1When the Government of Canada announced the closure of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Toronto in 1994 it stipulated that “the existing DND-owned lands associated with the Downsview site will be held in perpetuity and in trust primarily as a unique urban recreational greenspace for the enjoyment of future generations” (Government of Canada, 1994).
2The Downsview Lands consist of 260.6 hectares (644 acres) of federally owned land located in the northwest portion of the City of Toronto in the geographic centre of the Greater Toronto Area. Downsview Park is the name given to the entire community built on 231.5 hectares (572 acres). It includes public open space, recreational, cultural, residential, commercial, institutional, sports and entertainment uses, developed according to the principles of environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
3More than 130 hectares (320 acres) of the total land area are earmarked for park and recreational activities. Approximately 102 hectares (252 acres) will be dedicated to opportunities that complement these activities while providing revenue to finance the construction, development and management of the Downsview Park Sustainable Community. Parc Downsview Park (PDP) is a public sector institution commissioned by the government of Canada whose mandate requires that it be self-financing and which is prohibited from making any appropriation of public funds.
4Downsview Park will be a leading edge sustainable community. It will set 21st century standards for excellence in landscape architecture design, recreation, urban planning and sustainable development. Its goals are to define green development, implement green technologies and promote green business and offer in the City of Toronto, for the people of Canada, a wonderful place to showcase environmental social and economic sustainability.
5Sustainability is implicit in the mandate given to PDP by the Government of Canada, but is found at the core of PDP’s interpretation of its mandate. It is the one word which best captures the essence of the vision of Downsview Park. That vision is to create a community that is a showcase of sustainability for the world. The vision states: “Downsview Park is a unique urban recreational greenspace, a safe and peaceful place, developed according to the principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability, for Canadians to enjoy in all seasons. The park reflects Canada’s mosaic brilliance and celebrates its past present and future accomplishments.”
6Experts from diverse disciplines recognize sustainability as the development strategy for the 21st century. A sustainable community fosters the interdependence of social, ecological, and economic well-being. A balance among the three components enables each component to achieve its maximum potential (Peck, 2005). PDP plans to create that balance through the integration of common elements among the various land uses across Downsview Park. A ‘Sustainable Community’ makes choices that simultaneously enhance or maintain the wellbeing of both people and ecosystems while not placing unbearable burdens—environmental, economic, or social—on future generations. To achieve this vision all community members, individuals groups and organizations in all sectors need to adopt sustainability as a core value to guide to decisions and actions.
7PDP is committed to sustainability in all its dimensions and environmental, economic and social sustainability are in evidence in the current and planned operations and activities.
8The lands where Downsview Park is located have a very rich history and have experienced a number of land uses, including agricultural production and a military base. These uses have also determined the park’s physical environment. These lands have helped shape Toronto and Canada and have made Downsview an important part of Canada as a whole.
9Downsview is named after an 1830’s farm that was called “Downs View”, because of its high elevation and its excellent view looking southward towards Lake Ontario. The Downsview lands were acquired from the aboriginal peoples with the Toronto Purchase in 1787.
10In 1851, construction of the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway began and by 1853 much of the railway had been completed. The railway ran north through Downsview to Lake Simcoe and Lake Huron transporting passengers, freight and mail. It exists today as the Canadian National Railway, bisecting Downsview Park.
11Although Downsview was initially a small rural community, it soon grew to become an urban industrial centre, well connected to the region by both commerce and culture. De Havilland Aircraft of Canada located to Downsview in 1929 and began assembling airframes at a small airfield in Downsview south of Sheppard Avenue adjacent to the railway. Later, land was expropriated from the community to enlarge the airfield and permit its use by jet fighters of the Royal Canadian Air Force and buildings were expanded.
12After the war, the government recognized the Downsview Lands strategic importance with its proximity to Toronto's industry and infrastructure. Downsview was considered by the government to be well suited as an air station and logistical support base because of the existing airfield and hangar facilities (Czerniak, 2002).
13The idea of transforming the Downsview Lands into a national urban park was first advanced in 1994 as the closure of the military base was being contemplated. The site was seen as a large underutilized tract of land, with valuable assets as well as some heritage buildings that could be renaturalized. It was also believed that it had the potential to become a national and international showcase for environmental, social and economic sustainability.
14Since 1996, the site has been incrementally transformed, in the perception of the members of the surrounding community as well as nationally, from a military base to a park. This transformation is both physical, (characterized by the replacement of the barbed wire fences that characterized the base with open, welcoming entrances) as well as attitudinal (characterized by the introduction of programs and events designed to attract visitors to the site.
15PDP Inc’s aspiration is to create a sustainable community, with a national purpose and identity, of great magnitude and prestige for all Canadians and to develop Downsview Park into a model for the world.
16PDP was established in 1999 to formally assume responsibility for managing and developing Downsview Park. With the closure of CFB Toronto, the government recognized that it had an unparalleled opportunity to make a positive impact on the City of Toronto through the retention of the former base lands under federal administration.
17Since that time great strides have been made affirming the mandate and refining the vision of Downsview Park as an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable community. Downsview Park represents one of the largest sustainable development initiatives in Canada. Detailed, thoughtful plans are in place to achieve the vision to urbanise the site, improve the quality of life for the entire community and serve as a model for all of Canada.
18In February 2004, PDP received the final conceptual design for the Park Master Plan, which was the cornerstone for the development of Downsview Park. The exciting and dynamic Plan defines the character of the sustainable community and provides the strategy and process for building the remaining parts of Downsview Park. The Plan was the culmination of a series of informal and formal stakeholder consultations held in the summer and fall of 2003 as well as the expertise of a multi-disciplinary design team. The process originated with the International Design Competition in May 2000 that chose Tree City as the winning concept.
19The values and principles of the February 2004 Park Plan are therefore driving the ambition for the overall park development. In 2005-2006, PDP began the Comprehensive Park Plan project in order to revisit and refine the February 2004 Plan for the primary public open space.
20PDP commissioned a number of technical studies on various subjects including recreation, hydrology, and geotechnical, aquatic and terrestrial ecology along with transportation, infrastructure and energy. These studies and the Comprehensive Park Plan will provide necessary background material to develop the primary public open space.
21The park design team is currently preparing the Comprehensive Park Plan. This work, which began with the Canada Forest project, will be integrated to the Urban Development Plan and Sustainable Community Development Guidelines. These are currently under development to create the Downsview Park Sustainable Community Master Plan.
22The Downsview Park International Design Competition was held to realize the vision of creating a unique urban recreational greenspace, with the goal of making Downsview Park internationally recognized as one of Canada’s great urban parks. The objective of the competition was to promote innovative design proposals that would respond to the social and natural histories of the site, while developing its potential as a new landscape, one capable of sustaining new ecologies and an evolving array of public uses and events.
23The design competition resulted in an exceptional design team responsible for the creation of the concept for Downsview Park known as Tree City. The winning design did not define itself as a traditional national park because, unlike most of Canada’s parks, the Downsview site does not offer an extraordinary landscape that needs to be preserved or protected. Instead, the site provides an opportunity to think about what it would mean to create an entirely new urban landscape, one that had the potential to redefine humankind’s relationship with nature.
24The jury members unanimously selected Tree City as a project of incomparable vision and promise. The Jury’s Report considered Tree City a design concept that links current living conditions to the reality of a contemporary urban park. It is a fascinating and cutting edge design, which will give Downsview Park worldwide recognition. It may have as much influence on parks of the 21st century as New York’s Central Park did for the 20th century (Czerniak, 2002).
25In spite of the continued delay in transforming the lands being transferred to PDP, the first phase of the construction of Downsview Park began in 2005. Its goal was to regenerate the soil, which has been compacted by more than 50 years of non-agricultural use, so that it will again support the lush vegetation that is planned for a very significant portion of the site. A major feature of this initial work is the development of the Canada Forest, which was made possible with a partnership with Natural Resources Canada thanks to its Forest 2020 initiative. The planting of a forest within an urban setting generates one of the compelling images embodied in the Tree City design. This is viewed as a significant accomplishment because it was firmly believed that a significant, tangible and visible transformation was necessary to maintain credibility with the local community, and that the broader public needed to see genuine progress.
26PDP has adopted a ten year schedule for the implementation of the Park Plan. In 2005-2006, it was decided that the immediate implementation of a portion of that Plan was required to establish its credibility with the public. Significant activities are planned each year that will modify portions of Downsview Park until 2011-2012 when the Plan will be completed.
27Preparing the soil for planting is the most important step for ensuring successful vegetation growth. The entire area, approximately 18 hectares (45 acres) was broken up to a depth of 60 centimetres (2 feet) with specialized deep-soiling equipment meant to increase porosity and air exchange in the heavily compacted soils.
28Next, 10 centimetres (4 inches) of composted leaves were applied over the entire planting surface. In total, 16,000 m3 of compost were mixed into the existing top soil. The process added organic matter to the soil including bacteria, nematodes, fungi and additional nutrients essential to a forest habitat. The objective was to create the best possible conditions for a forest of desirable plant types, which may establish themselves within one generation and become mature in two to three generations from now.
29The planting of the Canada Forest will start in spring 2006 and may extend over two to three seasons depending on the availability of supplies from the nurseries. A planting contract was tendered to selected firms with experience in this area. PDP specified that most of the plants for the Canada Forest must be native and grown from local seed sources and be comprised of species that are symbolic of other parts of Canada, but that can be grown in the local environment. The contractor is responsible for the supply and installation of plant material and oversees the new plantings for two years. The contractor is further responsible for developing and maintaining a database of all planting stock, including labelling the plant colonies in the fields and maintaining their survival rates.
30The nurseries start the plants from seeds or from cuttings. This growth process must be monitored during a period of one to three years. They will then be delivered to Downsview Park as bare root seedlings or transplants and sowed either in the spring, while the plants have no leaves, or in the fall after the leaves have shed.
31The term bare root implies a cost-efficient way of delivering the plants without any pots or balls of heavy soil around the roots and with minimal loss of root mass. Planting large quantities of bare root plants is easier, faster and cheaper and can be accomplished very successfully when done at the right time of the season and by experienced planters.
32PDP is committed to extending the use of best practices in the design of a sustainable maintenance program, such as successive plant generations to rehabilitate a forest. As the forest matures, inter-generational and multi-cultural events and programs can be orchestrated in order to provide upkeep and maintenance of the forest. PDP wants to develop connections and a sense of ownership between the community and the forest, preparing the youth of today to become stewards of Downsview Park and the Canada Forest in the future.
33With proper care and maintenance, the Canada Forest will grow into a dynamic and robust ecosystem capable of adjusting to changes and stresses within an increasingly urbanized landscape. Information postings will be placed at all points of interest along the forest pathways. Species habitats that attract and become hosts of wild life, birds and unique plant colonies are essential parts of forest ecology. They also add significantly to the educational quality of the park enabling visitors to observe, experiment, and learn. They can be introduced through small community and school projects and other initiatives that inspire all Canadians.
34In September 2005,PDP issued a Request for Proposal for the preparation of the urban development plan and sustainable community development guidelines. The successful bidder was Brook McIlroy Inc./Pace Architects. The Urban Development Plan will provide PDP with a planning tool to ensure that its values and goals can be realized through the best long term development strategy. The Plan will determine the best use for each block while certifying that PDP generates sufficient return to meet the mandate of constructing and maintaining Downsview Park in perpetuity.
35Completion of the Urban Development Plan will lead to the development of: a Street, Block and Community Plan; an Open Space Plan that integrates the park element physically into the rest of the site; sustainable urban design criteria including building and open space relationships as well as street scaping, pedestrian, bicycle, & vehicular relationships; an Energy Utilization Plan with an emphasis on alternative renewal energy sources; sustainable building standards reflecting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) principles, such as super efficient building envelopes, re-use of building materials from existing site, thermal mass systems, green roofs, passive solar strategies, alternative renewable heating/cooling methods & water conservation strategies; sewer and water plans; sustainable housing plans; and, transportation planning and development
36Local community and stakeholder groups have a strong interest in Downsview Park and high expectations... As such, public consultation has played and will continue to play an important role in the successful development of Downsview Park. PDP was acknowledged for consultation excellence in the past and wants to maintain a high standard in the future.
37The primary goals of public consultation activities are to inform and educate the public about Downsview Park; to build awareness, understanding and support for Downsview Park, thus maximizing stakeholder confidence in PDP, its activities and strategies; to engage the public through an effective two-way flow of communication between stakeholders and PDP; and, to introduce Downsview Park to new audiences as well as expand existing audiences’ understanding and encourage active involvement in its overall development.
38PDP is striving to set the standard for transparency, accountability and accessibility, to exceed the expectations of its stakeholders and to demonstrate its commitment to meaningful public participation.
39Consultation has been an important tool guiding PDP’s success in obtaining public input on planning principles and guidelines, concept plans, proposed uses, park concepts and programs, development applications and design guidelines. It helped identify issues of public concern, establish a common vision with the public on concepts and ideas to incorporate into the park’s development, develop ideas for the parkland, and refine the park design concept to facilitate its implementation.
40The local community is a very significant, important stakeholder for PDP and it is vital for it to be engaged on a consistent and on-going basis as the project continues to evolve. Every day, it is the local community that brings the park to life and subsequently helps to enhance its image and build its reputation as a place for all people and open throughout the year. With its national mandate, however, PDP is also expected to become a place all Canadians visiting this part of Canada can relate to. This will ultimately bring value to all Canadians.
41Downsview Park offers many advantages for both short and long-term leasing opportunities. Development sites, buildings and facilities are available for commercial and business enterprises. An estimated 1.7 million gross sq. ft. of space can be leased for various uses including office, commercial, warehousing, trade shows, industry, recreation and film production. Downsview Park is strategically located in the geographic centre of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), only a short distance from Toronto's downtown core, Pearson International Airport and major highways (400 & 401). The site is easily accessible by Toronto’s subway system, and by local and regional roadways.
42Until administration of the land is transferred to the Corporation, PDP operates under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of National Defence (DND) to manage the property on its behalf. All rents and recoveries from tenants are remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and DND reimburses PDP for the costs of operating those properties. The terms of this MOU therefore severely restrict PDP’s options in rental uses and tenants. DND must approve and sign all licences. It has also placed significant restrictions on length of use and the financial terms of tenancies. These constraints have impeded PDP’s ability to attract tenants who can contribute to the financial viability of the Corporation and who can become partners with PDP in the development of particular areas and aspects of the Downsview Park Sustainable Community.
43In 2005-2006, new transactions on rental of existing buildings were limited due to revised DND expectations regarding desired type of use, reduction of traffic to the site and restrictions on allowable improvements to the buildings for new occupants. The new transactions that were approved were limited to short term, dead storage or warehouse type operations, depending on owner’s preference.
44Leasing activities in 2005-2006 resulted in a decline of 144,597 sq. ft. of rented space. This is a direct result of the constraints from the MOU agreement, which sets limits on the maximum amount of revenue per transaction, and on the length of term which cannot exceed five years. DND does not contribute to the cost of any leasehold improvement costs.
45Leasehold improvements can be significant in order to transform buildings from their previous military use to more standard office or industrial uses. The buildings are generally very large (in excess of 400,000 sq. ft.) or very antiquated. Splitting them up into smaller areas and spaces and building the required exit corridors, doors and dividing walls represents a substantial investment. Alternatively, the spaces are left as large units but the rental rate is reduced to reflect that lack of upgrade investment. Finally, all agreements have an early termination clause that further limits the range of users that would be interested in the space.
46The restrictions have limited the number of users to those who accept not to make improvements and are prepared to vacate the space on short notice. The lack of secure tenure results in a lower quality of covenant and a lower achievable rental rate to stay within the guidelines. This produces a revenue result lower than the space could achieve under normal commercial circumstances.
47The Downsview Park Foundation will assist with the project’s development by generating financial support and gifts from various corporations and the public. The Foundation was set up in November 2002 as an independent body with its own mandate and Board of Directors.
48The objectives of the Foundation include promoting and encouraging the development and use of the designated parkland areas for the benefit of the general public; promoting and encouraging the development of a unique urban recreational green space on Downsview Park for the perpetual use and enjoyment of future generations; contributing to the cost of building, developing and operating Downsview Park by way of gifts to PDP and to other organizations, institutions or trusts, which are registered charities and which agree to utilize such gifts for purposes consistent with the objectives stated here; supporting charitable initiatives including community projects, programs and activities carried on at Downsview Park.
49In 2005, the Foundation was granted charitable status (#85408 5446 RR0001) through the Canada Revenue Agency to enable it to raise funds. It is expected that it will take several years to build up donor support in the community for the Foundation.
50The park design includes additional features that will be added to the site when appropriate and when funding is available. PDP anticipates that the Downsview Park Foundation will sponsor fundraising for those elements and that funds will begin to flow to PDP in 2006-2007.
51Downsview Park has become a vibrant place where hundreds of thousands of Canadians are educated and entertained through a wide variety of community programs and seasonal events. These programs and events promote and broaden the awareness of the significant historical, environmental and cultural features that make it unique. They have also helped establish Downsview Park as a place for people of all ages to play, learn and enjoy in every season.
52In keeping with the vision of the site as a place “for Canadians to enjoy in all seasons”, a year-round roster of school and community programs has been created to show the potential of the site as a legacy for future generations. Community programs are designed to reflect such values as: culture, heritage, community, technology, innovation, environment, legacy, sustainability, stewardship, beauty and play. A representative list of titles includes: The Park in Winter, Heritage Day, National Wildlife Week, Earth Day and Doors Open Toronto. Many other partnerships are part of what makes Downsview Park special, but is potential has not yet fully been realized.
53Downsview Park offers six unique curriculum-based programs for elementary school students in the Greater Toronto Area. Designed to support Ontario’s Ministry of Education Curriculum Guidelines, the programs, offered free of charge, year-round in the Discovery Centre at Downsview Park, provide young visitors the opportunity to explore the rich natural and cultural heritage of Downsview Park and to tackle the challenges posed by sustainability.
54Over the past nine years, thousands of children have participated in Downsview Park’s School Programs. The 2005-2006 schedule included Flight in the Park, Energy Conservation, Waste Not Want Not, Water World, Tree City and Park in Winter. These programs continue to be reviewed and evolve to expand awareness of the Downsview Park and its activities. Fourteen stewardship programs were also delivered.
55Downsview Park hosts a roster of four large scale seasonal events, which help to define the character of the park as a venue for the entire family. The largest annual event, Canada Day, attracts approximately 80,000 people and is widely recognized as the most spectacular Canada Day celebration in the Greater Toronto Area. A tradition of one-of-a-kind attractions (e.g. Canada Day 2000 Downsview Park hosted the largest Citizenship Court in Canadian history) have helped to raise the profile of the park as a national attraction.
56Over the years, Downsview Park has also developed into a venue for a variety of cultural festivals that reflect the ethnic diversity of the Greater Toronto Area. These include Festival de Verano (A Latin Festival), Viva Goa (a celebration of Goan culture), The South Asian Trade Show, and The Downsview Park Highland Games.
57It is the policy of PDP to carry on its operations in accordance with the principles of environmental, economic and social responsibility and in line with its vision statement. In fulfilling this policy, PDP will attempt to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Roseland, 2000).
58One of the key foundational elements of a sustainable community is the requirement for economic sustainability. When the federal government created Downsview Park, it also created the conditions whereby Greater Toronto Area’s national urban park could evolve as a sustainable community.
59PDP is to be self-financing. It must therefore show a balance of expenditures and revenues to build the sustainable community, without receiving appropriations from the Government of Canada. The sale and sublease of some of the lands will be used to provide sources of funds to finance construction and development of the park property. Downsview Park will be uniquely developed to generate revenues to build and maintain itself in a sustainable way.
60Downsview Park focuses on people. Implicit in the mandate to create a park as a legacy for future generations is the obligation for the park to be of value to the current generation, including both the local community and the broader public, as well to future generations.
61This is the key to increasing its social value now and in the future. PDP is committed to a strategy of on-going, open and transparent public consultation to ensure that, as Downsview Park is developed, it remains relevant to the needs of the community, and that as communities evolve and their needs change the park is responsive to those changes. This is the essence of social sustainability.
62Through innovative programming, Downsview Park embodies the values of community, heritage, environment, innovation and technology. These values transcend the entire site, across all land uses. Other values such as stewardship, beauty, play, legacy and sustainability will also come into greater prominence as it evolves.
63The environmental sustainability potential of Downsview Park is immense. PDP has inherited much of the infrastructure required for the site to sustain itself “off grid” in terms of heat and electricity production and consumption and water safety. A steam plant on site generates heat and electricity and underground reservoirs provide drinking water.
64The buildings are structurally sound and amenable to development and will be retrofitted as “green buildings”. The park plan contains a well-considered strategy for waste and water management across the site. These are the cornerstones of environmental sustainability and provide a solid foundation on which the Downsview Park sustainable community can be built.
65PDP has successfully partnered with Earth Day Canada over the last seven years in promoting the values of environmental sustainability to the local community and the broader public. It has also collaborated with such organizations as the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (who is also a tenant on the land), Evergreen Foundation, Toronto Wildlife Centre and the City of Toronto to work on various environmental issues. These collaborative efforts will be maintained in the future.
66Key to the success of PDP’s sustainable community is the development of an empirical yardstick by which progress can be measured. PDP is challenging the conventional notion that sustainable parks in urban areas are just islands of nature. It’s view of sustainability requires a symbiotic relationship between business and park: the park as a business and PDP’s business as a park. Downsview Park aims to be a demonstration of economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives working together to create a new harmony.
67Open spaces in highly urbanized areas are almost always degraded by human encroachment. Downsview Park is now a public space that was previously used for another purpose. Nature working on its own is not sufficient to bring about a socially and ecologically desirable regeneration of the site. Sustainability policies will help PDP assess the impact of its actions over time in achieving the economic, social and ecological balance and integration needed to create sustainability.
68The first draft of Sustainable Community Development Guidelines has been prepared and is currently being reviewed by PDP. These guidelines are also being subjected to a peer review. They define the influence of the park plan on the other areas and provide an explicit framework for the development of the entire site. These vital guidelines ensure that the site (the greenspace, the cultural and recreational lands, the residential lands, and the business/commercial elements) become one seamless and integrated community and a showcase of urban sustainability for the world to see and experience.
69The Guidelines will include a land use plan and development policies; streets, blocks and community plan; an open space plan; sustainable urban criteria; sustainable building standards; an energy utilization plan; a sewer and water reduction plan; a sustainable housing plan; a public participation and marketing plan; a financial needs assessment for PDP; and, new ideas for further investigation. The Guidelines generally recognize the municipal land use planning process that has been active on the lands and seek to find areas of agreement and areas of evolution, both of which deliver the PDP vision (Parc Downsview Park, 2006).
70Downsview Park presents a wealth of opportunities for imaginative partners who wish to collaborate in the creation of the sustainable community. These opportunities include public education initiatives, the design and retrofitting of green buildings, district energy, sustainable energy demonstrations, and sustainable industry development, community involvement in horticultural/cultivation initiatives, and collaboration with other sustainable communities.
71The aim is to follow a course of strategic development that will produce results well beyond the borders of the park. Downsview Park, located in the heart of the GTA, provides recreational, learning and entertainment opportunities for people of all ages. The magnitude of the enterprise is expected to attract a steady stream of tourists and create new employment opportunities in the area. In addition to showcasing Canada’s heritage and the mosaic brilliance of our culture, Downsview Park is designed to evolve into a truly sustainable community
72Parc Downsview Park Inc. (PDP) is determined to achieve the mandate which has been entrusted to it by the Government of Canada. In May 2005, the Government approved a plan to transfer land and title for Downsview Park from the Department of National Defence (DND) to PDP by December 31, 2005. Although this agreement negatively impacts its previous business model, PDP has mitigated those impacts to present an achievable plan for the creation of the Downsview Park Sustainable Community.
73Transfer of the land along with the authority to borrow will allow PDP to proceed to invest more aggressively in building Downsview Park through implementation of the Park Plan for the primary public open space and to continue to foster relationships and partnerships with private, public and not-for-profit sector organizations that share PDP’s vision. It would also allow PDP to attract more valuable, longer term tenancies that would solidify its financial position.