Planning ‘road map’ describes future development for Keele campus

A plan outlining a broad overview of development at York University over the next quarter-century was approved by North York Community Council Tuesday, Nov. 10 afternoon, wrote the North York Mirror Nov. 11.

“It sets the stage for what development might take place in the next 25 years,” Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation, told the Mirror. “This gives you the road map for how it might look. This is the top-level road map, the guiding principles.”

Further studies will take place as actual development plans for 490 acres of land at York take shape and after the University determines exactly what role it will play, Purves said.

The secondary plan, approved by North York councillors, which must still be approved by Toronto council next month, looks at future development in York’s academic core and six outer “precincts”.

It is driven in large part by plans to extend the Spadina subway up through the University into York Region north of Toronto.

The subway opens the door to extensive residential and employment growth in the area bounded by Steeles Avenue, Keele Street, Murray Ross Drive and the Black Creek Valley.

The area will accommodate between 21,000 and 24,500 new residents, up to 21,000 jobs, parkland, bike and walking paths, recreational and social services and public art initiatives.

“In the York University secondary plan area of the future, the area is transformed from a university enclave surrounded by parking lots and open fields to an urban, human-scaled community that’s transit-supportive, as well as connected and integrated with the surrounding neighbourhoods,” a report to council said.

“York University remains an important part of the community and is a focal point for the surrounding areas. It is a place where people choose to live, work, play and study, not only for the high-quality built form and public realm but also because of the diversity that exists within the secondary plan area.”

The University will remain the key player in the area but will be surrounded by a broader community, the report said.

“While the University remains the largest single land use in the area, there is now a wide variety of activities and uses straddling the campus in a mixed-use setting that provides services and amenities for area residents, employees, the academic community and the city as a whole,” it said.

“There are places for people to buy groceries, get a cup of coffee, eat lunch or just enjoy the area’s surroundings. Social facilities provided in the area add another level of activity.”

The University will thrive as developments such as academic and support buildings, open spaces, walkways and parking facilities complement the academic function of the University, the report said. “As the University intensifies, it connects and relates well with the surrounding communities and city,” it added.

Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Howard Moscoe called the project “superb”. “I don’t think there is a better secondary plan in the country,” he said.

Purves called the comment high praise. “For Howard Moscoe to say it is the best secondary plan in Canada is a big deal. Howard is not a shrinking violet,” he said.

Councillors urged the University to consider implementing a transit pass system for students to get them out of their cars and on to transit.

  • North York councillors have agreed to add 14 York University buildings that showcase modern architecture to Toronto’s heritage inventory, wrote the North York Mirror Nov. 11. They are also recommending city council indicate its intent to designate three buildings under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The listing and designation will allow the city to protect York’s heritage even as the University moves forward with its development plans.

The 14 buildings are the Atkinson Building, the Behavioural Sciences Building, the Farquharson Life Sciences Building, Founders College and Residence, McLaughlin College and Tatham Hall, Osgoode Hall Law School, the Petrie Science & Engineering Building, the Ross Building, Scott Library, Steacie Science & Engineering Building, Stedman Lecture Halls, phase 1 of the Tait McKenzie Centre, Vanier College and Residence, and Winters College and Residence.

Meanwhile, councillors want to designate three properties known as the Abraham Hoover House and the Jacob Stong house and barn.

The 14 buildings were constructed during the early years of the University, which was founded 50 years ago.

City preservation officer Marilyn Miller, with Heritage Preservation Services, said the buildings represent a distinct architectural style for their time. “You won’t see buildings designed like that now,” she said. “But they do represent their time.”

Edith Geduld, past-chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel, said her group is delighted with councillors’ decision. But Don Valley East Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (BA Comb. Hons. ’86, LLB ’91), a York grad, questioned the architectural and historical merit of some of the buildings. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but some of these buildings, I find them rather unattractive,” he said. “Some would say thank goodness (their style isn’t used today).”

Managing diabetes

North York’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood and Scarborough’s Agincourt North area have been chosen to take part in the first program of its kind in Ontario, said Michael Riddell, a lead researcher and a professor in York University’s Faculty of Health, wrote Brampton’s South Asian Focus Nov. 11 in a story about the recent South Asian Symposium on Diabetes and Heart Health.

“We expect to reduce diabetes by 60 per cent,” Riddell said. “This is better than any medications, which reduce diabetes by 30 to 50 per cent and medications could be masking (the symptoms).”

Sustainability versus resilience

“Sustainability” and “sustainable development” are the catchphrases of the modern environmental movement, wrote Andrea Smith, postdoctoral research fellow in York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, in an article in The Huntsville Forester Nov. 11. We talk of governments promoting sustainable policies, industries adopting sustainable practices, municipalities becoming sustainable communities, and people trying to live sustainably. But do we really understand the concept and what underpins it?

Sustainability, in essence, is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations or, simply put, living within our means. In other words, living sustainably means not using up natural resources faster than they can be replenished naturally. There’s some debate over whether development can be truly sustainable (our track record so far suggests not), and the idea of sustainability receives a lot of lip service, without a lot of concrete commitment. But the environmental commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, wants us to move beyond the basic premise of sustainability and consider a key ingredient of the sustainability equation, the concept of resilience, wrote Smith.

The Forester noted Smith has lived in Huntsville since 2002 and is a member of the Local Environment Advisory Forum (LEAF) and Huntsville’s Green Plan Taskforce.

Politicians, developers OK with election reform

York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid has called on the province to put in place an outright ban on campaign contributions from corporations and trade unions, as his research has found an overwhelming number of candidates in the GTA are backed by developers’ dollars, wrote the Aurora Era-Banner Nov. 11 in a story about proposed reforms to Ontario’s Municipal Elections Act.

The problem is some of these things really might be unenforceable, MacDermid said. “If a candidate is given a donation by someone, they have no way of knowing that person has already contributed to 10 other people, the auditor has no idea, so he can’t enforce it, and the clerk just rubber stamps the returns and there’s really nothing there to alert them,” he said. “The public is going to have to do it and they can’t have that information for five months when all of the statements are released."

MacDermid said he’s not surprised a ban on corporate and union donations isn’t part of the proposed legislation.

MacDermid has long said he doesn’t expect someone’s vote can be bought or sold for a mere $750 contribution, but, rather, the amount of developers’ donations in the GTA means pro-development candidates are afforded more resources in their campaigns. Those against development have a harder time raising funds, he said.

As Call of Duty sells, recruitment falls short

Kids may be picking up interest and educational threads from games, said Jennifer Jenson, a professor of pedagogy & technology in York University’s Faculty of Education, in a story in The Globe and Mail Nov. 12 about a general surge of interest in military culture and history from video games like Call of Duty. But the Globe said that interest seems to stop short of military recruitment offices in Canada.

Last winter, the Globe noted, Jenson’s graduate student Stephanie Fisher (BA Spec. Hons. ’07) conducted a case study with a small group of Toronto teens who play Second World War video games and found they were more interested in learning about historical battles than their non-playing peers, looking up terminology, researching how the game’s storyline compared to their texts and being able to identify subtle details like costume and the types of weaponry.

Striker’s illness is a blow to Lions’ soccer hopes

For the second time this season, former Canadian Olympic and World Cup soccer player Paul James is playing a waiting game as head coach of the York University Lions women’s team, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 12.

The guru behind the development of a soccer program at York that has reached the national playoffs four times in the past five years, James saw his master plan hit a roadblock when striker Stefania Morra chose not to return this year. The former two-time league MVP told James she had lost her passion for the sport and was hanging up the cleats.

Now, he’s not sure whether all-star forward Ami Otaki, this year’s Ontario University Athletics  most valuable player, will be available to help his team in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national playoffs.

Earlier this week, Otaki left York with flu-like symptoms, putting her status in limbo for the eight-team playoffs, which start Thursday at Varsity Centre and end Sunday with the medal games. “I was very sick, but I think I am fine now,” said the 20-year-old Otaki, who attends York’s Glendon campus on a student exchange program and will return to Japan next month.

The Lions open the playoffs against the University of British Columbia, which has won the national title five times.

“This would be devastating to lose a game-breaker, and also a psychological let-down,” James said Wednesday of the possibility Otaki will not be able to play. “From what I’ve seen, there is no finer player than her on the technical level. While she may not have the electrifying pace, and this game is more physical in Canada, her on-the-ball skills are tremendous.”

A member of Japan’s last World University Games team, Otaki is considered the heart of a York squad that has put together a 14-2-1 record despite having 13 rookies on a roster of 20. She tied for the national lead in scoring with 14 goals in 14 games.

James knows how dangerous York would have been with both Otaki and Morra in the lineup. Now, he’ll be lucky to have one of them. “This is a tricky one right now and things are precautionary,” James said of Otaki. “Her health comes first. We think it’s a bad head cold; we’re hoping she’ll be able to play. Even then, whether she starts is debatable.”

The Lions are hoping to become the first Toronto university to win the title since the CIS playoffs started in 1987.

Schulich team begins stock challenge contest

The fifth instalment of the Financial Post MBA Portfolio Management Competition is well underway as students from 15 of Canada’s top MBA programs once again test their trading skills in conjunction with the Stock Challenge contest that began in September, wrote the National Post Nov. 12.

Teams will compete for bragging rights among their MBA peers, and find out how they stack up to some of the country’s top investors and traders, [including the team from the] Schulich School of Business at York University: Shan Jiang, Rene Fantin, Ji Wei Shao, Theleepan Surendra and Simon Dabrowski.

Economics without ecocide

The G20 has it backward, wrote the Montreal Gazette Nov. 12 in a story about the grouping of leading nations and its role in protecting our environment. The overarching goal of the economy should be to ensure the Earth’s ecological integrity and resilience so as to prevent the collapse of Earth’s life support systems. Essential for achieving this goal will be either a strategy for decoupling growth from climate change and other ecological degradation (a virtually impossible prospect given trends) – or de-growth and steady state strategies, such as those developed by ecological economists like Peter Victor, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and author of Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design Not Disaster (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008).

On air

  • York film Professor Seth Feldman continued his discussion of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, on CBC Radio in Kingston and Victoria Nov. 11.