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University Avenue (History and Future Redesign)

adma

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At Queen, at least, there *is* a mid-median crossing area. (Probably Dundas, too; but that's now disrupted by the north island being presently torn up by TTC crews.)
 

junctionist

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At Queen, at least, there *is* a mid-median crossing area. (Probably Dundas, too; but that's now disrupted by the north island being presently torn up by TTC crews.)
That's a great feature, though there are no crossing areas in the midblock gap in front of the Superior Court of Justice, at Armoury Street, Edward Street, Elm Street, Gerrard Street, nor for the 2 midblock gaps between Gerrard and College. These are wide gaps--up to 4 lanes wide.
 

pman

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The last illustration in the previous post shows a lot of mature street trees. That’s the norm in many cities - Paris, London, Boston and Sydney for example. But I can’t think of any major street in Toronto that looks like that. Queen’s Quay might have trees like that in fifty years, but that was a WT project and sadly WT wouldn’t be responsible for University. Why would anyone believe that the City of Toronto was capable of delivering such a high quality public realm?
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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It's wonderful to see this professional plan for my linear park idea. There's a lot of potential to create something great.
Beyond the triple allee of trees, I particularly liked how the Queen forecourt of Osgoode Hall is incorporated, with the walkthrough to NPS and landscaped square/water feature at the corner of Queen and University. It's rather urbane - I will bring it south across Queen and tie it in with the now barren forecourt at the opera house as a unit.

It will also be interesting to see how it ties in with the planned SickKids redevelopment and the wasted space along the hospital row.

AoD
 

TorPronto

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I frequent University Ave quite often (did this morning). I might be the only one but I actually prefer a well maintained status quo over this change. I like the fountain and statues in the median. If anything, I would double down on what is currently there and make it better with changes in lighting, upkeep and maybe some updating in the spirit of the original designs.

Toronto has a poor history of maintaining it's public spaces, the most disappointing to me is Sherbourne Commons as the water feature was fantastic when it first opened and I haven't seen it on in years. I don't see the need to make changes here unless the city gets it's act together with maintaining what we already have.
 

junctionist

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I frequent University Ave quite often (did this morning). I might be the only one but I actually prefer a well maintained status quo over this change. I like the fountain and statues in the median. If anything, I would double down on what is currently there and make it better with changes in lighting, upkeep and maybe some updating in the spirit of the original designs.

Toronto has a poor history of maintaining it's public spaces, the most disappointing to me is Sherbourne Commons as the water feature was fantastic when it first opened and I haven't seen it on in years. I don't see the need to make changes here unless the city gets it's act together with maintaining what we already have.
The status quo is subpar. It looks good when driving by, but when you walk along the street, you see that the trees along the sidewalks aren't growing well in the limited space they have. The sidewalks are bare concrete. There is no cycling infrastructure. Everything besides the medians looks generic and cheap. In spite of some pedestrian crossings across the busiest intersections, the landscaped islands are isolated and not continuous. The current configuration isn't the best use of the space available.

If we don't make significant improvements to the public realm, we'll never have the discussion on improved maintenance of parks and public spaces that we need to have as a city. We'll always have generic spaces and no-frills maintenance. The better the spaces, the more people will like them and expect them to be well maintained.
 

Northern Light

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The last illustration in the previous post shows a lot of mature street trees. That’s the norm in many cities - Paris, London, Boston and Sydney for example. But I can’t think of any major street in Toronto that looks like that. Queen’s Quay might have trees like that in fifty years, but that was a WT project and sadly WT wouldn’t be responsible for University. Why would anyone believe that the City of Toronto was capable of delivering such a high quality public realm?
There are examples of this now. Toronto HAS learned.

The learning is not yet universally implemented.

But have a look at the trees planted on York Street, east side, south of Maple Leaf Square.

They're doing phenomenally and already provide dense shade over the sidewalk.

Beyond that, St. George Street through U of T is an older example of large tree canopy forming well, albeit on a narrower street.

The issue now is not whether the City knows how to do trees well; its whether or not the commitment is there to the consistent excellence of which the City is capable.
 

Northern Light

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As to this scheme more broadly. I'm not sure, I need to see more detail.

My first instinct is that all the public space being on the east side will offend my desire for visual symmetry!

But I'll keep an open mind on that.

I'm also, at first blush, less excited by the triple allee than others.

First, I want to see lots of exposed soil around the trees to maximize their health and growth, I wonder if in going for a triple allee one isn't precluding proper space per tree and/or prescribing only columnar (likely non-native) species (as wide-crowns would be too close together).

If I'm reading this correctly the notion would be to remove 2 vehicle lanes (Univ. north of Queen is 4 each way currently); with one devoted to the new cycle track, and the other being added public realm.

I'd be open to any combination of, public space shifted one way, a redesigned and enlarged median (3M wider); or splitting the space now in the median between both sides.

In regard to trees, no monocultures please!

Also, can we consider use of conifers already (as street trees); if you use the right soil, and set them well back from the road (reduced salt exposure) not only can you get a striking streetscape effect, but you can also get year-round green. Imagine 2 allees down each side of University. One using alternating between Eastern White Cedar and White Pine; The other between Sugar Maple and Red Oak. Now picture that fall colour view. (just saying)

Second, don't just imitate other people's public space, be original!
 

innsertnamehere

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the existing lanes on University are far wider than necessary - at one point they planned to introduce bike lanes on the street simply be reducing the lane widths but maintaining the existing amount of lanes.

A complete reconstruction of the road with 1 less lane in each direction (this is one of only two 8 lane roads in the entire GTA), and you could end up with significantly more public space.
 

DSC

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I frequent University Ave quite often (did this morning). I might be the only one but I actually prefer a well maintained status quo over this change. I like the fountain and statues in the median. If anything, I would double down on what is currently there and make it better with changes in lighting, upkeep and maybe some updating in the spirit of the original designs.

Toronto has a poor history of maintaining it's public spaces, the most disappointing to me is Sherbourne Commons as the water feature was fantastic when it first opened and I haven't seen it on in years. I don't see the need to make changes here unless the city gets it's act together with maintaining what we already have.
Though I agree that the City is not good at maintenance, the Sherbourne Common water feature was on almost all summer. When the Lake was at its height it could not operate as the lake was too high to allow the water out properly but it was on for many months. It was off on Friday but I am not sure if tgat is the fall shutdown or simply regular cleaning activity.
 

jje1000

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The problem with University Avenue is that there's too much road space and not enough activity to go in to the public realm, since a large amount of the uses border it are either institutional or office. On top of that, the island median (though beautiful if maintained properly) is too narrow for activity, and is surrounded by roads, making those spaces unpleasant to be in and access.

I wonder if removing a lane of traffic, and creating larger, more informal island medians (large enough for say, programming like food stands and space for chairs and tables) might help improve the space. Bike lanes could even be added if there's any room left.

Ultimately, the street "works" as-is, which is why nothing will really be done with the space to unlock its full potential.
 

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