An Annex Greening Initiative
About the Project
The Bloor Street Revitalization Project is a collaborative initiative of the businesses that make up the Bloor Annex Business Improvement Area (BIA) and the City of Toronto. Its goal is to improve the public realm by creating aesthetically satisfying and functional outdoor spaces for all to enjoy. Designed by award-winning landscape architects DTAH, this project will see the transformation of four underused paved rights of way adjacent to Bloor – at Brunswick Avenue, Robert Street, Major Street and Howland Avenue – into a series of new dynamic green spaces. These parkettes, of which construction will begin in 2019, will feature trees, pollinator-friendly gardens, sustainably sourced wood decking, artistic bike parking and custom site furnishings, including salvaged materials from the nearby Honest Ed’s demolition site.
In addition, we are partnering with the City of Toronto to improve walkability and street flow with the removal of existing planter boxes and installation of new in-ground trees in 2020. Together, these initiatives will create “a more inviting, livable environment for pedestrians” according to Brian Burchell, BIA Chair.
This investment being made by the businesses indicates the BIA’s commitment to creating and maintaining environmentally friendly spaces for all whom we serve to enjoy.
This project is funded primarily by the Bloor Annex BIA and the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture division. The vast majority of the BIA’s funds are accumulated through a yearly tax levy paid by each business and property owner within the City mandated BIA boundaries. Additional contributions to this project have come from the City’s planning division.
Trees in the Parkettes
Greening is a top priority for the project. Especially in an urban landscape, trees are vital in providing oxygen, improving air quality, conserving water and supporting life. By preserving existing healthy trees and fostering new ones in the four parkettes, we strive to create small oases for the public to escape the city heat and commotion.
Pollinators in the Parkettes
Toronto is home to one of the most diverse pollinator populations of birds, bees and butterflies in the world. As pollinator populations decline around the globe, the Bloor Annex BIA has made a conscious effort to help. DTAH and the BIA have consulted the David Suzuki Foundation to ensure each parkette will host a variety of pollinator species that are native or adaptive to Toronto urban conditions to facilitate pollination and habitat conservation and creation.
Brunswick House Mural
Thanks to funding from the City of Toronto Outdoor Mural and Street Art Grant, a mural will be installed on the historic Brunswick House and will pay homage to its musical antecedents. After inviting artists to submit proposals, the mural project was awarded to Komi Olaf, an Afrofuturistic muralist working out of Ottawa. A sophisticated, yet playful depiction of the blues music scene which flourished at Albert’s Hall will be completed in Spring of 2019.
Honest Ed’s Benches
Each parkette will feature a handcrafted bench made from beams salvaged from the Honest Ed’s demolition site. When these 136 kilogram Douglas Fir beams were salvaged, they were ridden with rusty nails, chipped paint and rough edges. Deadstok Reclaimed took these beams and crafted them into artful, rustic benches which will not only add aesthetic, but serve great purpose while paying tribute to the neighbourhood’s past.
Public Art Seating
Giant granite blocks quarried in northern Quebec and crafted by artist Robert Cram will be incorporated into each parkette. These large stones were considered ‘offcuts’ that would not meet aesthetic standards with a grain or split and would otherwise be discarded. These pieces show the blast lines, natural grain and character which were further sculpted by the artist. These stones will be carved using the four ergonomic chair models, making them an inviting place for passersby to stop and rest.
Howland Avenue Parkette
Already a hotspot for passersby, this space became a popular photo op when Nick Sweetman’s acclaimed Bee Mural was installed under the BIA’s leadership in 2016. A preserved existing canopy tree and a proposed pollinator garden will further transform this concrete corner into a new green space. Together with sustainably sourced decking, precast pavers and repurposed quarry stones, this dynamic public space will offer refuge on humid summer days.
Brunswick Avenue Parkette
Situated alongside the building that housed the Brunswick House, this parkette will offer an enhanced user experience. Commemorating the rich musical heritage of Albert’s Hall, a bustling jazz and blues venue located above the Brunswick House popular in the 1970s and 1980s, the parkette will feature a musically-themed mural and integrated sculptural seating. A seasonal water bottle refilling station with an adjacent dog fountain will offer potable water for visitors while discouraging the use of disposable plastic water bottles.
Major Street Parkette
This intimate space will showcase several artistic features, including bike parking designed by OCAD students, subtle accent lighting, off-cut quarried granite stone reclaimed and transformed into public art seating and a new mural composed by one of Toronto’s talented muralists.
Robert Street Parkette
Positioned along the east side of Robert Street, this parkette will offer a dynamic social haven for the community. Totally reimagined, this space will create a new, environmentally conscious parkette including pollinator planting, increased bike parking and amenities built from reclaimed or recycled materials, like sustainably sourced lumber infused with resin to ensure a long lifespan.
In 2019 and 2020, the City of Toronto will be replacing the watermain from Bathurst Street to Avenue Road. The first installment, from Spadina Avenue to Bathurst Street, according to the city will take place in 2019, concurrent with the Bloor Street Revitalization Project. Led by Toronto Engineering and Construction Services, the City will replace original 100+ years old infrastructure. By replacing many tees connecting the main pipe to individual buildings, the City will reduce the chance of leaks, improve water pressure and prevent the serious disruption that can be caused by a watermain collapse.
Trees in the North Sidewalk
There are currently 35 concrete tree boxes along the Bloor Annex BIA. Often referred to as coffins, these boxes are unsightly, attract graffiti and trash and obstruct the pedestrian thoroughfare. Further, they prevent the trees from growing to maturity. As development booms in the Annex, Bloor Street will be faced with accommodating more pedestrians each day. To improve the pedestrian corridor, the Bloor Annex BIA is working with the City of Toronto and DTAH to remove these tree coffins. They will be replaced in 2020 with as many native trees as existing soil conditions and underground infrastructure will allow. As many as twenty new trees will be planted level with the sidewalk along Bloor Street. With careful consideration to climate, environment, soil and species type, we are confident these trees will grow to maturity and create a canopy which will soar over Bloor Street for generations to come.
Coinciding with the Bloor Street Revitalization project in 2019, the City will be making adjustments to the bike lanes to create a safer environment for all road users. The City has proposed solutions that address many safety concerns, including improved sight lines, clearer demarcation and the addition of physical barriers where possible. For areas that cannot be addressed due to space constraints, features will be future-proofed to allow for further improved conditions down the line. The Bloor Annex BIA continues to advocate for safer conditions for all road users, especially cyclists and pedestrians. Other stakeholders in this process have included Councillor Joe Cressy’s office, Councillor Mike Layton’s office, Cycle TO, Bells on Bloor, Mirvish Village BIA and area residents associations.