Transformation at the End of the Line: Placemaking at Gunns Loop

Gunns Loop may not appear on the rollsigns of westbound 512 St. Clair streetcars in Toronto, but with its recent reconstruction, it now has a proper sense of place. It is the western terminus for the city’s northernmost streetcar route; however, since its completion in 1981, it has lacked a design worthy of a terminus in Toronto’s iconic streetcar network. It was a banal quarter circle of concrete and asphalt, with some grass and a chain-link fence around the edges. Some generic shelters and a few shabby utility poles with mundane street lights broke up its featureless sterility.

Fortunately, the recent streetcar right-of-way project on St. Clair Avenue West involved a complete overhaul of the public realm. This time around, design would not be neglected. Intuitively, Gunns Loop was one of the last parts of the transit project completed between 2005-2011. It was transformed into a public space with polished landscape and urban design. The new design has not only enhanced this transit facility, but also the community itself with a beautiful new public space. Stepping off the streetcar onto the sheltered and attractively paved platform is now a more interesting and formal experience which evokes the “higher-order” transit that light rail can be. The loop is now a public space with a sense of culture and welcoming refinement, and no longer just a banal piece of infrastructure. It now gives people a sense of place. Continue reading


Redeveloping New York Pork – A Significant Time and Place in The Junction

With the ruins of the New York Pork slaughterhouse demolished last spring, the future of the property at 2306 St. Clair Avenue West is open for speculation. Officially, no plans have not yet been disclosed, but it is worth close consideration for anyone familiar with the area in the upper Junction. It is located on a major Toronto street which has recently been planned by the city to become a mixed-use main street. This plan, the result of the St. Clair Avenue West Land Use and Avenue Study, was formulated by the city of Toronto after consultations with residents and other local stakeholders in a series of meetings over one year. It envisions a walkable, built up area centred on St. Clair Avenue West similar to The Junction’s historic mixed-use area on Dundas Street West or Bloor West Village. The architecture, scale, public realm, and commercial activity will likely be different, giving the area a unique atmosphere. Yet the cohesive urban built form will be similar if the plan is embraced. Now ambiguously post-industrial and underdeveloped, there is potential in the area around for a vibrant, diverse, and beautiful district with the right development projects centred on St. Clair. Continue reading