Tag Archives: metro convention centre
Christopher Hume – Toronto Star
To stroll along Bremner Blvd. is to take a walk into the future of Toronto. Starting at the Air Canada Centre and heading west to Spadina, this is a thoroughly contemporary street of tall towers and green spaces, public and private, that offer an exciting glimpse into where the city is headed in the decades ahead.
What makes this especially interesting is that Bremner has the potential to become one of Toronto’s premier destination streets. Already, it draws thousands of visitors on an almost daily basis. They are there, of course, because of the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre, but also because of Roundhouse Park, where trains, real and toy, and railway architecture are displayed.
As is always the case, however, it’s the peripheral attractions appeal nearly as much. That includes the hotels, cafés, restaurants, bars and shops that constitute the infrastructure of a modern urban pleasure zone. This may not be Toronto’s new Entertainment District, but it soon could be. The missing ingredient is the sidewalk density and the close-grained streetscape necessary to create the critical mass of people and activity that brings an area to life culturally, socially and economically.
West of Spadina, where Bremner becomes Fort York Blvd. and will eventually extend beyond Bathurst, the street becomes overwhelmingly residential. Here it looks onto townhouses and neighbourhood parks that are mainly of local interest. As so much of the new precinct is still under construction, its final relationship to the larger community remains to be seen.
But starting with Maple Leaf Square just east of York St., Bremner could one day actually live up to its designation and function as a boulevard. The big issue will be what happens west of York where the street awaits completion. Not much can be done about the heavily landscaped entrance to the Metro Convention Centre, though there’s enough space to add a whole new layer of street-oriented development.
Maple Leaf Square, a recently completed instant neighbourhood organized around the Air Canada Centre, is a gathering place for happy hordes if and when the Leafs and Raptors win (or not). Mixing corporate, commercial, hospitality and residential, these new buildings define a public space that encompasses Bremner. This is where visitors find the amenities and attractions including a giant video screens so sought after by the urban throng. On the other hand, the possibilities here of street life have yet to be exploited. There are no outdoor cafés, no sidewalk shops, few benches and trees. Perhaps they will appear in time.
What Bremner needs are more structures like 51 Lower Simcoe St., an otherwise ordinary condo complex sitting atop a retail podium built right out to the sidewalk. It is filled with places to eat, drink and best of all, watch the passing parade.
At the west end, Bremner becomes part of a vast paved area around the Rogers Centre. Designed more for cars and buses than pedestrians, it has some way to go before it deserves to be called a boulevard. On the other hand, there’s enough space here to address that imbalance, to accommodate everyone. In fact, this stretch of the street seems an obvious candidate to be a woonerf, one of those narrow sign-less roads that belong equally to all users.
Beyond that, the task will be to create better connections between Bremner and its surroundings. The fact it can be reached from Union Station is a huge asset, one that ensures connection of the most fundamental sort.
The base of the CN Tower represents another huge opportunity. Today, it’s a maze of temporary sheds, empty spaces and stairwells that don’t lead where you expect them to. But if plans to build a massive aquarium directly behind the world’s second tallest free-standing structure are realized, it could become a centre of activity, drawing thousands of people weekly.
Then there’s the problem of Lake Shore Blvd., the Gardiner Expressway and the north/south streets that feed it — Spadina, Bathurst, Bay, York and now Lower Simcoe and Dan Leckie Way. These urban highways are hostile to pedestrians, many of them local residents walking to and from their homes.
Spadina, which separates Bremner and Fort York Blvd., has been turned into an extension of the Gardiner. Seven lanes wide in parts, it runs contrary to everything the new CityPlace neighbourhood is trying to achieve. If the city is serious about making the downtown safe and accessible for pedestrians, it will have to deal with this problem at some point — the sooner the better.
Until that happens, this still embryonic streetscape will never be fully realized. Despite such an impressive start, things could founder as a result of the city’s auto-dependency. That would be a loss for Toronto, especially because Bremner is ideally situated to harness the energy generated by Torontonians’ love of sport.
From any perspective, the prospect of a walkway between the city’s two antipodal athletic centres represents a unique opportunity to create a community that includes more than condos.
The focus will have to shift from the perennial obsession with height to something more earth-bound, namely, what’s going on at street level. This is what we see as we walk past; this is the part of a building we relate to, this is the part of the building that belongs to the public realm.
In many respects, Bremner has already surpassed expectations. But its potential remains far from fulfilled. When that happens, it could be one of the great boulevards of Toronto.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416−388−1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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