A myriad of notable Toronto city-builders are coming together to plan the future of over 500 acres of property at Downsview. In the wake of the TTC subway extension, GO service expansion, Bombardier selling its Downsview manufacturing facility in 2018, and the airport ceasing operations in 2023, a planning framework designed to shape the lands into a vibrant, sustainable, and complete community is now in its infancy.

Aerial overview of the property, looking south, image via id8downsview.ca

The site includes a 370-acre swath of property that currently comprises Downsview Airport and the hangar lands, which are managed by Northcrest Developments, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, while Federal Crown corporation Canada Lands Company owns 150 acres of the former Canadian Forces base lands. The 291-acre Downsview Park to the west will remain unchanged, and will be positioned as the heart of the community. 

The two development partners have retained Urban Strategies, Henning Larsen, KPMB Architects, and SLA Architects to begin a collaborative visioning exercise, ultimately resulting in a multi-phase redevelopment of the sprawling site.

Current development on the Downsview site is informed by the City of Toronto's Downsview Area Secondary Plan, which was last updated in 2011. Northcrest and Canada Lands are devoting the coming year to evolving new land uses and a development framework for the site, and launching a website to collect public feedback. A number of public benefits and public policy priorities have been identified early, placing focus on economic development, transit-oriented development, housing affordability and sustainability, and parks and community amenities.

Ownership of the subject site, image via id8downsview.ca

Downsview is constantly evolving, but aerospace activities continue to play an important role in characterizing the legacy and future of the lands. Centennial College recently celebrated the opening of its Centre for Aerospace and Aviation, and a consortium of aerospace companies and post-secondary schools from across the Greater Toronto Area are developing an Aerospace Research and Innovation Hub on the property. Canada Lands is also building a dedicated dog park at Downsview in 2020 as the company prepares to relocate Downsview Park's urban farm to a permanent 10-acre agricultural campus.

The planning process, which the development team has called "id8 Downsview", will be guided by feedback from multiple stakeholders, public policy objectives, and the priorities of Northcrest and Canada Lands. Over the next year, the two partners will engage communities and other stakeholders over three rounds of consultation. 

The id8 Downsview planning process, image via id8downsview.ca

The first round introduces the project and highlights the values of respondents, the challenges people face, and the opportunities they have identified for the future. Round two uses the feedback heard in round one and the technical work completed to share and seek opinions on different ideas to include in the framework. The third round will share and seek feedback on a draft framework proposed by Northcrest and Canada Lands, which will then be employed to guide future development of the lands.

Representing the assembled design team, Michael Sørensen of Henning Larsen Architects, Rasmus Astrup of SLA Architects, and Emily Reisman of Urban Strategies discuss their initial observations of Downsview:

The website provides a number of ways to engage with the consultation process. Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts, be part of an online telephone or videoconferencing event, contribute their personal stories about the people and events that have shaped Downsview, and contact the team directly.

A virtual townhall has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 10th from 7:00-8:00 PM. Three virtual small group discussions will also be held the following week, on June 17th.

If you'd like to, you can join in on the conversation in UrbanToronto's associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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