Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square could be getting brighter. The fast-paced outdoor event venue and tourism hub—bursting with a dizzying array of pedestrians, traffic, neon lights, signs and billboards—is now subject to a proposal to intensify the square's digital signage.
Approved today by the City of Toronto's Executive Committee, a proposal by the Yonge-Dundas Square Board of Management (YDS-Board) in partnership with Outfront Media calls for a Sign By-law amendment to allow a 3.8 million private-sector initiative to re-make the Downtown square for the duration of a 10-year lease.
As part of the upgrade, Outfront Media would install of seven state of the art video screens, the largest of which would be 34 square meters in area. If approved, the new video screens could be used to stream live sporting events and films, replacing the more costly temporary screens currently used by the YDS-Board for the square’s outdoor events.
Appointed by Kramer Design Associates, Outfront Media's project would also provide an additional five electronic signs used for third party and event advertising, as well as art installations. These signs would create new revenue opportunities for the YDS Board. Additionally, the company has also proposed to introduce free public Wi-fi to the square.
Yonge-Dundas Square would also undergo several small structural changes—implemented by Outfront Media—as part of the proposed contract. Restructuring would include the removal of 4 existing signs, as well as the square’s north western canopy, and the installation of lighting throughout the space to increase the square’s popularity as an outdoor venue.
If approved, the upgrades could generate significant revenue for the YDS-Board, with a minimum yield of $4.85 million over the next ten years, and an estimated total of $7.3 million. While the YDS-Board will maintain control over the square’s creative and production services, the construction, installation and maintenance fees for Yonge-Dundas Square's proposed upgrades would be paid by Outfront Media.
Following a commissioned 2-year visibility study, concerns were raised by the YDS-Board that Yonge-Dundas Square has seen a decline in public interest and engagement in recent years. The exercise cited the installation of larger billboards and signage in Toronto’s downtown core as decreasing the square’s visual impact, while the use of temporary projection screens for events has proven to be expensive and has negatively impacted participant’s movement and vision during Yonge-Dundas Square hosted events.
Combining strategically placed large screens with smaller signage, the new proposal is being billed as a way to make the square a more welcoming and pedestrian-friendly space. Set to be implemented in the early summer—if approved by Council—the proposed upgrades to Yonge-Dundas Square could both cut overhead costs for the YDS-Board and cement the square as Toronto's premier public sporting and entertainment venue. While the new installations would come at no cost to the City, a number of stakeholders have criticized the proposal, with the CBC reporting concerns about a private company being allowed to alter a public space.
Adding another attention-grabbing installation to Yonge-Dundas Square, the new signage would be joined by a re-located Sam the Record Man sign. The landmark sign—which graced the eponymous store's Yonge Street frontage for decades—is set to be installed atop the building at 277 Victoria, facing the square from the east. Owned by Ryerson, the City of Toronto approved a plan for the sign to be re-located in 2014, with the University working on sourcing bids for the relocation as of last year.
UrbanToronto will continue to keep you updated on the proposed upgrades as it progresses, with a City Council review scheduled for January 31st. Want to share you thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page.