downsview airport toronto

A Toronto airport is about to be transformed into something new and creative

A bold plan to redevelop a Toronto airport into a brand-new community centred around a runway-turned-public space is still years away, but this disused infrastructure is poised to become the city's hottest new arts and festival destination in the meanwhile.

Redevelopment of the 370-acre Downsview Airport Lands will completely transform the former military base and aircraft manufacturing facility's taxiway, 600 metres of tarmac connecting to a two-kilometre runway, and the enormous airplane hangars surrounding these paved areas.

Part of the redevelopment — known as id8 Downsview — will include a massive new park that incorporates a portion of the airport's runway. While it will take several years for this plan to be fully realized, Northcrest Developments, the lead developer of the Downsview project, has already begun to reanimate the former airport well before shovels hit the ground.

Northcrest has announced an open call for submissions as part of its Beyond the Tarmac initiative, offering $100,000 in funding to help reimagine this massive expanse of concrete and hangars into an exciting new opportunity for arts and events as early as 2025.

The developer is seeking to fund one or more projects using the existing airport infrastructure as a "canvas of possibility" within the $100k budget. The project team will be considering projects like installations and festivals with budgets starting from $10,000 in a bid to "ensure a diversity of onsite experiences."

"We're looking for ideas that are imaginative, engaging, visually striking and barrier-free, which will bring people together and build on our vision of creating a new cultural destination in Toronto," says Mitchell Marcus, Northcrest's executive director of site activation and programming.

"We have a unique and inspiring site that is filled with infinite possibilities for creative expression. We see the Downsview Airport Lands as an unprecedented opportunity for new experiences, community, and culture and we are excited to meet the creative minds who will contribute to this vision in the coming years through this open call."

Michael Vickers, local arts and culture leader and practicing artist, calls the plan "an exciting opportunity for innovation" in the arts community.

"At an impressive scale and with free reign, this initiative provides a platform for creatives and cultural pioneers to unleash their imaginations."

While these animations of the runway and surrounding infrastructure are still a year away, there is much more already happening on the Downsview Lands. The current call for submissions is just the latest in a series of on-site initiatives led by Northcrest that have drawn over 25,000 visitors to the site in the past two years.

This spring, visitors can expect several new collaborations with local artists, including a series of murals commissioned for the site from muralist Jacquie Comrie.

Among these murals, the installation 'FLOAT' will span a sprawling 3,900 square feet adorning one of the airport's largest hangars.

An immersive dance and theatre experience produced by Outside the March and The R.A.V.E., known as R.A.V.E. by Me Time, will take over the airport for six performances starting June 9 as part of the Luminato Festival.

Lead photo by

Northcrest Developments,

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