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Toronto starts marking privately owned public spaces

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 7, 2014

pops torontoThe city's numerous and often overlooked privately owned publicly-accessible spaces--public parks and green spaces located on private property, POPS for short--are finally being mapped and labeled by the city.

At the end of July, Iceboat Terrace in CityPlace became the first POPS in the city to receive a plaque marking it as space open to the public. The silver and black markers show the opening hours and reminders that normal bylaws still apply.

In November 2012, city council voted to identify and mark the city's privately owned publicly-accessible spaces, which are often provided by developers as a result of negotiations with the city. The spaces are open to the public but remains the property of the building's owner. There are more than 100 in the City of Toronto as of 2014.

Some POPS are relatively easy to spot: the concrete plaza at TD Centre, the park-like area at Queen and Shaw by CAMH, and the outdoor area behind College Park and the new Aura condo tower. Others less so: a public walkway from Carlton Street to Granby and a fenced off park beside the Manufacturers Life Insurance Company Building on Bloor.

A full, interactive map is available in PDF form.

The city is retroactively applying plaques to POPS, but in future all new spaces of this kind must be marked. The space outside the condos at 300 Front Street West is next on the list.

Are you pleased the city is taking steps to catalogue and mark these spaces?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photo by Meteor54



Craigh / August 7, 2014 at 01:52 pm
Great! It will be interesting to see how people test the boundaries of using these spaces.
Ryan Henson Creighton / August 7, 2014 at 02:08 pm
There's a real discrepancy between what Joe and Jane Average Toronto resident consider a park, and what developers are calling a "park". The image in this post, to me, is not a park. If you ask anyone - man, woman, or child - to draw a park, it will not look like that picture.

People will draw grass, not gravel pathways surrounded by dirt. They will draw big fluffy trees with thick trunks, not skinny twigs the thickness of your wrist. They will draw playground equipment. *Playground equipment.*

If you want to see how abysmal these "parks" have become, take a trip to Wellesley-Magill "park", the giant gravel-strewn litter box for dogs at Wellesley and Homewood. It will make you sad. And then, hopefully, angry.

Joe replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 7, 2014 at 02:21 pm
Did you even read the article? The first sentence refers to "parks AND green spaces." There's plenty of green in the photo above. POPS stands for Privately Owned Publicly-Accessible Space. Not all such spaces are parks in the traditional sense, nor are they required to be.
Ryan Henson Creighton / August 7, 2014 at 02:29 pm
No - i didn't read the article. i just glanced quickly at the picture, inferred what the copy was probably talking about, and posted my opinion. That's how i do, because i'm not a very intelligent or thoughtful person. Thank you for calling me out on that. You smart, me dumb. Next time, i won't even look at the picture - i'll just close my eyes and try to type the word "GRUNT" in the comments field.

i live in the Bay corridor, where despite requiring commitment from developers to create park space, not a single proper park has been built in the area for the decade i've lived there. My building, however, is surrounded on all four corners by new towers in various stages of construction. When the perfect opportunity arose - namely 11 Wellesley - it turned out that the City had been requiring such scant investment from developers that they couldn't even get a seat at the bidding table for the space.

Take a look at that PDF, and scroll around my area. The privately-owned public spaces are primarily paved alleyways. Let's put a plaque on that and cut some ribbons ASAP.
ginnee / August 7, 2014 at 02:30 pm
Dundas Square is privately owned. So is the Eaton Centre. Many visitors assume they're public, but the security teams will let you know otherwise.
They're not marked on this map which refers to spaces, not necessarily green.
John / August 7, 2014 at 02:35 pm
Good idea, but that pdf map is just awful on the eyes.
Joe replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 7, 2014 at 02:56 pm
No need to be so defensive. Next time just read the article before commenting on it, that's all.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from Joe / August 7, 2014 at 03:44 pm
I believe he was being facetious.
mike in parkdale / August 7, 2014 at 03:48 pm
also, is anyone else having troubles with the PDF? it doesn't seem to be interactive at all. Clicking the pins doesn't give any added info.
Thomas replying to a comment from ginnee / August 7, 2014 at 04:33 pm
Just a quick correction, Yonge-Dundas Square is owned by the City. There is a Board of Management that manages the use of the square, and this is a Board of the City. Just because there are security guards doesn't mean it's private!

Eaton Centre, of course, like all malls, is privately held.
the cheef replying to a comment from Joe / August 7, 2014 at 04:38 pm
are you an idiot?
mapguy replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / August 7, 2014 at 04:47 pm
rather than open it from within my browser (latest Firefox) , I had to have Adobe open it separately. That is the only way I could get the Pin feature to work for me.
Jamie replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 7, 2014 at 04:51 pm
That's what that park is supposed to look like, isn't it? It's intended for dogs.

(I kinda like it, FWIW. I'm not a dog owner.)
Ryan Henson Creighton replying to a comment from Jamie / August 7, 2014 at 05:35 pm
i myself despise dogs. That said, all of the other dog parks i've ever seen have had grass in them. That picture i posted shows the place in the best possible light. Try walking through there some dimly-lit evening, as my family and i did recently. Like i say, it feels like a giant litter box, with lots of unexploded dog ordinance to tiptoe around.

i walked past the "park" in post's photo about half an hour ago. The picture is deceptive. It feels, in no way, green, and in every way pointless. It's very very small, and you can clearly see at a glance every place the path leads (hint: nowhere), so it feels redundant to even enter it. If they wanted that wandering, exploratory feel in such a small space, they should have made it a labyrinth instead. As it stands, it feels like a waste of space. And the low-lying scrubby plants look like your grandmother's backyard after the rabbits came in and ate all of her interesting gardening.

Even worse is the Town Square "park" three lots East of there. It features right-angled strips of concrete walkways separated by large stone planters, which are currently filled with dirt. No plants. Nothing green. Just concrete and dirt, thanks.

Downtown Toronto parks: just concrete and dirt, thanks.

Steve replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 8, 2014 at 08:38 am
You lack of understanding is laughable, you admitted you did not read the article that is bad enough but you go to not even know what is being talked about. You ramble on about what a park is to you assuming that all people agree with you way of thinking. You call these POPS city parks they are not then go on to compare the two. Do use all a favour and get a bit more knowledgeable about what you taking about.

What spurred me to respond was this 'Downtown Toronto parks: just concrete and dirt' Tells me you do not know a park when you see one. You indicate that you live in the city. i will give you a list of parks that will meet you myopic criteria. Rosedale Vally Ravine, Wellesley park,Riverdale Park, Riverdale Zoo, Moss Park, Corktown Commons, Queens Park, Grange Park, Allan Gardens, St James Park, I am sure I missed a few, This list does not include the many parklettes that city runs.
J replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 8, 2014 at 11:52 am
While I agree that yes, some of the newer parks in Toronto lack the ambiance of older, established parks, you have to understand that these spaces are new and not grown in yet. So you should reconsider your comment about 'skinny twigs'. Trees take decades to reach the size you might consider 'fluffy'.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this initiative! Investment in public spaces is never a bad thing.
Ryan Henson Creighton replying to a comment from J / August 8, 2014 at 11:59 am
It's a bad thing when the public spaces fall so short of expectations.

It's not a matter of growing in. The Town Square park i mention was built about 5 years ago, and the planters today are barren. If you look closely at the park in the picture above, notice the footprint of the tree coming out of the sidewalk. There's no allowance for that tree to get any thicker. i'm no botanist, but it looks like they chose skinny trees that are doomed to stay skinny.

Meanwhile, the City recently uprooted all of the trees, skinny or otherwise, at the North end of Ramsden park. i presume that pavement is easier and cheaper to maintain.
J replying to a comment from Ryan Henson Creighton / August 8, 2014 at 03:54 pm
I agree that maintenance of public spaces in Toronto has certainly been lacking, no question there.

However, as you stated you are not a 'botanist' (although you really should have said arborist'), and shouldn't make overarching statements. The landscape architect (Claude Cormier) who designed this space took into consideration the urban setting of the park and planted Accolade Elm trees which are well known for their resiliency to harsh environments. They also don't need a large space to grow and their trunks don't grow very wide.

As for Ramsden Park, PMA is currently working on a revitalization project for the park that will ultimately help in securing the longevity of it's vegetation. Sometimes this means that trees need to be removed. Generally, a tree will not be removed unless it's under stress or reaching it's end. If you want parks in Toronto to be beautiful in the future you need to make these sacrifices in the present.

I understand what you're saying about some new public spaces, such as the park you mentioned at Wellesley and Homewood (that one in particular is awful) but don't presume to know why trees are planted in a certain way, or why they are removed.
Ryan, Arbiter of Taste / August 9, 2014 at 09:32 am
Ryan detests dogs, and I detest egocentric, pompous asses. So I guess we are even. I wish people like him would try to open their rather closed minds once in awhile to see that all public spaces do not have to be approved by them, personally. Others may have different ideas, too.
karen mills / August 13, 2014 at 03:15 pm
J made one very telling and compelling comment that bears repeating. Maintenance in parks is a huge problem. Often maintenance crews are given scant direction and dreadful mistakes can be made. Witness the "weeding" of the nicely filling out perennials and rosa rugosa at Canoe Landing Park mere weeks after the park was turned over to the City. I walked through the park in the morning enjoying the masses of native flowers and birds on the slope under the red canoe. On my return walk later that day, I was greeted by immense heaps of rudbeckia, roses and various perennial grasses piled up and ready for pick up. Infuriating.
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