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Roundtable on a Square

I made the mistake of going to the Nathan Phillips Square Design Competition's town hall meeting and expecting some neat things to look at. I hoped to at least see some neat ideas for what the square could be like and instead all I got was talk.

Having no idea how long these design competitions take I learned something new today: they take forever. Or at least that's how long it feels. The design competition itself has been given a budget of $557,000 in order to get the public involved and listen to their opinions. The fact that they are taking so long is a result of getting so much consultation from the general public, which I guess is only democratic.

Upon entering the council chamber I was handed a piece of paper about the Peace Garden already in place in the square. The man who handed to paper to me simply said "Defend the Peace Garden." This was the first of too many words said about the Peace Garden. I fully support having the a garden representing peace, but it really is in an awkward place in the square right now and only one person who spoke brought that up. The garden is one of a plethora of issues surrounding how to renew the square.

The consulting company hired by the city pointed out that many issues that people one conflict. The square currently hosts over 300 events each year and the park needs to accommodate them in some way. A few questions need to be addressed before the requirements for the park's redesign are written.

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Some of them are:
Pavement or greenery as the primary surface?
Does the park need more public art?
Should better connections to the PATH and the Opera House be made?
How much of the original design be kept?

One person suggested that the walkways around the perimeter of the park be raised and have "inviting lighting" shining down. A person speaking on behalf of a cancer prevention group wanted more greenery for shade to make the park nicer and healthier. The Law Society of Upper Canada would like the "walkway" on the west side of the square ban deliveries and have it made more welcoming to pedestrians.

An association of Ontario architects thinks that making it a design competition is fundamentally wrong because a competition is generally a way designers show off exuberant styles. Exuberance does not always equate to a good public place.

There are many different ideas that all need to be considered. There is still time to make your voice heard since the council won't see the look at the final design concepts until 2006. Construction may begin as early as 2007, not nearly soon enough. Better late than never I suppose.


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