In a few years, you might not recognize Keele campus.
With the arrival in 2015 of the Spadina subway extension, the core of this car-oriented campus – what planners call the academic core – will undergo a radical greening.
What will it look like?
Inside the ring road, ground parking lots will disappear, making way for new buildings. The ring road itself will become a tree-lined greenway accommodating pedestrians, bicycles, transit and cars, in that order. Roads will morph into bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways, shaded by trees, edged by green spaces, lined with benches and populated with public art. Buses won’t be belching fumes around the Common. It could be quiet, very quiet.
Left: Randy Diceman, York’s emergency management coordinator, examines plans for a greener core campus, at April open house
It’s all laid out in York’s updated master plan, first unveiled April 13 at an open house in Vari Hall Rotunda. (If you missed the open house, check out the York University Development Corporation website for images of the future.)
“Nothing is firmed up yet,” says Christopher Wong, YUDC director of transportation and master planning. The open house was the first in a series of consultations with the community “to see if we’re on the right track.”
York’s original master plan, drafted in 1963 and revised in 1988, was “predicated on the car,” said Wong. “Now, our strategy is to go back to a pedestrian core, keeping public roads to the periphery, particularly now that the subway is coming. We don’t need to cater to the car anymore.”
A few years ago, knowing the subway was on its way, the City of Toronto revisited York’s 1988 master plan. It divided York’s land holdings roughly into two – the academic core inside the ring road and the non-academic area surrounding it. In December 1999, the city drew up a secondary plan (see YFile, March 30, 2010 ) to guide commercial and residential development around the academic core. The city gave the University responsibility for revising a master plan to guide development of its academic core.
For the past year and a half, YUDC has been drafting a framework for a master plan with help from urban planners, architects and consultants. The impetus to revise the plan came from the City of Toronto when a subway extension became a certainty.
YUDC began by talking to senior officials. “We heard loud and clear that the quality of student experience was the area they want to emphasize,” said Wong.
Based on this feedback, YUDC and partners decided to enhance campus life by focusing on three lenses – pedestrians first, greening the campus and infilling the campus.
The ring road would be called the Greenway and favour pedestrians and cyclists. The Harry W. Arthurs Common would be “liberated” from heavy bus traffic. Cycling to Keele campus would be more attractive, with the Greenway linked to regional trails.
The Common and the Lorna R. Marsden Honour Court & Welcome Centre would become “the green heart” of the academic core. Trees would line all major gateways to campus. Walkways would connect woodlots and streetscapes, informal and formal green spaces, creating potential sites for public art.
“The campus will become more compact and walkable with more convenient services for the University community,” suggest planners.
Surface parking would disappear, making way for new buildings. “The University could double the amount of building within its academic core,” says Wong. The York Boulevard lot could turn into a major academic building linked to the York University subway station across the street.
“The principle of putting people to work and live close to the subway is what the plan is all about,” says Wong.
Over the summer and fall, YUDC will consult with University stakeholders – administration, faculty, staff, students and the broader community. A revised framework will be presented at a second open house in the fall and a final version submitted for approval later in the year or early in 2012.
YUDC wants to hear what you think of the preliminary framework of the updated master plan. Submit your comments by filling in a form at the end of the story about the updated master plan on the YUDC website.
By Martha Tancock, YFile contributor