be put into practice; and this ‘master plan’ for the Entertainment District reads as though it’s a plan to make a plan to make another plan.

    I realize that changes can’t happen overnight, but I do tend to think there’s a bit too much talk and not enough action… or some other cliche! Again, I don’t mean to sound cynical or dump all over these often great ideas – perhaps some of us are a bit impatient.

  11. The Wave Decks came quickly, Joe.

    It’s fine to be cynical — many are — but we can’t take blanket statements like “nothing happens in Toronto” seriously because it isn’t true. You sound like a cranky nut.

  12. Well I didn’t say “nothing happens in Toronto.” It’s a tremendous city for many other reasons.

    I think it’s great that there are always lots of plans for this city.

    But as Mark says, the plans get caught up in political processes that make it near impossible to ever get implemented.

  13. I’m not as interested in car-related issues as much as streetscapes. It’s long overdue but it seems that the citizenry are finally paying attention to trees, bollards, light standards and paving materials downtown. We’re supposed to be a major city; time to start looking like one.

    Bravo on the plans, hope to see them executed in at least some fashion.

  14. The John Street Rendering looks fabulous. It reminds me of Paris. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the images came from European streetscapes.

  15. joe, “nada” is pretty strong. I count as completed or currently under way: HtO, Wave Decks, landscaping at York and Johns Quays, finger piers, the piazza at the Prince’s Gates, park at CityPlace, Ireland Park, walking/cycling paths north and south of CityPlace, the landscaping improvements and road removal at the Western Beaches Watercourse facility, improvements to Cherry Beach, introduction of paths and other small changes on the Leslie Spit. That’s only the waterfront – lots of stuff happening elsewhere in the city. Take a walk on Bloor East, for instance.

    And I don’t share the implied disdain for condos. Projects like Radio City and the Met provide walkways, public art, commercial streetscapes and attractive buildings where parking lots used to sit. I’m not having troubles with that.

    To be fair, there are some ether-projects out there, such as Canada Square at Harbourfront, the failure as yet to redevelop the Canada Malting silos, or the interminable nothing that seems to be Parc Downsview Park. But I am much more enthused and optimistic about a multitude of small projects coming off the belt than the big gestures that the city is working towards. “nada” is just not defensible.

  16. I think it’s fair to say that sometimes in Toronto, things can take a frustratingly long time to come to fruition. The wavedecks took about 3 years to start appearing but they’re probably among the exceptions. Ditto for HTO.

    What makes this different is the fact that it’s from the BIA, meaning the businesses in the area who will actually fork out half the dough. They’re also the ones who will reap the most benefit.

    Some of the ideas may be pie in the sky, but most look reasonably achievable, and even if some budget constraints may inevitably intervene in some of the projects. I know that the Bloor Street Transformation took a while to get off the ground, but these projects are worth it.

    IMO, this may end up being a more important project than the waterfront if only because the waterfront is basically a single destination point. This, on the other hand is an entire neighbourhood and should become the kind of place that Torontonians and tourists alike will love to explore again and again.

  17. Yes things along the waterfront have slowly but surely been happening. So I will scratch my “nada” 😉

    But why? Because of Waterfront Toronto – a large tri-level political body. And it was formed 8 years ago.

    Do we need such an organization (tax-payer funded) for every major change to this city? Just build the darned thing!

    I’ve seen sketches and writeups for:

    -Tearing down Gardiner
    -Union Station/Front Street
    -Yorkville redevelopment
    -Roncesvalles redevelopment
    -Nathan Philips square redesign
    -West Donlands
    -Integrate/redevelop Exhibition Place/Ontario Place

    Maybe some of these are actually happening (I saw some boards up at Union station), but not sure I’ll ever see these projects happen, though I would welcome most of them.

  18. One thing that I’d really like to see them get right is the on-street trees. Toronto does SUCH a poor job of giving them the infrastructure to allow them to grow into healthy, mature trees.

    Think of a how great a street with a tree cover like Palmerston is. I’m sure it takes a fair bit of planning and money to cultivate trees to that size on a major downtown street. But the dead sticks we have on so many of major streets are an embarrassment and a missed opportunity. We can do better.

  19. joe, I think we are coming close to agreement, now. Because I certainly agree that Union Station + Nathan Philips Square + Exhibition Place/Ontario Place are all areas where announcements seem to have come to nothing, or very little (though as you say, there are long-overdue changes afoot at Union Station).

    West Donlands not so much – they needed to do some unsexy but very necessary cleaning of the land and buildings of berms along the Don River to prevent flooding, and though it is not pretty, that’s been happening and is a necessary precursor to any action on the site.

    I don’t recall much about Roncesvalles, only a few images a few months ago.

    The Gardiner – well, that’s a big issue and it’s not surprising that it would take a lot of discussion/study before much happens.

    Finally, we haven’t mentioned Regent Park yet – a megaproject if there is one, and one this is quite well advanced. If you are feeling down, I would stroll over there and contemplate the changes that are, actually, occurring.