For the last seven years, the BIA has worked with the councillor's office, city staff and community groups to seek streetscape improvements above the basic state-of-good-repair track replacement project originally planned for Roncesvalles. The BIA's 2003 Streetscape Strategy, developed in consultation with businesses and the community, served as the starting point for an amazing dialogue between our community and the City. As Councillor Gord Perks says, the resulting streetscape plan "reflects a new understanding of how a street can function."
A joint community committee, called Roncesvalles Renewed, was formed in 2005 with representatives from the BIA, the High Park Residents' Association, the Roncesvalles-Macdonell Residents' Association, the Sunnyside Community Association, Councillor Gord Perks' office and other community members. Roncesvalles Renewed also includes local, volunteer professionals with a background in architecture, design and urban planning, who have helped us to understand and respond to many of the technical issues that have been raised during the process. Since its formation, Roncesvalles Renewed has led workshops and information sessions in church basements, school gyms, community centres, libraries and various living rooms. These gatherings have helped community members understand various streetscape issues, and advise the City on community priorities and local conditions.
Based on the BIA's streetscape document, and following other consultations with business and community groups, Roncesvalles Renewed idenitified four streetscape priorities for the 2009-10 project:
1. Trees, planted in healthy growing conditions
Currently, street trees in concrete "tree coffins" tend to die within 5-10 years. In order for these trees to grow properly, they need access to uncompacted soil, air and water. The City has confirmed that it will plant over 100 trees in the spring after reconstruction is compeleted. These trees will be planted at grade, with a protective grate or guard. In addition, these trees will have access to a continuous soil trench under the sidewalk, providing an adequate volume of uncompacted soil. Finally, the BIA will install water supplies along the street, allowing it to properly water the trees during the summer. In addition to being beautiful and well-loved, mature urban trees will provide shade, cool the street and absorb 15 times as much carbon dioxide and airborne pollutants as the same tree in a rural setting.
2. New and enhanced public spaces
Widened sidewalks and curb extensions will allow for new public uses such as patios, merchandise displays, benches, gardens or public art. These "bumpouts" will allow TTC riders to board the streetcar without crossing a lane of traffic. This plan will change Roncesvalles into a street that prioritizes transit, cycling and pedestrian uses over car traffic. This is in line with City policy, as well as the BIA’s streetscape strategy of 2003. While about 8% of our street parking will be lost, the plain fact is that Roncesvalles will never be able to compete with other shopping areas on parking availability. But Roncesvalles will offer something that a mall never can: a pleasant and distinct experience for shoppers who walk, cycle or ride the streetcar.
3. Improved sidewalk standards
While opening up new public space, curb extensions will also reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians, improving safety and accessibility. Our multi-level sidewalks, which have caused so many accidents, will finally be levelled. TTC stops will be enhanced with attractive planting areas, new pedestrian lighting and other features.
4. Distinctive entrances and public gathering places
Open spaces at Boustead, Queen or near the library provide opportunities for design treatments that announce the entrance to our neighborhood. These public gathering places could feature public art, landscaping and special lighting. The City says it will examine such enhancements as separate projects to take place after the larger reconstruction is completed. Naturally, the plans will be developed in collaboration with the community and other stakeholders.
These streetscape improvements represent the culmination of over seven years of intense collaboration between the City, the BIA, its neighboring residents' associations, Roncesvalles Renewed, Councillor Gord Perks' office, and several other community members and organizations. To everyone who has written in with concerns or suggestions, to everyone who volunteered their time and expertise, to everyone who attended the many community meetings in church basements, community centres, school gymnasiums, at City Hall, and various living rooms ... the BIA would like to express its deep gratitude. Such engagement is what makes our community truly special, and the merchants of Roncesvalles are blessed to have such wonderful neighbours.
The second and last phase of construction has finally started. The City expects this work to be completed by the end of November (fingers crossed). For more information on the construction, please click here for regular updates. Updates are also available by email. Please contact the BIA to be added to our email list.
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.
A sure sign that construction is coming to an end on Roncesvalles Avenue is the arrival of our first trees on the street. Roncesvalles’ first new street trees are being planted today by City staff. All trees are expected to be planted by the end of next week.
Celebrating the arrival of our long-awaited trees: Councillor Gord Perks, RVBIA Chair Tony Cauch, RVBIA Beautification Committee Chair John Bowker, RVBIA Business Continuity Committee Chair Len McAuley and RVBIA Vice-Chair Andrew Chomentowski.
Please be nice to our new trees… Don’t lock your bikes to them!
Roncesvalles Avenue is generally open to two-way traffic as construction enters its final few weeks.
The City of Toronto has released the final drawings for the Roncesvalles streetscape. You can view or download them here:
The TTC has just published “Getting it Right: Lessons from the St. Clair Streetcar for the Implementation of Transit City,” written by Les Kelman and Richard Soberman. The report details the missteps that led to delays and cost overruns with the St. Clair transit project. The Globe and Mail sums up the report’s conclusions nicely: “The price tag of the new St. Clair streetcar line nearly doubled because nobody was in charge as the project’s scope ballooned, public consultation ran amok and more than 20 small contractors tripped over each other.” The authors also blamed provincial intervention, including the granting of a judicial review of the project, as a main cause for the delays.
Transit guru Steve Munro has posted his response to the TTC report. He questions the report’s emphasis on “project creep” and obstinate community members, and places more blame for the delays on good old-fashioned bureaucracy, mismanagement and a “silo mentality” within City departments and agencies. He also says that the TTC resisted public input not only from steadfast opponents, but from project supporters as well, and must share considerable blame for the poor public consultations.
The report mentions that a Project Management Plan is being prepared, and a single Transit City office is being established within the TTC, which should improve how such projects are managed in the future. Specifically, the report stresses the importance of:
• ensuring construction contract conditions that facilitate staging and traffic management plans,
• including both incentives and disincentives related to meeting construction milestones,
• finalizing methods of staging construction through workshops with consultants, contractors, and the City, as well as affected utilities, and
• promoting pro-active liaison with residents, businesses and BIAs early in the final design and construction stages.
The Roncesvalles Village BIA has requested that such completion incentives, along with other mitigation efforts, be written into the contract for phase two of the Roncesvalles reconstruction (set to begin probably in June).
While the Roncesvalles reconstruction is tiny compared to the scope of the Transit City LRT projects, the BIA hopes that the City and TTC will examine the lessons of the St. Clair project (along with the lessons learned so far during the Roncesvalles reconstruction), and apply them here.
The BIA is gathering input from merchants and the community about phase one of the Roncesvalles reconstruction, and is forwarding recommendations to City staff. If you have any observations or recommendations on how to mitigate disruption during phase two, please contact the BIA at , Councillor Gord Perks at , or post below.
Recently, BlogTO posted an article on how Roncesvalles businesses are struggling during the reconstruction, a reminder of the importance of supporting local businesses during the holiday season. The BIA urges all Roncesvalles residents, please, to brave the occasional dust blast (and chilly breeze), and drop by your local shops, services and restaurants. We need you now more than ever!
The article mentions several business closures, although it is not clear that all these closures were due to the reconstruction. What is certain, however, is that business is down, and the 30 percent drop that Len McAuley from Pollocks reported sounds typical for the street. Is there way of mitigating the disruption during the second phase of construction (to begin in the spring with the streetcar track and sidewalk repairs)?
In addition to urging continued local support for Roncesvalles businesses, the BIA would like to ask community members for their observations of how this first phase of construction has been managed. What can be done better to ensure that the second phase proceeds as smoothly as possible? Good suggestions should be incorporated into the tender document, which the City and TTC will send out shortly.
Here are some sample observations, and a few suggestions:
1) Do more to ensure pedestrian movement: Quite often during the first phase, pedestrians were required to walk a block or more out of their way just to cross the street. This effectively cut off businesses from half their customers. The new contract should state that pedestrian crossings shall be maintained at each block except when this is absolutely impossible. Each hour that a pedestrian crossing was closed made a difference to businesses across the street.
2) Manage the dust: Perhaps even more than parking and car access, dust and noise were main factors keeping customers off the street. The jackhammers only lasted a week or so out front of a business, but the dust remained far longer. This meant that whenever a bus drove by, a huge cloud of dust was stirred up and thrown into people’s faces. Even after the first blast, micro particles would linger in the air, making the street unpleasant for everyone and intolerable for those with allergies.
3) Contain the mess: Right now, there are several blocks along the street that are finished but still closed off due to staging materials. Wherever possible, the City should insist that staging materials be kept on the same block where work is occurring or just one block adjacent. Whenever a block can be opened up, however partially, it should be.
4) Preserve bike parking: whenever bike posts must be removed in order to reconstruct the sidewalk, temporary bike parking should be provided nearby. Car parking may need to be restricted along Roncesvalles, but there is no reason bike parking should be.
5) Accept time-based transfers at all Roncesvalles stops, allowing TTC riders forced to switch vehicles at Queen/King/Roncesvalles to shop a bit before resuming travel without requiring use only at designated transfer locations. A similar program has been in place on St. Clair.
6) Bonuses for speedy completion of work should be included in the construction contract
Are there any other observations/suggestions? Please contact the BIA at , Councillor Gord Perks at , or post below!
The community has always understood that the reconstruction work is long overdue and is absolutely necessary to avoid having streetcars run off their rails. And disruption is inevitable with any reconstruction. But there is always room for improvement in how such things are managed. Let’s make sure the lessons learned during this first phase are incorporated into the second!