Protecting access to public space

With so many new Midtown residents living in high-rises, it is vital that the public realm keep up with the growth in population. It is a fact that public spaces provide a social meeting place, and there is increasing evidence showing the long-term social and mental health benefits of these spaces. As Midtown continues building vertically, we must ensure that its public spaces are accessible and that our neighbourhoods are truly people-friendly.

That’s why I’m pleased that, in November, council supported my motion to help protect and promote Toronto’s privately owned public spaces (POPS). These spaces are publically accessible but privately owned and maintained at the cost of the landowner. Since 2000, the city’s planning division has secured at least 1 million square feet over 27 of these new POPS.

Though there are dozens of POPS in Midtown and downtown, many are poorly used or even identified. Clear signage at the entrance to open areas, such as the courtyard at Minto, will let people know they have the same right to relax and enjoy the space as they would at any city park.

I have also asked city staff to compile an inventory of other publicly accessible open spaces, including green spaces surrounding malls, offices and “tower”-style apartments. Recent developments have demonstrated the need to identify and protect historical open space agreements.

As our city’s population grows, we must protect and enhance Toronto’s public spaces for those of us who live here today and for generations to come.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO