Taking it to the Street

It took a village to raise that baby!

Beautiful day on Roncesvalles avenue showing passengers boarding streetcar, trees, plant beds and shoppers.With a team of many BIA members, TTC delegates, advocating residents, and City of Toronto officials, the long, arduous task of co – creating the Roncesvalles streetscape was a group effort.  The process was based on consultation, collaboration and transparency.

Several members of RoncyWorks were involved in the process and are pleased to report that Roncy’s development history is intact, safe and on the cutting edge of experimental projects.  For example the Greening of Roncy by local volunteers and the success of the Cigarette Litter Prevention Campaign is inspiring other neighbourhoods.

Creating an accessible street that people would enjoy for generations was the group mandate. And, if the TTC has to make some adjustments to get that perfect, well that’s OK with me.

The group had to scale their vision to budget and other limitations, while pursuing the common interests of all businesses, residents, motorists, cyclists, transit users and pedestrians of all ages — some with strollers, walkers or wheelchairs.

Roncy Works… because we all work together.

More on:  Community engagement with Roncesvalles Renewed

Roncesvalles Renewed

RoncyWorks was rooted from Roncesvalles Renewed, a community group initiated by the Roncesvalles Village BIA in 2005, four years before construction began on our main street.

People sitting around a table at a meeting for Roncesvalles Renewed

Members of Roncesvalles Renewed at one of the many meetings held at the home of John Senders and Ann Crichton-Harris on Indian Road.

Roncesvalles Renewed included reps from the BIA and three local Residents Associations, other local residents with particular interests or expertise in urban planning and renewal, business owners, local institutions and political representatives. We saw this reconstruction as an opportunity to try a new model for how communities collaborate with the City on major infrastructure projects of this kind.

Beginning in June 2009, Roncesvalles Avenue underwent a major reconstruction. The sewers were rebuilt, followed by the water mains, streetcar tracks and sidewalks. It meant digging, dust and detours for about two years. It also presented a number of opportunities, not least of which was to create a thriving canopy of trees along Roncesvalles.

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A perfect day on Roncesvalles

Yesterday was a perfect day on Roncesvalles, and a great opportunity to capture the beauty of our new streetscape.

Ever since construction wrapped up in July, the new Roncesvalles has been widely praised. “The result is quite marvellous,” wrote the Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee, and the New York Times wrote: “the rejuvenated ‘Roncey’ now makes for one of the city’s most engaging strolls.”

Here are some examples of what they are writing about.

Passengers boarding a TTC streetcar on Roncesvalles Ave., Nov. 2011The new streetscape features several new trees, planted in healthy growing conditions. Instead of ugly concrete “tree coffins” that usually kill trees within 5-10 years, the trees are protected by attractive guards and grates. Soon, Roncesvalles will boast a lush green canopy that will cool our street, absorb greenhouse gases and pollutants, and provide natural beauty. The unsafe “two-step” sidewalk has finally been levelled, and unit pavers provide an attractive surface covering the underground soil trenches that give our trees access to uncompacted soil, air and water. The new tree guards are intended as multi-use street furniture that you can rest against or lock your bike to.

IMG_2025-sThe TTC stops are intended to be more than just places to wait for a streetcar. They have been conceived as “outdoor living rooms,” with benches, gardens, pedestrian lights, and room in some cases for displays or patios. An innovative, raised bike path allows cyclists to pass by the TTC stops without being caught in the streetcar tracks.

Multi-purpose TTC bumpouts on Roncesvalles Ave.Roncesvalles now has the most accessible streetcar stops in Toronto, allowing direct boarding from the sidewalk.  At 30 metres long, the stops have been optimized for Toronto’s new fleet of hi-tech LRV streetcars, which will begin entering service in 2014. These low-floor streetcars will be fully-accessible, air-conditioned, and will allow boarding from all four doors with the new Presto cards.

Two friends enjoy a walk up the tiled sidewalk on Roncesvalles Ave.The end result is a street that is full of vibrancy and life – not just a way to pass through, but a destination in itself. Roncesvalles is a pedestrian-friendly place where neighbours can meet friends, stop to chat, and yes, to shop.

Cross-posted with the Roncesvalles Village BIA website

Photos: John Bowker

How sustainable tree planting was integrated along Roncesvalles

With a distance roughly a kilometer and a half, a dateline spanning close to 150 years, a strong Polish lineage but a Spanish birthright;  Roncesvalles Village, attracts more Arts Cultural Urbanites per capita, than any other Toronto Neighbourhood.

Radiating off every heavily tree canopied street are “redone Four Squares” that are highly sought after by perspective home buyers. Eventually, the Roncesvalles commercial district will become a leading example of how community and urban planning had combined resources and ideas. This collaboration helped create a long term strategy for sustainable tree planting. The street’s trees used to be in concrete coffins which restricted the natural growth of the roots (see  Root and crown structure), and now they are all in continuous soil trenches.

Sustainable urban tree planting is all about:

  • planting native species that easily thrive in the local environment;
  • growing them  in a continuous soil trench which enables root expansion;1
  • enabling the expansion of the overhead canopy, which serves as a climate control regulator by providing deciduous shade in the summer and solar heat in the winter;
  • and finally, during daylight hours, the trees serve as environmental lungs because they consume a multitude of carbon gasses, including carbon dioxide2, which is one of the most acknowledged contributors to climate change.

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They stand on guard for trees

City workers install the guards and grates that will protect our street trees on the east side of Roncesvalles.Our promised tree guards have arrived. There’s been rapid progress on the installation of the guards and grills this week. Over the last few days the crews have worked their way down the street and have now reached Galley.

The guards are wide enough to protect the trees to maturity. The grills provide a level sidewalk, while letting air and water through. They will also serve to filter some of the litter that has been accumulating in the tree beds. However, I’m sure you’ll still see people chucking smaller pieces of litter through the grates, particularly cigarette butts and bottle caps.

Black metal tree guards stand above metal tree grates.We’ll need to do some awareness building, so the tree beds aren’t turned into massive ashtrays. It bears repeating, that although the tobacco will decompose, the butts are not biodegradable. They’ll take 18 months to 10 years to decompose. So let’s remind thems-that-smoke-and-toss to use the trash cans. The new ones have a built in cigarette disposal feature at centre front.