Creating more public space on King Street

Today, I was happy to see an article in the Toronto Star about the City’s plans to move quickly on testing new ideas for King Street. Redesigns floated for the street would create a transit mall that prioritizes both streetcar movement and pedestrian-friendly spaces by limiting car access. It’s a good idea and the kind of creative, bold thinking that’s desperately needed for King Street to help people move faster along the corridor.

But it also provides us with a great opportunity to rethink the public realm network along the street so it becomes a place as much as a corridor. Right now there are very few public spaces along the street where people can sit, relax, and enjoy themselves despite the fact that the street is one of the most lively and interesting in the downtown.

I wanted to bring up an idea that the Entertainment District BIA proposed in their master plan from a few years ago that I think is an interesting one and should be revisited in this new review of King Street–what the BIA called King Street Squares.

From the BIA’s plan (p.36):

These Squares present an opportunity to provide additional pedestrian areas on the sunny side of the street with plaza treatments to accommodate outdoor patios, public art, as well as occasional festivals and events.

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And here it is from the street view, using Mirvish Way as an example:

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By flexibly designing these spaces you allow them to adapt to different needs and users, which makes better use of the limited amount of space we have in the downtown.

If you walk down King between Spadina and University you’ll find a number of these streets; small stubs that may only travel the one or two blocks between Richmond and King, like Charlotte and Widmer Streets.

I’m not sure, but I’d hazard a guess that there are similar opportunities in the more western sections of King Street as well. You wouldn’t want to do this at every street, obviously, but it could be a nice way to create a consistent public space network down the spine of King Street at certain key points in different neighbourhoods.

all images from the Entertainment District BIAs master plan

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