A Toronto neighbourhood with lessons for other cities, a bike scheme lacking in pedal power and a fruity solution in Lisbon.
In 2015, when the Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca) announced that it was moving from Queen Street West to the Tower Automotive Building deep in Toronto’s formerly industrial west end, it signalled that Sterling Road’s moment had come.
On the edge of the Junction Triangle neighbourhood, the road was once the main thoroughfare through one of the city’s bustling industrial hubs, the last remnant of which is the huge Nestlé factory housed on the strip. Moca’s new space will open in the Tower this autumn, the focal point of the Sterling-Perth redevelopment project led by Castlepoint Numa. It will see residential and commercial property built on three hectares of brownfield land along Sterling Road over the next five to 10 years.
“It feels like an evolution of the real-estate scene here,” says urbanist Shawn Micallef, author of Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness. “[Toronto is] often criticised for building oversized retail spaces and condominium developments that make our streets rather boring. Perhaps this is a change in our development thinking.”
A slew of new ventures have moved in along Sterling Road over the past year: the House of Anansi Press is now in a former condiment factory, next door to Henderson Brewing Company, which also opened in 2016. “There is a great energy to the area,” says Sarah Lyons, director of food and beverage at Drake Hotel Properties, a hospitality group that will open a food-production operation on Sterling Road in May. “There’s a youthfulness to the place. It’s on the radar but also slightly off the radar.”
The development represents a return to prewar urbanism, where workers’ homes were built a short walk from the factories that employed them. “We don’t want to have the kind of city where it’s only the creative class that’s allowed to live downtown,” says Micallef.
Get in early
Entrepreneurs, artists and newer industries are moving in well before the completion of the central development.
Involve the community
A series of events held by the developer have enabled the existing community to have a stake in the redevelopment.
Embrace what’s already there
Plan imaginatively on brownfield sites: Sterling Road’s developers have put a buffer of offices between residential buildings and the Nestlé factory.
Marrakech’s recent embrace of a bicycle-share scheme offers a useful lesson in the trials of change. The Moroccan metropolis introduced 300 shared bikes with 10 hubs across the city to coincide with the cop22 climate summit it played host to last November. A laudable measure but there’s one problem: most of the docking stations are full and nary an orange bike can be seen on the chaotic streets, which offer nothing in the way of cycle infrastructure.
The stalled scheme is a warning for other cities. Sustainability measures can’t just be trendy quick-fix solutions: they need to be thought of in conjunction with smart urban planning. Providing bicycles for public use may be popular in theory but without safe, sensible cycling infrastructure to go with them, it’s no wonder the scheme hasn’t had much traction.
Lisbon’s back gardens hide hundreds of fruit trees, neglected treasures that former photographer Adriana Freire hopes to put to good use. Launched in January, her social and environmental project Muita Fruta (A lot of Fruit) is mapping fruit trees, pruning them and redistributing the harvest. “We’ve started in the historic neighbourhoods where there are many elderly inhabitants who ask us for help,” says Freire. Fighting waste is the main goal, along with stimulating food production. Freire has other big ideas: “We’d like to turn wasteland and public gardens into orchards.”
Security fences and the dominance of the car have made the Mexican city of Monterrey feel inaccessible. But its prestigious private university, Tec de Monterrey, is opening its campus to the community, reinvigorating a central part of the Nuevo León capital. The project, which will run until 2025, will create a “Tec district” and green space, and employ workers from poorer areas.