CONSULTATION ROUND 1 WRAPS UP
Northcrest and Canada Lands are working to develop a Framework to guide the future development of 520 acres of land at Downsview. We kicked off discussions with the public, community groups, and stakeholders in May 2020 to introduce the project and process, and to seek feedback on:
• what people value in the neighbourhood, to help Northcrest and Canada Lands understand the area’s strengths,
• the challenges people see or experience, to help us identify what people don’t like and wouldn’t want repeated, and
• opportunities that people would like Northcrest and Canada Lands to consider for the future of these 520 acres.
Between May 20 and June 30, we heard from over 550 people, including representatives of over 60 organizations who represent a wide range of perspectives and interests. All of this feedback is informing how we think about the future. We’ll be sharing our early ideas and seeking feedback during Round 2 of the consultation, which will happen in the Fall of 2020. Round 3 will follow in early 2021, when we’ll share a draft Framework Plan and again seek feedback from you.
This is just the beginning of what will be a decades-long development process that will see this area evolve in response to community and stakeholder priorities, public policy priorities, and our priorities as landowners. We look forward to digging deeper during Consultation Rounds 2 and 3, and are still hoping to meet you in-person—at a distance—when permitted by public health authorities.
Read on for highlights of the feedback received or download our full report here.
WHAT PEOPLE VALUE & CHALLENGES
Knowing what people value in the neighbourhood and what challenges they face helps us understand the area’s existing strengths and weaknesses. People told us they love Downsview Park. They also appreciate the diverse, locally-owned businesses around Downsview and how existing buildings have adapted to new uses. The challenges that people identified include: the lack of safe, direct neighbourhood connections; a history of job losses; the lack of space for social connection among the area’s diverse communities; access to food; systemic issues related to equity and inclusion; housing affordability; and particular issues impacting seniors and youth.
What people value
in the neighbourhood
They love Downsview Park.
The importance of the park to local communities was raised repeatedly. People use the park for many different reasons – walking, cycling, playing sports, and disconnecting from the intensity of everyday life in the city. The wildlife is highly valued by many, and the park and greenspace offer a good place for children and young people to play and learn. While there were voices critical of the park, these were by far the minority.
Many people like the existing buildings on the site and how they’ve been adapted to new uses like sports, entertainment, and the movie industry.
People like the Merchants Market because it provides space for independent vendors and decently priced food and goods. There were a few voices critical of the Market who would like to see improvements made (e.g. replace with farmers market(s), improve quality of the produce available, move to different location).
They like the diverse, locally-owned businesses around Downsview that make the neighbourhood unique.
Past and present large employers like the Department of National Defence and Bombardier play an important role in supporting diverse, locally-owned businesses around Downsview.
Challenges people see of experience in the neighbourhood
It takes a long time to get places, the routes are not direct, and they’re not safe enough.
The area has seen job losses.
There isn’t a community space that allows everyone to come together regardless of the neighbourhood they come from, their socio-economic status, or ethnic/cultural heritage.
The area is a food desert.
There are surrounding neighbourhoods that face systemic issues.
There were participants who said that the pandemic experience is demonstrating that it isn’t density but poverty that makes some neighbourhoods more susceptible to COVID-19. There are a lot of youth and families in the area that have been impacted by violence. There are also some cases where communities are seeing investment and experiencing displacement. Some participants referred to challenges and inequity presented by anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
The city is facing an affordability crisis in housing.
Many seniors are facing unique challenges.
The lack of easy, direct, walkable connections makes it especially hard for seniors to move around the area and get to the services they need. Participants told us that there are thousands of seniors currently being supported in their homes in and around Downsview, and with COVID-19 the need for supports has grown. Especially in the towers to the west of the site, these seniors are in communities already grappling with a number of challenges – job opportunities are limited, many people are house poor or living in poverty, and the communities face stigma. In other areas of the neighbourhoods surrounding the site, there are many seniors who live in large homes, alone, and who are physically isolated. They may be able to care for themselves, but they’re lonely.
Schools in the area are at or over capacity.
Basement flooding has long been a concern in the area.
The parks and green spaces are not connected.
There are a number of small, micro parks and the Black Creek ravine system, but people can’t move directly between them.
There are capacity issues in the health care system.
This includes major challenges with the loss of long-term care beds (challenges that have been highlighted because of COVID-19).
12 OPPORTUNITIES IDENTIFIED BY THE PUBLIC & STAKEHOLDERS
Building from what people value and the challenges they face, the vast majority of discussion focused on opportunities for Northcrest and Canada Lands to consider as they plan the future of these 520 acres.
Employment should be a big part of Downsview’s future.
Expand and improve access to usable green space.
• think about four-season parks.
Ensure neighbourhoods are walkable, bikeable, and connected.
This area needs new and more community facilities and walkable amenities.
Provide housing, including affordable housing.
Recognize the history of the site and the area.
Be proactive in looking at issues of equity, inclusion, and power.
Be a leader in sustainability, ecology, biodiversity, and hydrological function.
Support aging in place.
Be bold, be ambitious, and be unique with design and architecture.
Attract people to Downsview.
Look at the area holistically and look at ways to push boundaries and deliver a truly innovative approach to planning and design.
(Click on items to expand)
These opportunities included the need for considerable employment and for neighbourhoods that are walkable, bikeable, and connected.
Participants imagined a future with improved access to usable green space and more community facilities and walkable amenities. Housing was also discussed as an opportunity, including affordable housing. We were told to recognize the history and heritage of the area and to be proactive in looking at issues of equity, inclusion, and power. Many participants asked us to take a lead in sustainability, ecology, biodiversity, and hydrological function and to support aging in place.
They told us to be bold, ambitious, and unique with design and architecture. We heard that Downsview has a real opportunity to attract people. To do this, participants told us to look at the area holistically and at ways to push boundaries and deliver a truly innovative approach to planning and design.
WHO PARTICIPATED DURING ROUND 1
Over 550 people shared their feedback during Round 1, the bulk of whom live within a 2-kilometre radius of the site, as seen in the adjacent map. During this round we invited over 80 organizations (many who represent dozens, hundreds, or thousands of others) and heard from over 60 organizations locally and city-wide who represent the interests of thousands of people. We also had over 5,000 visits to our website and over 30,000 engagements on our social media channels in June alone.
During Round 1 we had a total of 557 participants.
112 Mail-in Responses
97 mail reply cards
15 Workbook submissions
These postage pre-paid reply cards were distributed to all homes, apartments, and businesses within 2 kilometres of the site and the postage pre-paid workbooks were available by request.
Roughly two-thirds of these responses came from houses and the other one-third from apartment addresses.
215 Virtual meetings attendees
145 Virtual Townhall attendees
27 Small Group Discussion attendees
43 Focus Group attendees
Participants of online meetings represented a mix of ages, genders, ethnocultural backgrounds, and interest areas represented.
Fifteen online meetings were held, eight of which were open to the broad public including one large Virtual Townhall and seven small group discussions, which had up to six participants each.
Seven online focus groups were held with representatives from over 80 organizations to dive deeper into a range of topics and interests.
230 Online Feedback Responses
185 unique visits to Social Pinpoint
45 Email, Phone calls, and website
Of the demographic information shared by these participants, almost half were between 21 and 35 years old, with over one-quarter between 36 and 50 years old.
Location of participants
Canada Lands property
& Park Commons
Flyer mail-out boundary
(Over 63,000 flyers were mailed out to houses, apartments, and businesses within 2km radius of the project site)
* Note that the dots on the map show only those who provided their postal code information. The actual number of respondents is higher than those captured on the map. Not pictured: Feedback from Caledon, Otonabee, Montreal, Hamilton (GTHA), Bailieboro, and Calgary.
Many participants said they support and appreciate the id8 Downsview engagement process and there was a lot of interest in staying connected as the project unfolds. Several process suggestions were shared, with many focusing on the importance of involving people before decisions are made, as well as collaborating with community organizations that represent and serve the local communities. Intentional engagement with the Black community and local youth was suggested, along with advice to stay away from planning jargon and recognize the power of storytelling.
Round 1 Feedback
Public Small Group Discussions
Stakeholder Focus Groups
2020/06/02 Educational interests
2020/06/03 Community Services and Facilities
2020/06/01 Business and commercial interests
2020/06/04 Local Community Development
2020/06/05 Aging in Place & Health
2020/06/08 Resident and Tenant Associations
2020/06/09 City-Wide Stakeholders
ENGAGEMENT SUMMARIES & REPORTS
During Round 1, we invited feedback from local communities and stakeholders through id8downsview.ca, by email, phone, and mail. Our online engagement included opportunities to provide written feedback on the future of Downsview and to map opportunities and challenges in and around the site.
During the period, we invited the public to a Virtual Townhall and to seven small discussion groups to share their thoughts about the future of Downsview. We also held seven focus groups via video conference with stakeholders involved in particular local and city-wide issues.
Our engagement team drafted summaries of these activities and shared them with the participants. Participants provided feedback on these summaries before we shared them with our design and landowner teams and posted them here. Have a look!