New information regarding the redevelopment of the massive Downsview Airfield site in North York has been emerging steadily over the last several months, providing some clarity on the earliest stages of the ambitious city building endeavour. Since the most recent applications for rezoning and subdivision approval were submitted to the City of Toronto in May of last year, details about the first phase, dubbed the Hangar District, have been circulating and generating excitement. Before we dive too deep into an analysis of that proposal, however, we wanted to turn back the clock slightly for an overview the scope of the larger vision for the forward-thinking mixed-use community, and what the development goals are for the coming years. 

id8 Downsview, proposed mixed-use community repurposing the existing Downsview Airfield, image from Framework Plan

The project in its entirety has been titled 'id8 Downsview,' and is slated to be a decade-spanning process of community development spearheaded by the partnership of Northcrest Developments (the development wing of PSP Investments) and the Canada Lands Company. By 2051, the project hopes to have achieved the transformation of the 520 acre industrial site, currently occupied by the Downsview Airport, which is in the process of being decommissioned. The result will be a thoughtfully planned and holistic mixed-use community with the ability to accommodate 83,500 residents, 41,500 jobs, and 100 acres of parkland. 

Nexus Park, part of the 100 total acres of parkland in the community, image from Framework Plan

The development duo joined forces in 2018 to begin the process of creating a framework that would inform the development of such a community. After three stages of consultation that lasted 16 months, engaging Indigenous rights holders, community locals, and stake-holders, the Framework was finally published, detailing the development objectives and various policy-oriented arguments supporting the approval of significant amendments to the Downsview Area Secondary Plan. The full document can be read online here

Above all, the Framework accomplished two things that are integral to the viability of a project with such a long-term approach: the establishment of a set of principles to adhere to throughout the process of development, and the formulation of a preliminary site plan that breaks the massive site into smaller blocks for which independent district plans, subdivision plans, and zoning amendments, can be created. The guiding principles are detailed in depth in the image below. 

Guiding principles for the development of the community, image from Framework Plan

Meanwhile, in regards to the site plan, the image below details the site’s 520 acre footprint, outlined in black, and shows where the land will be divided into 10 individual districts that have each been given a unique title. These districts represent the phases of development that will take place over the next three decades, beginning with Taxiway West, or the Hangar District. 

Site plan outlining the communtiy's 10 proposed districts, image from Framework Plan

Looking at the more general areas of the Framework, the document explores the ways that the development can accomplish the complex set of objectives laid out by the guiding principles. Connectivity is one of the pillars of a thriving urban community, and in a sustainable urban system, transit and active transportation are placed at the top of the priority list. By creating new pedestrian-oriented connections to the surrounding network of TTC and GO Transit stations, the community will strive to leverage the existing infrastructure and contribute to increasing ridership. 

Pedestrian connections will incorporate existing transit into community, image from Framework Plan

Cutting through the centre of the site is the existing runway, an intrinsic part of the site’s history that presents a unique opportunity for revitalization. Repurposing the existing footprint of the runway, the Framework details a strategy to turn the runway into the social epicentre of the community, imagining it as a four-season, vehicle free pedestrian thoroughfare lined with parks, plazas, and retail, drawing on the blueprint of iconic European boulevards. 

The existing runway is imagined as the community's primary pedestrian thoroughfare, image from Framework Plan

As for the built form, the Framework cites the mid-rise typology as the preferred massing for the residential communities, for its ability to balance density, sustainability, and livability. The image below shows the desired targets for density on a district basis, using Floor Space Index (FSI) as the metric. Siting the higher density allowances on the periphery, the project attempts to situate the tallest structures closest to the transit nodes, while positioning the shortest structures closer to the parkland and pedestrian hubs. 

Density diagram uses FSI to indicate where the tall buildings will be concentrated, image from Framework Plan

While the Framework is extensive in its scope, the project is still very much in a preliminary stage, working within a timeline of decades to deliver the complete community. The guiding principles have been set, but how the development team goes about activating the community based on those principles will be subject to great change given the long period of development. 

The most concrete information we can report is in respect to the first phase, the Hangar District, which we will be covering in depth next week. Until then, you can learn more about the project from our Database file, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  Aercoustics Engineering Ltd, EQ Building Performance Inc., Northcrest Developments, Urban Strategies Inc.