Downsview has always been in a state of evolution. Every decade new infrastructure, real estate, and residents transform the built environment of our community and our relationship with it.
From a rural farming community to a military base and an aerospace manufacturing hub. Downsview is now entering the next phases of its evolution: a dense, walkable, environmentally sustainable, and transit-oriented urban centre.
One of the most significant drivers of this latest evolution, at least from an urban planning perspective, has been the development of Downsview Park and the surrounding land.
Since 1995, Canada Lands Company has led the revitalization of a decommissioned Canadian Forces Base into Downsview Park, nearly 600 acres of green oasis dedicated to recreational, educational, and other community uses. The land surrounding the park has been sectioned off into 4 districts to be development with various residential, commercial, and employment land uses. These districts, which are mostly still in planning phase, have been named Stanley Greene (completed), William Baker, Sheppard-Crosstown, and Allen.
Stanley Greene is the first of the planned neighbourhoods to be completed. The development has received mixed reviews from community members – some adoring it’s Dutch-inspired modern stacked townhouses and others criticizing the development for its lack of mixed uses and its isolation from the broader community.
But now, Canada Lands Company has turned its attention to the planning of the next neighbourhood, William Baker. William Baker consists of 62 acres located between Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West.
In June 2019, Canada Lands Company launched a public consultation process for community members to have their voices heard in the planning of Downsview’s newest neighbourhood. I had a chance to attend the second ‘Open House’ in November 2019 and I was thrilled to see participation from a diverse group of community members: from residents, business owners, and even local politicians.
Community members provided clear objectives to guide the planning of William Baker. Including, creating and supporting health and wellness, creating a resilient and sustainable neighbourhood, creating an age-friendly environment especially for senior residents, and creating a place for all to live.
When asked to provide specific ideas for William Baker, participants got creative. Some community members suggested that the neighbourhood include many retail options to make street life dynamic and inviting. Some folks requested affordable food and grocery stores to accommodate different income levels. Others offered novel suggestions like free public wi-fi, a pool and other recreational facilities, better access to Downsview Park, and a community centre with programming for seniors and children.
In the words of the great urbanist, Jane Jacobs: “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” It is critical that Downsview residents get involved in the transformation of our community to ensure that it meets our diverse set of needs.
If you would like to have your voice heard, you can submit your feedback online at: downsviewlands.ca or attend the next ‘Open House’. Subscribe to the Downsview Lands newsletter for the latest updates.
I will continue to follow the development of William Baker in the new year. Stay tuned.