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Feb 27, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Roundtable on city building told to keep it simple

City Centre Mirror

Toronto’s new chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat will be sitting down for a serious talk about how to design a city that works for all Torontonians over the winter and spring.

On Tuesday morning (Feb. 26), Keesmaat got the Chief Planner’s Roundtable going with a talk about how best to design and build public spaces – from parkland and public squares to streetscapes. The roundtable discussion at city hall included presentations from civil servants, architects and urban designers.

For Adam Nicklin of PUBLIC WORK for Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, the key to making public realms vibrant was simplicity.

“We often try to stuff everything into the public space that we can find,” he said. “You want the skating rink, the biogarden – you want to cram everything into this space because another one might not come up.”

Nicklin told the group that the key was to interconnect sometimes smaller parcels of public space – and use the streetscape as well.

“The simplest of public spaces are usually the best,” he said. “We usually overcomplicate them.”

Nicklin was just one of a number of presenters and participants in the first session. Future sessions will deal with the transformation of the subways, and making the city more resilient.

Keesmaat said that the round-tables will ultimately lead to an “action document” that will draw together input from various city departments as well as the private sector.

“I feel we’re bringing some of the best minds in the city around the table – we’re bringing private sector thinkers, industry leaders and a vareity of city divisions around the table,” she said. “My hope is that this will begin to build some consensus about what the challenges are we are trying to solve. The question isn’t only what to do, but how do you fund it and how do you operationalize it.”

Keesmaat said that at the end of the process she’ll compose an “action document” that will likely encompass a variety of action – from direction to staff, to matters that will require council approval, to possible tweeks to the city’s official plan.

Upcoming roundtables include: March 5, the Resilient City; and April 2 meeting, Transforming the Suburbs.

Members of the public interested in attending the roundtables are asked to RSVP at chiefplannerroundtable@toronto.ca.

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