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Sunday Supplement: Restoring Nathan Phillips Square, stopping streetcars, and saying adieu to the Beach Motel

Posted by Chris Bateman / November 18, 2012

toronto jarvis bike laneNathan Phillips Square is a hive of activity right now. Celebrations for the 100th Grey Cup Festival and construction work on numerous new, less grey features are now underway. Below is a reminder of what the project is bringing to the space outside City Hall. There's also a look at an often overlooked feature of Toronto's streetcars and video of the end of Etobicoke's lost tourist destination.

The lead image by Martin Reis shows one of the final riders of the Jarvis bike as a work truck approaches, cleaning off the controversial paint. Removal of the bike lanes started Monday and sparked a minor but passionate protest from several cyclists. A fifth lane is due to be up and running at the expense of the markings shortly.

UPDATING NATHAN PHILLIPS SQUAREtoronto city hallConstruction might be running a little over budget, but Toronto's civic square and monument to the glory of concrete is in the late stages of a major facelift. When it's finished, the city will have a much-improved space to gather, play, and protest (if the need arises.)

Here are some of the new features currently now scheduled to cost $2.6 million:

  • Theatre Stage: A permanent structure for live performances located on the west side of the square. The twin towers of City Hall provide a cool backdrop.
  • New Skate Pavilion: A revamped place to rent skates for the reflecting pool rink in winter and a cosy place to change. There's also going to be a concession stand.
  • Restaurant: Soon diners will be able to chow down in the shadow of municipal politics. The 300-seater restaurant and bar will also have a seasonal patio.
  • Enhanced Planters: If there's one thing Nathan Phillips Square lacks it's green space. New low-level flower beds at street level and on the podium roof will provide a splash of much needed colour.
  • A new Peace Garden: Shifted closer to Osgoode Hall, the new Peace Garden will include raised planters, a water feature and an eternal flame.
  • Disappearing Fountain: Just like Rob Ford imagined on his trip to Edmonton, the new square will prominently feature a nine-jet water fountain/splash pad in the summer. When it gets cold, the fountain can be turned off and the basin used for winter activities.

STREETCAR SANDtoronto streetcar sandToronto's new streetcars might be chock full of fancy features like air conditioning, Presto readers, and extra doors, but one thing is staying the same from the old model, and that's sand. Lots and lots of sand.

When a streetcar - or any train for that matter - has to brake suddenly, the metal wheels tend to skid across the surface of the rails. Depositing a blast of sand provides extra grip and reduces stopping distance.

In the current CLRV and ALRV streetcars the sand boxes are located under the first seats on each side of the vehicle. The fine spray is automatically deployed when the driver steps on the anchors or when there's particularly low traction. The driver can also apply sand manually.

Look out for patches of fine grit trapped by the rails next time you're crossing the street and rest assured it will be there for some time yet.

CARDS WITH A HEARTtoronto charity cardsIt's easy to forget that while we're fussing over shiny new additions to the TTC's fleet many people in our communities regularly go hungry and rely on local food banks for sustenance. At Christmas, these problems can seem even more pronounced.

"From Me T.O. You," a local group of graphic designers, has produced a series of charity Christmas cards to benefit the Daily Bread Food Bank. The packs of 10 cards cost $15 and are available online.


Earlier this week demolition crews tore down the last remnant of Etobicoke's once booming lakeshore hotel strip. The Beach Motel was once one of thirty or more resorts on Lake Ontario popular during the 1950s and 60s. When the Gardiner Expressway arrived, however, the appeal of the lake front in the area waned. The motels that clung on were renowned for prostitution and drug use in recent years.

Above is video of a hungry grabber pulling down the walls of Beach Motel to make way for a new condo development.


Photos: "Stand in the place where you bike" by Martinho from the blogTO Flickr pool, PLANT Architect and Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will, and Chris Bateman/blogTO.



Simon Tarses / November 19, 2012 at 01:50 am
There go the last of the affordable places that a visitor could stay in and still be close to downtown. At least there's the Comfort Inn off of Yonge and Charles, or the Motel 8 at 222 Spadina Avenue.

Good to see that the construction at City Hall has some purpose, but when will it be completed? And, can people dunk their feet in water like they used to each summer?
jer / November 19, 2012 at 11:18 am
Did you write this or quote it from somewhere?:

Theatre Stage: A permanent structure for live performances located on the west side of the square. The twin towers of City Hall provide a cool backdrop.

The City Hall towers are to the side of the stage no? How can they be a backdrop when they aren't behind the stage?

I am excited to finally see all of the construction completed. I have attended so many great events there over the years. There was an amazing turnout for the Calvacade of Lights this past weekend too.
Skye / November 20, 2012 at 11:48 am
I may be one of the few who thinks this, but I love Nathan Phillips Square's midcentury, futuristic design. There's something bright and hopeful about the whole look and I hope they preserve that asthetic.

Since when does something have to be a heavy, ornate Victorian building to be preserved?

It's been noted on many of the historical threads that many of our "lost" buildings were torn down at about 50-60 years of age. It seems that's about when we deem architecture as too old to be new, and too new to be vintage, and not worth saving.
Steph / November 22, 2012 at 11:01 am
I checked out the From Me T.O You website. I'm curious about how it "benefits" the Daily Bread Food Bank. Cards cost $15, but how much does the DBFB receive? Weird that they wouldn't at least put a percentage on their site for buyers to see.

I'll just continue running a food drive amongst my friends and coworkers instead...
Sarah / December 5, 2012 at 09:32 am
Hi Steph,

I am the founder of From Me T.O. You. The DBFB receives over $11 of the $15. We were able to keep the overhead nice and low. Thanks for your question I will post this information to the website.
hsuyudwbhcrb / March 17, 2013 at 03:50 pm
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