Many people have heard about a recent controversy about public seating at three street corners in Cabbagetown. We’re writing to tell you our side of this story.
We’re planning three new park areas on the northeast corners of Parliament at Winchester, Carlton and Spruce. These places are currently rundown and shabby. They have great potential for gardens and trees because they receive constant sunshine all year round. They’re also big enough to accommodate seats and tables. Because our sidewalks are very narrow, we can’t put public seating there and our restaurants can’t add the charm of street-level patios. We do have room on these boulevards.
Some residents are worried because they see these seats as an incentive to people who want to loiter, panhandle or conduct criminal acts. This is especially true at Winchester.
The development of the bench areas on the north side (of Winchester) needs to be discussed widely with residents in order to reach a community consensus before this plan is started. - Excerpt from the Board's Minutes, May 13.
We’ve taken those worries into account. Here’s our plan:
1) We suggest a “test case” at Carlton and Parliament. This boulevard is currently being torn up by construction for the new commercial building. When the landscaping starts, we’ll help with trees, seats, interlocking brick and a place to put public art. The seating will be designed so that people can’t sleep on it.
This is a pilot project. If it works, we’ll all enjoy these facilities. If a problem develops, we’ll try to fix it. If we can’t fix the problem, we’ll remove the seats.
When the sidewalk areas are repaired after the construction finishes, Carlton will be a good place for our first test case. We can try out our ideas here and if nearby residents or businesses find problems, we can fix them or remove the furniture.
2) We’re going to phase in our new plans. Nothing will happen overnight. In fact, the project at Winchester won’t happen for several years. Before we start there, we’ll want to know what happens at Carlton. Then we’ll need detailed plans, public consultations, a budget and possible partners to share the costs. All of this will take quite a while.
At Winchester we’ll again be testing everything. If something goes wrong, we’ll remove it.
The same will be true at Spruce.
3) We’ll be talking to you, our neighbours, before each phase starts. We made this commitment at our May 13 Board of Management meeting. It’s a commitment that Councillor Pam McConnell expects us to meet. It will be a requirement from the City of Toronto before we get permits.
The crumbling infrastructure at Winchester - with new bricks, gardens and the existing trees, this area can be a lovely place to sit and a great gateway into the nearby residential streets.
We’re going to be practical and flexible. We’re going to take our time and go ahead step-by-step, learning as we go. We want the final results to benefit everyone.
The ideas for these boulevard parks come from our new Streetscape Revitalization Plan. Seating is one small element in a series of big improvements for our shopping areas on Parliament, Gerrard and Carlton. Other changes include hanging flower baskets, special bike racks, bumpouts into the street at strategic locations, more trees and greenery, uniform logos to identify Cabbagetown and interlocking brickwork on the sidewalk.
At Spruce Street, we can see the basic elements that will make some of these changes work - good sunshine for plants and a wider boulevard for gardens, trees and furniture. The other corners also have these benefits. This corner presently experiences unpleasant social issues and so anything that we try here must be done carefully. Changes here will happen many years in the future. Local residents have a good track record cleaning up the problems and their opinions will be very important parts of any decision-making.
We think that Cabbagetown is changing. Many of the disruptive and criminal activities that occurred here have disappeared. For example, look at the success of the Carlton and Parliament corner where criminal activity used to happen virtually every night. Or look at Winchester where the beautiful building and the Tim Hortons have replaced a tired old tavern that caused constant problems. As Regent Park is rebuilt, similar benefits will come at Spruce. In addition, the police at 51 Division are now more visible with street patrols and bike patrols and we’re getting regular help with street people from the highly effective Streets-to-Homes Program. All of this is good news.
We can take advantage of these benefits by making our neighbourhood more liveable for you. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a place to meet your friends? A place to sit while you’re shopping. A place to eat your lunch or simply to watch other people. Our goal is to improve our neighbourhood and to make it friendlier for everyone.
We don’t have to run away from opportunities because we’re afraid. We can, instead, create and embrace opportunities and then deal with problems if and when they happen.
This plan is our vision for the future. It includes you: consultation is a basic ingredient in our approach. It’s flexible: it can be changed as we decide to change it. It’s long-range: there are no pressing deadlines.
The Board of Management
Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area
For more information, please go to http://www.sunarts.ca/ and click on the Cabbage image. The plan can be seen there.
For weekly updates about Cabbagetown events, visit http://www.cabbagetownnews.blogspot.com/
For specific names and links, visit http://www.oldcabbagetown.com/