Thirty-four big ideas to improve our city.
BRING US CLOSER TOGETHER
There are such large communities of all kinds here in Toronto that it’s possible to live entirely within your own enclave—to speak the language that your parents spoke in their home country, and to buy from stores that can speak in your language and sell your kind of cultural products. And I’m not just referring to Asians or Africans or Arabs; it applies to the white downtown hipster community as much as it does to the Punjabis in Brampton. There’s no sharper cultural divide in this city, though, than between the faithful and the faithless. We’re in the realm of fantasy here, but City Hall could force downtown designer condos to devote five per cent of their square footage to gurdwaras, synagogues, temples, and mosques.—Cameron Bailey, artistic director, Toronto International Film Festival
PUT LOOKOUT TOWERS EVERYWHERE
Since Toronto is relatively flat, there’s little opportunity for people to have a public, elevated view of the city. My idea: lookout towers. They could go anywhere, but I’d start with three- or four-storey-tall ones along the eastern lakeshore as Toronto’s waterfront and the Port Lands are built out, to give residents and visitors alike a better understanding of all the development happening there. Then I’d put more anywhere you could give people a nice view of the city, like at Ontario Place, on the top of Yonge Street just south of York Mills Road, somewhere along the former lip of Lake Iroquois just above Davenport Road, or at the edge of the Don Valley.—Matthew Blackett, co-founder, Spacing magazine
GIVE ROCK MUSIC A NEW MEANING
Sound matters. You can’t look away or turn your back on an annoying background noise, and while earphones can offer some temporary relief, they also cut us off from the communal urban experience. One extreme way to make things better is to engineer the sound environment and install speakers in rocks in places like parkettes. There are easy ways to have a variety of natural sounds, so that it wouldn’t be the same bird chirping over and over. It seems like an Orwellian, engineered world, but it can be subtle enough and random enough to have positive effects on people’s moods. It might actually help restore some of the attention that we lose in our noisy, technology-filled lives.—Frank Russo, director, Ryerson University’s SMART lab
GET OUR OWN, FREE INTERNET
One analogy for how it would work is peer-to-peer file sharing: When you download a torrent, there’s no central server. You’re getting bits from everybody else’s computer. Imagine a system like that on a level that covers all local internet traffic, so that when you brought up any website, the data would go from the broadcast centre via the Entertainment District via Kensington Market via Little Italy to wherever you live. It’s so fast that, to you, it’s instantaneous, but it’s literally going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood—and it wouldn’t require Bell or Rogers infrastructure.
A company like Netflix could say that it’s in their interest to subsidize this entire network for $5 million every year, because they know that everyone would spend $7.99 a month to get Netflix if all of this was free, and the company would generate $20 million in subscription fees. It could be paid for by ads or product placement. It could be done as a municipal project. It could be a private co-operative like Mountain Equipment Co-op, funded by grants. It could be paid for by any one of the different commercial models that exist, but the idea is that the end user doesn’t pay to get speedy internet access.—Jesse Hirsh, director, Academy of the Impossible
THROW A DAMN BABY PARADE!
People love seeing babies walk, and people love seeing babies in costume—this would have it all. It would be a very short parade, since you can’t make them walk very far. Babies as upside-down clowns? That’s amazing. Babies in band uniforms sucking on horns they can’t play? Yes, please. Some of them will fall over, but there should be enough diaper padding that it’s just funny. Everybody would love it. Then we can have commercials for Toronto, like, “I went to Toronto and saw a damn baby parade. THAT TOWN IS NUTS.”—Pat Thornton, comedian
Let people ride for free on the TTC, as many people as possible. I know it’s a utopia—you’ve got to find the money somewhere—but at least start with those who need it.—David Mirvish, founder, Mirvish Productions
BRING SEXY BACK WITH THE FETISH FAIR
Even though Toronto has Hanlan’s Point Beach, Pride Week, and several gay bathhouses, we still tend to take a rather puritanical approach to sexiness. This year marks the end of the Church-Wellesley Village’s annual Fetish Fair, the only outdoor festival of its kind in Canada. Some store owners had long been uncomfortable with the sight of leather daddies and sexy swingers publicly flogging each other in broad daylight, or guys outside their patio in diapers when they were trying to sell beer and sandwiches. So, earlier this year, it was cancelled by the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area. But sanitizing the village is the wrong way to go— we should be making it the sexiest place in Toronto. People don’t come there to go shopping; they come for nightlife, to go to the gay bars and bathhouses, and they come for Pride and the Fetish Fair. Fetish Fair kept the village as not just a gay-positive, but sex-positive, liberated community.—Andrea Houston, reporter, Xtra!
GET RID OF THE CRUMBLING GARDINER ONCE AND FOR ALL
We need to demolish the Gardiner Expressway. It’s not only an eyesore, but it’s inefficient, reducing tourism dollars by preventing our waterfront from being as good and as accessible as it can be. I propose we lose it and build a tunnel from Jameson Avenue to the Don Valley Parkway instead, below where the Gardiner is today. The city could sell the air rights above the tunnel to developers to fund a portion of the cost. This 7.5-kilometre-long stretch could yield up to $2 billion in land sales, and the balance of the tunnel costs could be paid for by a toll road that might retire the debt over 25 years. By tolling both ends of the Gardiner at $3 per trip, 40 million trips would generate $120 million per year.—Brad J. Lamb, founder, Lamb Development Corp.
POST SOME HISTORICAL PLAQUES THAT DON’T SUCK
We’re terrible at historical plaques, and we need more to tell us the story of the city: what room The Beatles slept in at the King Eddie, the house where Turk Broda died, where Al Purdy used to drink when he came to Toronto, where Glenn Gould bought his pants, the gymnasium where the yo-yo was popularized, The Viletones’ rehearsal space, and the hotel lounge where Bob Dylan sang to Joni Mitchell during the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival. Toronto feels it has to play catch-up with popular culture, but it’s all here. All it takes is a post and some words.—Dave Bidini, author/musician
Next page: condos that don’t suck either, and free money for everyone, kind of!