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Toronto Idea Jam — 300 people share their ideas for a better city

November 29, 2013 | Shawn Micallef | Comments (1)


On Monday the Toronto Reference Library hosted 300 engaged Torontonians for an Idea Jam. To get the brainstorming going there were three short presentations first. The City of Toronto's chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, presented the Avenues Plan; Artscape's Seema Jethalal discussed how to use the arts to access, engage, and empower Toronto's diversve population; and I proposed limiting developers ability to assemble parcels of land together so, perhaps, new condo footprints might be smaller.

Then there was a brainstorming session among the 300 attendees, and below are the ideas that were collected that night; an open source well of thoughts about Toronto that may inspire further action.


•create positive loitering spaces for people to hang out in—indoor/outdoor space, e.g. a public space  that is open late with chairs and tables, musicians, following a European model

•use things like bike paths to draw people in from different neighborhoods and communities

•use public services to bridge income gaps—i.e. the public library, community centers, etc.—or leverage  existing spaces

•encourage more community involvement in downtown area via community groups, etc.

•more affordable housing

•GO Transit should have all-day service

•take Adelaide back as a transit corridor

•examine and be aware of the way technological progress may be negatively impacting our environment

•send Porter to Pearson to protect the waterfront

•revamp the ferry to the Toronto Islands to make it more of an experience and tourist attraction, to  make the most of a unique Toronto experience

•more public art

•keep employment opportunities where the condos are

•no more condos

•keep the density mid-rise—e.g. London, Paris, Europe

•more livable communities—live/work—with amenities close by

•preserve our heritage buildings

•walkability—less intimidating streetscapes

•more green space

•family cab license—new taxi class based on owner and his/her family operating a family livery business  to create an avenue of entry to middle class while improving congestion/pollution

•we support midrise buildings but we also want to have the costs per condo unit controlled at an  affordable price for average families who have an income of less than $80,000

•help motorists respect cyclists and vice versa—side streets designated as bike routes, similar to Vancouver

•reduce pollution exposure to cyclists using bike paths

•legislation to put planning first—if developers can’t or won’t comply, they won’t get a permit

•save the waterfront from pollution from expansion from the island airport

•improve streetscapes—create more livable communities with amenities close by

•implement rent control for commercial spaces

•new developments (condos) should have 20% dedicated to affordable and special needs units

•give developers incentive to sell/rent/secure retail spaces so that communities are created along with  condos

•retail size control to keep rents down and so that entrepreneurs can flourish

•activities/initiatives that tie suburbs to downtown

•homeless hotel

•we need to have a vision session and ask public what is it we like in our city, want in our city, need in  our city—then start brainstorming the ideas. Ideas are great but without buy in from all of Toronto, you  won’t have the city vision needed.

•stop the tax funding disconnect between urban and suburban voters, we propose tax free municipal  bonds and TTC

•all new buildings, if they have a flat roof, must have a garden—if roof is slanted, solar panels must be  installed

•TTC builds subway lines to remote places in Toronto—they have the real estate rights for 150 m  surrounding any station—and the TTC therefore becomes self-sustaining

•upgrade all buried telephone cable to fiber optic

•make city councilors potentially financially liable when they cancel/backtrack on a decision (e.g.  cancelled LRT)

•buses on Bloor Street as well as subways to relieve crowding on the subway (and buses are easier for  elders and disabled people)

•integrated, comprehensive transit system including rail, GO Transit, subway, buses, light rail, streetcars, boats, etc., across GTA

•we need municipal leadership and governance model that builds bridges (between suburbs &  downtown, etc.)

•build more dynamic market squares

•mid-rise idea is good, but vulnerable to OMB—get rid of OMB and replace with a more amenable  citizen design council

•as a way of making the GTA more efficient, let’s have all mass transit operated, funded, and managed  by one agency

•we need a more senior friendly city that welcomes seniors (as well as youth) to participate in city life

•we need a legislative review (provincial/municipal) of the governance of the city (the Ford fiasco has  demonstrated this)

•the City of Toronto should withdraw from the OMB

•a series of interconnected car free zones/pedestrian plazas kit together by a walking corridor across the city to unite us all

•more pedestrian streets

•narrow the roadways in Toronto

•mid-rise buildings would allow for ground level engagement

•warmer street lights and exterior building lights

•more color in exterior architecture

•less “red tape” at City Hall—i.e. with food trucks

•remove barriers to good planning—e.g. empty store subsidy

•protect our schools as public spaces we pay for

•place avenues in NW and NE corners of the city

•engage youth and artists to create streetscapes in neighborhoods and in all neighborhood design

•shadow city council

•higher density in the suburbs

•plan for people, not just buildings

•neighborhood businesses—places to eat and drink that are not chain restaurants or in strip malls

•prioritize ugly neighborhoods and do something about them—trees, streetscapes, etc.

•more landscaping for suburban trees as well as trees downtown

•create small “plaza” areas at or near major intersections with places to sit, small cafes, chessboards, to invite people to walk their neighborhoods and interact with their neighbors

•close off retail areas along major streets for the summer as pedestrian malls (e.g. Yonge Street from  Bloor to Queen)

•how can we rid ourselves of the OMB?—no matter what communities want or need, the developers go  to the OMB and they get everything they want—eliminate the OMB and allow city planners to have the  final say

•implement rent control for small retail shops in new developments

•facilitate outdoor culture, give citizens opportunities to know and engage with each other

•focus on improving transportation throughout the city

•change “taxpayer” references to “citizen” references

•teach children Urban Studies and Civic Engagement in school

•develop formula for allocating green space throughout the city

•make a beautiful city

•open design competitions with a focus on 3D zoning:

•green industrial

•urban agriculture

•community design

•public rooftops

•design for density

•since we are a city of high-rise density, we need to plan for more emphasis on public parks—more  parks, larger parks—to build communities from the inside out

•“an artist at every table”—Toronto can be the best city for the world if artists are invited to every decision-making table

•expand the Express Bus system all around the city, but not necessarily at double the fee (although I  don’t mind paying extra)

•beautify Avenue Road—it could be this city’s Champs Elysees

•all buildings with a flat roof should have a rooftop garden

•pay attention to the suburbs, like Scarborough, which were built with car culture in mind—it takes a  brave new approach to address the scourge of strip malls and inadequate transit

•start a Pan Toronto Interest Group—identify leaders and influencers from city core and the suburbs to  come together to engage members in their communities with those from other communities. We don’t  understand each other—understanding is key because we’re in this together.

•a youth council committee is a good idea, but what about a citizens’ council? I am a 30+ year old  working, rent•paying, citizen with no desire to be in politics but I would love to participate in something like this Idea Jam every month.

•bridge gap between suburbanites, downtown dwellers, and newcomers—create trust

•build a Junction gateway to Toronto—Bloor/Dundas West mobility hub

•encourage participation in resident associations

•create youth oriented local organization to integrate services including schools, recreation, libraries,  businesses, etc.

•recall the mantra “Toronto the Good” and collectively renew the civility of our city: care for our neighbors, extend courtesy to our fellow citizens (end road rage and encourage cyclists to observe rules of the road), encourage people to be informed and to vote.

•what happened to the idea of the canopy over the Gardiner that was going to be a walkway and park?

•elevated bicycle expressways

•toll the Gardiner

•elevated bicycle expressways

•make King and Queen streets one way opposite each other

•stop building high•rise condos near Yonge and Bloor

•create relief line that bypasses Yonge/Bloor subway station

•toll the expressways into Toronto—congestion tax for drivers

•mandate ward councilors to convene regularly scheduled weekly ward open forums to open dialogue  and confer with their diverse communities

•limit the power of the OMB

•a lot of the fountains in the city are not working—let’s fix them

•make building materials for condos higher quality, more colorful

•size of condo interiors is too small for most families


There are a 1000 stories in the naked city, as the saying goes, and you should be writing some of them. Writer in Residence Shawn Micallef will be encouraging people to write about their city. Follow along here on city explorations and journeys into the library stacks. Shawn will also be posting some of the city-writing that he receives from people like you.

Your comments, posts, messages and creative content are welcome, provided they encourage a respectful dialogue and comply with the Library's mission, values and policies.
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