Community & stakeholder feedback

HERE'S WHAT WE'RE HEARING SO FAR

ROUND 1

Three phases of consultation will lead to a Framework Plan

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
THEY FACE

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.

Different areas of the site and surroundings have particular challenges and strengths
 
+ Values

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!

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 Downsview community is currently very car-centric and has a big first- and last-mile issue. Residents have to walk a long distance to get places (e.g. grocery stores, health centres, public transit, etc.) and it’s unsafe to walk (due to lack of safe sidewalks) and bike on the roads. The fence around the airport combined with highly travelled multi-lane roads around the site (Allen, Keele, Wilson, and Sheppard) make it difficult/impossible/unsafe to move easily between areas. Cars are often stuck in traffic. It’s not easy to access Downsview Park from the east because the GO rail corridor acts as a major barrier. Lack of signage and other indicators make it difficult to know how to get where people want to go. There are three subway stations but getting to and from them is a challenge – for example, there isn’t a connection between the Downsview Park Subway Station and Downsview Park. As one participant said: “I live just south of Bombardier and just to get to Downsview Park I need to go to Wilson, then to Keele, then to Sheppard – even though I literally live across the street from the park.”




The area has seen job losses.


With decommissioning of the Department of National Defence activities, jobs were lost and local small businesses were also negatively impacted. There were participants who said that de-industrialization is a problem because jobs are lost along with industrial infrastructure. Public institutions that could offer more jobs to the community are also lacking.




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.


As one participant said: “There is very little space for people to go…the area is not built for people.” The area lacks many community resources and amenities. Things like libraries, community centres, seniors’ facilities, pools, daycares, churches, and walkable amenities like shops, grocery stores, restaurants, drug store, etc. are missing.




The area is a food desert.


There aren’t enough accessible, affordable grocery stores with culturally appropriate foods. Of the 48 locations served by the North York Harvest Food Bank, the location at York University is one of the busiest. Food sovereignty and food security are issues, and access to healthy and culturally appropriate food from community gardens has been impacted by the pandemic.




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 participants raised the importance of addressing the affordable housing challenge on these 520 acres. Participants told us that the cost of living around Downsview is high, and especially the cost of housing. It’s hard for adult children to be able to afford to move out of their parent’s homes and seniors housing is not affordable. There are gaps in the types of housing options available in the area.




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.


The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDS) are looking for new sites for schools.




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).





Opportunities identified include housing, employment, greenspace, community, connections, and more

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.


Without exception, participants said that employment needs to be a big part of Downsview’s future. Many people focused on the importance of large employers (like Bombardier) to local small businesses and flagged this as example of why projects like this one change the nature of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Others noted that the world has changed because of COVID-19 with many people working remotely, which means it will be important to keep an open mind when thinking about what land uses will best support how we are (and will be) living in the future. Suggestions included: • find anchor tenants that can create jobs and long-term, well-paying employment opportunities; • look at opportunities for diverse businesses; • create a centre for entrepreneurs offering 24/7 co-working space and meeting space that reflect the diversity in the community; • take advantage of the opportunities in the evolving and growing aerospace industry, with one participant noting that “Many people don’t know that over 50% of plane landing gear in the world is produced in Ontario, and most of it in the GTA”; and • create an inclusive workforce development model that demonstrates how the project can create meaningful and valuable jobs, including job opportunities for youth (there are many work groups that already exist on other projects in the area).




Expand and improve access to usable green space.


Many participants see an opportunity to provide new, accessible green spaces on the 520 acres, with new parks being integrated with and connected to existing parks. Suggestions included: • make it easier for pedestrians to connect to Downsview Park (especially from the east side of the GO tracks). Consider building a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists to tie the community together; • create more green space on the east side of the tracks and consider extending Downsview Park to the park east over the tracks; • improve wayfinding from the TTC subway stations to Downsview Park and increase the security and lighting to make the area safer; • connect the Black Creek ravine pathway system to the Don River ravine pathway system; build connections to nearby destinations like G. Ross Lord Park and Earl Bales Park; and
• think about four-season parks.




Ensure neighbourhoods are walkable, bikeable, and connected.


Over and over again participants said that connections are key. They encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to make this a welcoming area for pedestrians and cyclists. A recent road-related tragedy was mentioned, with some saying that connections should come first because Downsview cannot wait decades for safe, active transportation. These connections are important for people who live, work, and travel here. The DUKE Heights and Wilson Village Business Improvement Areas have tens of thousands of people who travel to and from work every day, so access to and from the surrounding communities is critical. Suggestions included: • create a street network that’s easy to walk and cycle; • create more north-south and east-west routes across the site to integrate the community and future residents to surrounding neighbourhoods, improve travel times, and address traffic congestion; • create easy and safe pedestrian connections from the Wilson, Sheppard West, and Downsview Park subway stations, and to parks, trails, and greenspaces; • design the streets with all users in mind – people walking and biking, people with disabilities, seniors, parents with children, and people driving; and • ensure that new connections are integrating new neighbourhoods with the existing ones in a respectful way.




This area needs new and more community facilities and walkable amenities.


Many participants said that this area needs gathering places that are inclusive and welcoming to both new and surrounding neighbourhoods that people can enjoy year-round. Suggestions included: • facilities such as community centres, libraries, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gyms, squash courts, skating rinks, basketball courts, a sport stadium (for soccer, football, baseball), an arts centre, sculpture park, community gardens, botanical gardens, daycares, and churches; • walkable amenities like shops, grocery stores, post offices, drug stores, etc. as well as cafés, bars, office and co-working spaces for small businesses; • affordable and accessible multi-purpose spaces that can be booked by the community; • programming for seniors (e.g. space to play cards, etc.) for youth, and educational programs to teach people about the local natural environment (plants and animals); and • interim leases to enable even more recreational programming (e.g. camps, basketball, rock climbing, and fitness classes). School Boards are actively seeking sites for new schools, and it is critical that schools be within walking distance of where students live. There are examples of new and emerging school models where services are co-located in multiuse/multipurpose buildings (e.g. Canoe Landing) that could be explored for this area. At the college level, demand for programming at Centennial College’s Aerospace Campus exceeds capacity, and they are working to expand on the success of the program.




Provide housing, including affordable housing.


Housing was one of the topics most frequently raised, with the vast majority of people saying that they want to see housing on the site, with many suggesting that the higher density housing should be located closest to the transit stations. Some participants said that the site provides an important opportunity to provide a full range of housing options that are resilient and sustainable. They said that they’d like to see the site help address the housing affordability crisis in the city by offering a mix of deeply affordable (rent-geared-to-income), affordable (non-profit and co-op housing), supportive and market housing (both ownership and rental), post-secondary student-oriented housing and affordable seniors housing with supporting amenities nearby which would allow people to age in the area where they have spent their whole lives. Creating a significant and comprehensive affordable housing plan was suggested. As one participant said: “We live in a very racialized community where housing is hard. I’m hopeful about how the project will think about sustainability and how it will be framed – particularly with respect to access to housing and justice within housing.” Some people stressed the importance of respecting existing residents and the need to improve the transition to and integration of new residential areas to existing residential areas. For example, if the Northcrest (former Bombardier) site becomes housing, make sure it is seamlessly integrated into the Ancaster area. Low-rise residential (single-detached homes and town houses) was more supported by some than taller buildings (condos and apartment buildings). Some suggested that Northcrest and Canada Lands consider stacked townhomes or 4-storey walk-ups to create gentle density. A few participants specifically said they did not want to see more housing because they felt there was already enough condo development along Wilson Avenue and that further densification in the area is undesirable. Others expressed concern that introducing high-rise buildings would put a lot of strain on the public transportation in the area. Some said that they do not want to see Toronto Community Housing properties in the area or housing for low-income families.




Recognize the history of the site and the area.


There were a number of participants who talked about the importance of recognizing and respecting the history of the site, with at least a couple of different lenses offered on this history. Some people talked about the airport and runway as special assets that should be reflected in the future, even though the airport will cease operations soon. Ideas included: build a museum; adapt existing heritage buildings; re-purpose the runway; consider naming roads after the De Havilland aircraft manufactured here and other aerospace creations; and consider using the aviation history of the area as a “welcome” to the neighbourhood. A few participants focused on what they see as a unique opportunity for Toronto to use the runway to help define the area’s identity (like the CN Tower or the Champs-Élysées in France). Others encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to investigate how the Downsview site has been used by the community in the past, including for example how Downsview has been used for building floats and preparing costumes for big Toronto festivals like Caribana. Knowing the history of the Black communities at Jane and Finch/Black Creek is also important, including recognizing the long history of Black displacement in the area (e.g. Lawrence Heights). These participants encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to have this cultural history inform decision-making.




Be proactive in looking at issues of equity, inclusion, and power.


There were several participants who encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to look at how to learn from COVID-19 and to be proactive in thinking about how to make the neighbourhood resilient. There’s an opportunity to create wonderful places for people with a mix of income levels and a mix of backgrounds. Suggestions included: • consider the social determinants of health when planning the future of the area, including walkability, green space, accessible retail, quality of buildings, and public transit; • think about social inclusion and meet the needs of different generations and cultural groups; • learn from other large redevelopments in the city where the unintended consequence was the pushing-out of existing residents as a result of gentrification (e.g. Regent Park); • think about providing lands to grow and preserve food including community gardens because they provide beautification, food security, and access to healthy and culturally appropriate food – food should be a big part of the future (e.g. food hub, urban farming, and even stronger farmers market); • make it a priority to work with local organizations – collaboration will be key to success, including partnerships with community organizations that represent and serve the local area; • look at the organizations and consulting firms working on the id8 Downsview process, think about what diversity looks like now, and also think about how to ensure a community voice and a community seat at the decision-making table; and • think about how the jobs and opportunities can be built in – from construction through to apprenticeship and training, skills development, social procurement, local suppliers, and small-scale businesses – this work can really add value and create an opportunity for people to see themselves in the place.




Be a leader in sustainability, ecology, biodiversity, and hydrological function.


There were many participants who encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to bring a sustainability lens to the plan, noting that when development is integrated with nature it makes people feel happier and healthier. Downsview Park and the grasslands adjacent to the runway are valuable habitat for several species, and birds in particular (we were told that there are two Ontario Species at Risk in the area, Bobolinks and Meadowlarks). Downsview is also an important location for bees and other pollinators and insects. Suggestions included: • think beyond traditional practices and look to deliberate interventions in the landscape that create habitat that’s supportive of specific species; • think about how to integrate water and ecological features into the community so that the ecology can really blend into the urban and the hydrological function of the site can be reclaimed; • use native species; • design buildings that think about people and also biodiversity; • encourage low-impact sustainable building design with extreme weather patterns in mind; • look at sustainable building materials and explore technologies that help reduce the overall carbon footprint (e.g. renewable energy, community organic farms, etc.); • support a new initiative advocating for a greenway that connects northwest Toronto with a network of pathways that are calming and inviting for people while also providing practical and economical ways of getting around and transporting goods.




Support aging in place.


The COVID-19 crisis has really put a spotlight on the challenges facing seniors. Participants in the process said that they’ve learned that people often don’t want to be moved out of their homes and into institutions like nursing homes and hospitals. Instead, comprehensive approaches are needed that provide a continuum of supportive services in integrated communities or villages. Suggestions included: • a comprehensive approach with a range of options to support varying needs, from seniors apartments and retirement homes through to assisted living, long-term care, and hospitals; • supports for seniors that are physically close to each other to provide a continuum of care without requiring seniors to move several times; • opportunities for seniors to be outside and have age-appropriate outdoor spaces, as well as places where seniors can come together to play games and have fun; • more options on how seniors move around (right now cars are needed because the distances between places are too far). Early conversations with organizations that work in health care revealed an important opportunity to ensure health care facilities and services will be in place to support the new people that will live, work, and play in this area.




Be bold, be ambitious, and be unique with design and architecture.


There were several participants who suggested that Northcrest and Canada Lands encourage architectural diversity in the proposed buildings through different styles, materials, and forms (and some who specifically hope that the area is not over-developed with bland and uninteresting architecture). This diversity in building form might help attract people of different ages and interests. It was suggested that the highest density be located closest to the transit stations (transit- oriented development) which can help support a pedestrian-oriented site and access to the catchment of workers that travel to and from here. Buildings in these areas should be mixed use with ground floor retail and engaging streetscape. Some said that the appearance of buildings should embrace and fit-in with the local community.




Attract people to Downsview.


The opportunity to make Downsview a destination that attracts people was raised by some participants. A whole range of ideas were suggested on what would attract people, including some who said that vibrant, mixed-use main streets would draw people and others who see the potential for the area to be a cultural hub. One was to draw people is through increased promotion of existing assets such as Downsview Park, the Merchants Market, and sports facilities or by using the film studios in a way that could create great tourism value in the area. Individuals also shared ideas for new attractions, including: • something like the Forum that used to be at Ontario Place; • outdoor theatre space; • outdoor skating rink (like Nathan Phillips Square); • outdoor market (St. Lawrence, Distillery); • Downsview Aerospace Museum; • a Berlin Tempelhof Airport-like park place; • world class park, with fountains, sculptures and art displays designed by renowned artists; • more places to eat and plant more trees to provide more relief from the sun; • street and park names that reflect what has been filmed here; • Disneyland style theme park (shows, entertainment, shops); and • rides for kids and permanent food stands.




Look at the area holistically and look at ways to push boundaries and deliver a truly innovative approach to planning and design.


There’s a lot of change happening in the Downsview area, and several participants encouraged Northcrest and Canada Lands to look at the area holistically and to make sure neighbourhoods include a mix of uses and are truly integrated. There’s an opportunity to create distinct areas where new development is well-integrated with and respectful of existing surrounding communities. For some this was framed as an opportunity to develop a new model with partners that push the boundaries by mixing different stakeholders together and by mixing residential and commercial uses in new ways, along with social services. Toronto has been a world leader in integrating social services that make communities great, including schools, religious facilities, homeless shelters, arts centres, and other uses – and that can happen here too. This will make the community more valuable and turn the community into a place where people can live, work and play. It was emphasized that having cultural and institutional uses from the get-go is also critical, with the Daniels Spectrum and the aquatic centre at Regent Park flagged as examples. Opportunities to integrate with the edges of the park were also suggested (like Central Park, Bryant Park), including providing places for people to sit and eat, museums and cafés, etc. The other suggestion on how to push boundaries was to look at different ways to work and do business, including new models of investment that could contribute to workforce housing and community culture. To generate equity and combat anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, the Northcrest and Canada Lands team was encouraged to think about wealth transfer. This could happen by identifying some portion of the lands to contribute to the equity of community organizations so those that help create value in communities don’t then face the challenge of getting priced out of the neighbourhood they helped build. To be holistic, some participants suggested that the Northcrest and Canada Lands teams look beyond the 520 acres to what’s happening in neighbouring areas. There’s a CreateTO (formerly Build Toronto) development south of Sheppard West; the Wilson TTC Station parking lot will be replaced by housing; there’s the Tippett Road development; and Yorkdale is getting rid of its parking. It will be important to communicate all that is being done in the area and how the plans for these 520 acres connect and relate to these other projects.





(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.

Round one participants map
 

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
form submissions

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.

41%

20%

39%

LEGEND

Location of participants

 

Northcrest lands

 

Canada Lands property

 

Downsview Park 
& 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.

Summaries of
Round 1 Feedback

Round 1 Feedback Report
2020/06/10   Summary

Virtual Townhall
2020/06/10   Summary

Public Small Group Discussions 
2020/06/17   Summary

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

Social Pinpoint 
2020/06/30   Summary

Reply Card Feedback
 
2020/06/30   Summary 

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!

 

Have we heard from you?