York professor sees green over Downsview Park


Above: Aerial view of Downsview Park site

Some people drive past the large, open expanse known as Downsview Park – site of the yesterday’s concert featuring the Rolling Stones – and ask, “What park?”. As York environmental studies Professor David Bell drives by, he smiles and envisions the 260-hectare area cooled and beautified by trees.

Right: Bell with his Honour Roll Award 2003

As Chair of the federally appointed board that manages the park, Bell loves to talk about the board’s plans to do a major makeover of the whole area. The site includes not just the part set aside for parkland, but also the section intended for business development, the latter of which will generate funds for the over-all park development through the lease of space.

“I am excited at the opportunity to help put the board’s vision into reality, and particularly to put into practice the principles of sustainability about which I have been teaching and writing for the past 11 years,” said Bell, who was director of the York Centre for Applied Sustainability until June, 2003.

The principles will be applied to the entire site, not just the green space which comprises about 130 hectares, added Bell.

“It is a unique urban recreational green space, a safe and peaceful place, and will be developed according to the principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability, for Canadians to enjoy in all seasons. It reflects Canada’s mosaic brilliance and celebrates it past, present and future accomplishments.”

Left: Entrance to Downsview Park

Bell was quoted in the July 24 Eye Weekly as questioning the future of Downsview Park, since little has happened to make the park take shape since Toronto designer Bruce Mau and Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas won a design competition in 1999 to work magic on the site.

But Bell isn’t pessimistic about it, as he was made out to be. Quite the contrary. “Though we have been somewhat delayed in getting our Tree City concept into the design and implementation stage, we are very pleased with the team that won the competition and are now launching the next phase,” he said. (Tree City is a significant component of the overall Downsview plans to redevelop the site.)


Right: Tree City concept image, 2000

“The principal creator of the concept was Bruce Mau and he remains the central guiding force. Rem Koolhaas decided that his contribution was best served through the competition, and chose not to be involved in the further implementation of the design.”

Bell said the park board will be looking at sustainable design, energy, transportation, education and land use for both the housing and commercial/industrial development of the lands. “We have already elaborated a sustainability policy and have established indicators to monitor progress toward our goals.

“We will soon have a full-fledged sustainability plan in place,” he said with his customary optimism.

Left: Tree City concept image, 2000

Tony Genco, executive vice-president of Downsview Park, is equally positive about the future of the site. He said the board will be holding a series of consultative meetings with key stakeholders over the next few weeks. “These meetings are an opportunity to bring the award-winning Tree City design, as well as some other exciting park development opportunities, to fruition.”

Genco said the Downsview Park board was “thrilled” to pay host to the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto concert. “The concert event coincided with the park’s launch of the stakeholder consultations to begin the next steps in the creation of Canada’s first national urban park.”

David Anselmi, vice-president of park development, described the series of consultations as an important step in the development of the park “and we look forward to listening to ideas and receiving input from our stakeholders.”

Right: Tree City concept image, 2000

For more information on Parc Downsview Park, bordered by Keele St., Sheppard Ave. and the Allen Road, visit http://www.pdp.ca/en/lands/theplan.htm and http://www.pdp.ca/en/lands/thesite.htm.

David Bell was recently presented with an Honour Roll Award 2003, and had a tree planted in his honour by the Toronto and Region Conservation for The Living City, “for his innovation, wisdom, inspiration and guidance toward a more sustainable future; for his leadership in establishing roundtables for learned discussion by academic, community, and industry opinion leaders; and for his contributions to the development of Toronto and Region Conservation’s vision for The Living City.”