From the Horse’s Mouth: Jennifer Keesmaat on the best city projects of 2015, and a look at the year ahead

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From the Horse's Mouth: First edition

Jennifer Keesmaat on the best city projects of 2015

From the Horse's Mouth is a new dandyhorse series where we ask City Hall experts questions related to their area of expertise.

To kick things off we ask Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat what her favourite city building project of 2015 was, and what we can look forward to this year.

What is the best development that happened in 2015?

There are so many projects!

I would have to say the Pan Am Village is the best city building project overall for a variety of reasons, including that it's the outcome of a several decades of very thoughtful planning that has involved ground-field remediation, flood mitigation and the installation of a very significant public park, Corktown Commons.

It has a grand pedestrian boulevard that’s designed to make walking a critical part of the character of that community. It also has an extensive public art plan that includes a series of public art installations. 

In many ways it's also the most significant project to signify waterfront revitalization and to demonstrate what we’re capable of when we go through a comprehensive master planning process.

2015 was a unique year; because of the Pan Am games a whole series of projects were realized all at the same time. The Pearson Express came to fruition for the same reasons as well; it required completion prior to the Pan Am games.

What developments in cycling can we expect in 2016?

There’s going to continue to be a lot of planning at the higher level. I think 2016 could quite possibly be the year that we bring forward the minimum grid plan we’ve created in City Planning. This is really important because it will lay the foundation [and show] why cycling is an important part of the streetscape design.

If we can get the minimum grid endorsed by City Council it would be a way of removing that street-by-street, or major-road-by-road fight, so to speak, around cycling infrastructure. It would show council’s intention of putting cycling infrastructure on all major parts of the grid across the city. And that would be a pretty significant achievement.

It would give us a fundamentally different starting point in all of our planning processes if we could get that approved as policy.

How many years would it take before we would see a minimum grid if the policy were approved?

Like all of the policy in the official plan it would be an enabling policy. What that means is that when those streets are rebuilt, the road needs to be rebuilt with the infrastructure. So it's completely tied to other capital projects and it would need to integrated into the bike plan.

What building projects are you most looking forward to in 2016?

I would say that there are two really significant city building projects that are coming up this year. One is a complete streets project. We’re going to be bringing complete streets forward with a recommendation; it’s about making cycling infrastructure the status quo. Instead of something that’s considered as a one-off, [cycling infrastructure will be] something that’s considered a critical part of the transportation system in the city.

Our starting point will be to consider every street as a complete street, and a complete street means that it’s always designed for a variety of users. 

Number two is the Public Realm and Parks Master Plan for the downtown. This is being initiated in the context of TOcore which is a major initiative for a comprehensive planning framework in the downtown. As part of that process, we're conducting a public life and public realm study, and we are collecting data on the ground which includes cycling infrastructure.

An outcome of that, which you’ll be able to see towards the end of 2016, will be a Public Realm Parks Master Plan. This is going to be really significant, we’ll be identifying where pedestrianized streets should be, for example. So that kind of overlays and becomes a more specific implementation of complete streets.

 

Related on the dandyBLOG:

City chief planner likes bikes

Changing lanes: Blueprints for a new road order

Art + Community + Bikes: Pan Am Path legacy

Introducing the King High Line: New Rail to trail project proposed for Toronto's West end

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