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New plan aims to preserve sunlight in downtown core

Last Updated May 24, 2018 at 1:50 pm EDT

Getting some sun on your face in the park is one of the few escapes for many living in the urban jungle.

But the much sought-after sun is sometimes cast in the shadows of high-rise apartment buildings especially with all the booming construction currently ongoing in the downtown core.

Now, 40 parks in Toronto’s core could be protected by the city from any potential development that might cast shade over Toronto’s green space thanks to a plan being voted on by city council. It’s all part of TOCore, a study four years in the making.

Toronto hasn’t had a new master plan since the 1970s. The boundaries of the TOCore plan span from Bathurst Street to the West, the DVP to the East, Dupont Street to the North and the lake to the south. It includes new setback for sidewalks of at least six metres at the base of mixed-use buildings.

It will also push some new condo towers to use the first five floors of a building for office space, schools, daycares, community centres and other mixed spaces other than residential units.

“One of the things we’re doing as we grow up as a city is reimaging how we grow up to make sure it’s liveable,” says councillor Joe Cressy. “Downtown Toronto has reached a tipping point in that we can handle more development in that only if it’s developed in a liveable way for the people that live and work here.”

Clara Romero, one of the authors of the proposal council is voting on, believes its vital to hold onto the sun we currently have shining down on our parks.

“We have a lot of opportunity here,” says Romero, who is a senior urban designer with Perkins+Will. “I think downtown is doing really well. Most of the streets are meeting the four and five hour target.”

There are others who believe the wording of the report may leave the door open for interpretation.

“I think what they’re trying to achieve is a good thing,” says Ralph Bouwmeester, who has a civil engineering firm that measures sun positions. “There has never been a mechanism by which to prevent a cumulative effect of shadows for multiple buildings and each addition of a little more new shadow results in a lot of shadow. This plan will go a long ways to prevent that but the way it’s worded could be seen to be over-restricted. It doesn’t look at how the park is used and in what areas and for how long.”

As for parks and playgrounds at city schools, they’re not part of the shade ban. The report recommends a further study of those areas. The city is expected to vote on the plan this week.