Changes at Downsview will take decades.
They’ll be guided by the Province and the City through a series of steps, and also impacted by a range of priorities. The planning process starts with big themes and gets more granular as we go.
Public input is essential at each step of the process, from the current Framework Plan development, right down to the detailed design discussions down the road. We’re just at the start and—as you can see here—there’s a long way to go before buildings are being designed and constructed.
The Framework Plan
We’re starting with a Framework Plan. We’re currently working towards a high-level concept for the future of Downsview. The ideas and policies that are being developed will help us consider how new community connections, jobs, housing, community services and facilities, greenspace, and infrastructure may be delivered on these lands. The Framework Plan will include general land use plans and maps highlighting new connections, an open space plan, and an approach to how much activity and density should be on the site, but it won’t get as specific as building heights or architectural details. It will be our proposal to update the current Secondary Plan.
The public is already involved in shaping the Framework Plan. Locals and many city-wide groups and communities are shaping the broad themes for Downsview’s future by participating in the id8downsview engagement process, which will run into 2021. (Have we heard from you?)
The Framework Plan—and the public feedback that informs it—is important because the document sets out ambitions to guide the site’s future. But first it gets translated into a Secondary Plan.
Detailed Design & Planning Applications
Major Street Network
Local Mobility Network
District Land Use
Detailed Park Design
Open Space Network
Park Location, Size and Programming
The Secondary Plan
What is a Secondary Plan, anyway? While the Framework Plan will be created by the id8 team, informed by city and community priorities, the Secondary Plan is a City policy. It’s part of the City’s Official Plan, which outlines generally how the city should grow and how land should be used. The Secondary Plan is more specific. It takes the objectives, policies, and overall approach of an Official Plan and applies them to a particular area, taking into account the local context. Secondary Plans are usually made for areas where big changes are expected.
Downsview’s Secondary Plan needs to be updated. The area has a Secondary Plan already—it was last updated in 2011—but with Bombardier’s decision to leave and the corresponding removal of the runway, it needs to be updated to guide what happens next.
The public will have a say in the Secondary Plan approvals. The City is required to hold a public meeting on changes to the Secondary Plan. This could start as early as 2021. During the City’s review of any changes, the public can also send comments to City staff, talk to local Councillors, and speak at City Council meetings. The id8downsview team will continue engaging with the public through this period.
And then we get to the District Plans. The current Downsview Secondary Plan requires that District Plans are approved by the City before any development goes ahead. We expect that the updated Secondary Plan will also have this requirement. We are, after all, dealing with 520 acres. District Plans are typically at the scale of a neighbourhood and so they can—and must!—be more detailed than the Secondary Plan. They guide things like the placement of local streets and blocks, neighbourhood structure and organization, pedestrian connections, location of parks, and conceptual location and massing of buildings.
We need to hear from the public on these Plans. And we’ll engage with you as they develop. District Plans may also set the stage for zoning by-laws or plans of subdivision. These too, will require City-led consultation, and there will be lots of opportunities to share your thoughts.
Finally, the Planning Applications. These applications are requests to build, made by landowners or developers—in this case, Northcrest and Canada Lands. If an application conforms to the current planning regulations, it can be built “as-of-right” and moves to the site plan approval and/or building permit stage. If it requires changes to the zoning by-law or Official Plan, the planning application goes through an approvals process.
Public input is required at this stage too. City staff make a recommendation to Council based on community feedback, technical studies, and the opinions of relevant stakeholders. Council then votes to approve or deny the application.
Some changes could happen in the meantime. This series of approvals will take years and the build-out will take decades. While the Framework Plan and Secondary Plan processes are underway, some sites and projects may be developed under the policies of the current Secondary Plan.
So what’s the Province’s role in all this? The Province sets out how the land use planning system works through legislation and regulations, including the Planning Act. For example, the Planning Act requires that municipalities have Official Plans. It creates policy documents such as the Provincial Policy Statement—which sets out a land use vision and policies for the whole province—and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe—which provides a more specific vision and policies for our region. These policy documents are updated from time to time, and all municipal decisions must follow these policy documents.