The Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden group has launched a website to promote its proposal for a new peace garden at Roncesvalles and Dundas. The garden would green and beautify the triangular space at Dundas and Roncesvalles, and commemorate the area’s role in the War of 1812 and the resistance of local aboriginal warriors to the landing of the American fleet in Humber Bay. The website includes project information and updates, as well as a newsletter sign-up, donation form, and other resources.
The DRPG group is an organization of local residents, formed as a committee of the Roncesvalles-Macdonnel Residents’ Association, in partnership with the Roncesvalles Village BIA and the City of Toronto. Other community partners include the Roncesvalles Village Historical Society, Roncesvalles Renewed, and the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto.
|February 28, 2012|
|7:00 pm||to||9:00 pm|
Please join the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents’ Association on Tuesday February 28th for a presentation and community discussion about the Dundas-Roncesvalles Peace Garden. This initiative aims to green and beautify the triangular space at Dundas and Roncesvalles, and to commemorate its role in the War of 1812 and the resistance of local aboriginal warriors to the landing of the American fleet in Humber Bay.
The BIA is very excited by this proposal. The beautification of this space was identified as a major streetscape priority under the BIA’s 2003 Streetscape Strategy, which considers this intersection be the northern gateway to Roncesvalles Village. The BIA is also excited at this opportunity to take part in the War of 1812 Bicentennial, which will take place over the next 2 1/2 years.
The Battle of York started just south of the foot of Roncesvalles, about where the Boulevard Club stands today. In 1813, Americans landed there and marched east. In preparation for the expected battle, Canadian/British engineers needed a road that connected Fort York to the west, near to the likely American landing point. As a result, plans showing a road running straight across what is now High Park had to be scrapped in favour of a road that could be built more quickly. In order to avoid all the creeks and marshes of the Humber/High Park system, the road took a sharp turn and then circled around the park. And that is why Dundas suddenly turns north at Roncesvalles. The entire layout of Toronto’s west end was determined by the expediencies of war.
Also, Canada would not have existed after the War of 1812 without the help of First Nations allies, whose local presence is remembered in street names such as Indian Road and Algonquin Avenue.
The Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden Group is a committee of the RMRA, in partnership with the Roncesvalles Village BIA and the City of Toronto. Other community partners include the Roncesvalles Village Historical Society, Roncesvalles Renewed, and the Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto.
The meeting will be held on February 28 at 7 pm at Fern Avenue Public School, 128 Fern Avenue.
Yesterday was a perfect day on Roncesvalles, and a great opportunity to capture the beauty of our new streetscape.
Ever since construction wrapped up in July, the new Roncesvalles has been widely praised. “The result is quite marvellous,” wrote the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee, and the New York Times wrote: “the rejuvenated ‘Roncey’ now makes for one of the city’s most engaging strolls.”
Here are some examples of what they are writing about.
The new streetscape features several new trees, planted in healthy growing conditions. Instead of ugly concrete “tree coffins” that usually kill trees within 5-10 years, the trees are protected by attractive guards and grates. Soon, Roncesvalles will boast a lush green canopy that will cool our street, absorb greenhouse gases and pollutants, and provide natural beauty. The unsafe “two-step” sidewalk has finally been levelled, and unit pavers provide an attractive surface covering the underground soil trenches that give our trees access to uncompacted soil, air and water. The new tree guards are intended as multi-use street furniture that you can rest against or lock your bike to.
The TTC stops are intended to be more than just places to wait for a streetcar. They have been conceived as “outdoor living rooms,” with benches, gardens, pedestrian lights, and room in some cases for displays or patios. An innovative, raised bike path allows cyclists to pass by the TTC stops without being caught in the streetcar tracks.
Roncesvalles now has the most accessible streetcar stops in Toronto, allowing direct boarding from the sidewalk. At 30 metres long, the stops have been optimized for Toronto’s new fleet of hi-tech LRV streetcars, which will begin entering service in 2014. These low-floor streetcars will be fully-accessible, air-conditioned, and will allow boarding from all four doors with the new Presto cards.
The end result is a street that is full of vibrancy and life - not just a way to pass through, but a destination in itself. Roncesvalles is a pedestrian-friendly place where neighbours can meet friends, stop to chat, and yes, to shop.
Cross-posted with Roncesvalles Renewed
Photos: John Bowker
Today’s New York Times travel section heaps praise on Roncesvalles Village:
After a multiyear neighborhood reconstruction project that temporarily cut streetcar service and starved merchants, Roncesvalles Avenue — the area’s main artery — is thrumming again. Despite their big-city location, the street’s indie bookstores, quirky coffeehouses and smart boutiques feel more like small-town hangouts, with stroller-pushing locals popping in to chat up proprietors. Tree-lined and low-slung, with a blessed absence of the chain stores that have crept across Toronto, the rejuvenated “Roncey” now makes for one of the city’s most engaging strolls.
Read the rest here: New York Times: A Low-Slung Piece Of Toronto Gains Casual-Hip Cachet
On June 17, the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee wrote a column about the Bloor Street reconstruction, and briefly mentioned Roncesvalles. He writes:
On Roncesvalles Avenue, too, a major renovation is coming to a happy end. As on Bloor, the street had to be torn up for major work – in Roncey’s case, the laying of new streetcar tracks. The merchants took advantage of the opportunity to spruce up the streetscape. Handsome, pale grey paving stone has been laid for the new, wider sidewalk, with planters, benches and raised transit stops that allow easier access to streetcars for strollers and wheelchairs. New street-level tree planters, replacing the old, raised “tree coffins,” hold 85 new trees, from oaks to maples to chestnuts.
There were delays here, too, and lots of complaints from irritated merchants and residents. The belated discovery that a gas main lay too close to the new tracks meant that the project could not be finished last fall as expected. A dispute with a contractor over manpower caused holdups, too. But the job is on budget and just two weeks from completion, city officials say, with crews laying the final paving stones, putting in bike rings and clearing debris. Councillor Gord Perks says the city held no fewer than 37 community meetings on the design of the street, dealing with everything from the colour of the pavers to the design of the tree grates.
The result is quite marvellous. Roncesvalles, always a lively street, with its pastry shops, delis, bike stores, public library and Revue cinema, was looking a little tired before the do-over. The renovation has given it a fresh, new face. For all the pain they cause, projects like these are just what an ambitious city should be doing, seizing the chance to transform mediocre streetscapes into something better.
It’s nice to see that the hard work of the past several years is showing great results!
Via Roncesvalles Renewed:
If you’re walking past 367 Roncesvalles, you’ll see an example of the tree guards coming to the east side of Roncesvalles this fall, along with the tree grates to be installed at grade.
The graceful curved edge at the top serves as a comfortable arm rest when you stop for a chat. These grills can also work for tying up your dog or locking your bike should all of the surrounding bike rings — now sprouting up along Roncy — be taken up.
The four-foot high, New-York style iron grill has a large enough diameter for the tree to grow quite wide before it need be removed. The grates protects the tree bed by preventing further soil compacting by pedestrians.
The City is waiting for the soil around the trees to settle before they’ll install the grates. In the meantime, cyclists are reminded to lock their bikes to the bike posts and not to the trees.
Approximately 85 new trees will be planted on Roncesvalles Avenue, along with shrubs and perennials in approximately 24 planting beds on Roncesvalles Avenue. Further, roughly 20 new trees have been planted in private yards on the west side of Roncesvalles Avenue.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA has twelve watering hydrants that can be used for watering purposes.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA seeks to retain a person or company who will provide watering and basic maintenance for our new trees and planting beds.
The successful applicant will:
water and maintain all sidewalk trees on Roncesvalles Avenue, with daily monitoring and watering as required in the warm months of 2011;
water new trees as needed on west side of Roncesvalles;
maintain and clean planting beds on Roncesvalles;
provide regular reports to the BIA coordinator, and inform the BIA in a timely fashion of any problems (disease, dying trees, vandalism, etc.);
be able to start ASAP
Interested parties should respond ASAP. Contact the RVBIA coordinator with any questions at (416) 537-2701 or
The City of Toronto has released the final drawings for the Roncesvalles streetscape. You can view or download them here:
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 (). 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 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.
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 (). 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.