A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[URBAN NOTE] “Great Hall renovation shows Toronto is finally learning to appreciate its past”

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I’ve been to the Great Hall, on Queen and Dovercourt, before. It’s a wonderful performance space. Marcus Gee’s article makes me glad that it’s getting proper attention.

No earthquake, flood or hurricane destroyed old Toronto. No war laid it waste. Bulldozers and cranes knocked down scores of fine buildings in the rolling wave of destruction called urban renewal.

Countless Victorian houses fell to the wrecker’s ball. So did the old Trinity College, the grand General Post Office and the castle-like University Avenue Armouries. So did Chorley Park, the Rosedale mansion that was once the official residence of the lieutenant-governor.

Steve Metlitski shakes his head at the folly of it all. The developer, who comes from Belarus and arrived in Canada in 1989, was appalled when a friend took him to Guild Park atop the Scarborough Bluffs. Spread about its grounds are fragments from majestic buildings torn down in the post-war building boom: columns, arches, facades – the ruins of what once was. He thinks it’s “criminal, just insane” that Toronto was so careless with its architectural heritage.

Built in 1889, the Great Hall at Queen and Dovercourt was home to the first West End YMCA; most recently, it has served as a community arts centre and performance space. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
In his small way, Mr. Metlitski is trying to preserve a part of what is left. As the owner of Triangle Development, he is overseeing a painstaking, top-to-bottom renovation of one of Toronto’s last Victorian gems: the Great Hall at Dovercourt Road and Queen Street West.

Opened in 1890 as the first West End YMCA, the building has a colourful history in several chapters – first as the Y before the organization opened a new building up the road at College Street and Dovercourt in 1912; then as home of the Royal Templars of Temperance, a group that fought the scourge of alcohol abuse; then headquarters of the Polish National Union, when it published a Polish newspaper and took in Polish refugees of the Second World War; and finally, in the last couple of decades, as a community arts centre and performance space where musicians from Feist to Metric to Daniel Lanois came to play.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:59 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “CNE touts ‘extremely aggressive’ waste-diversion”

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This human-interest story in the Canadian National Exhibition, by the Toronto Star“s Jessica Botelho-Urbanski, interests me. I am going this year, I know. (Will I try the food? Maybe.)

Even the “greenest” fair in North America couldn’t avoid throwing out an estimated 300,000 kilograms of waste on its first weekend, according to the facility’s services coordinator.

Brian Dow said over 18 days, from Aug. 19 to Sept. 5, the Canadian National Exhibition collects about 1.8 million kilograms of waste. The CNE also boasts an “extremely aggressive” waste-diversion program designed to offset the fair’s environmental impact, said general manager Virginia Ludy.

And though CNE staff says they’ve diverted about 86 per cent of waste from landfills in the last decade, they’re still looking for ways to improve.

“There’s still 14 per cent to get better at and hopefully at some point in time, we’ll get to a complete 100 per cent diversion,” Ludy said.

Food waste is especially focused upon, with at least 111 vendors in the food building this year, 26 food trucks scheduled to arrive next weekend and about 1.6 million visitors — most of them hungry — to the fair.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:49 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Embrace new transit technology or else, U of T study says”

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The Toronto Star‘s Jesse Winters notes the call to assimilate Uber into GTA transit planning.

Transit planners across the Toronto and Hamilton region can either embrace new and disruptive technology like Uber, or resign themselves to a future of endless gridlock compounded by striking taxi drivers and a gutted public transit system that hardly anyone uses, according to a new report by the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre.

“That’s a pretty decent takeaway from the report,” said co-author Sara Ditta with a laugh.

While that dystopian vision comes from the report’s somewhat stylized worst-case-scenario description, Ditta said the themes underpinning it are serious and pressing.

“The fact is that shared mobility is here,” Ditta said. “It has and will continue to change how people travel, and policy makers need to take steps to address that.”

“Shared mobility” is the term Ditta and her colleagues use to describe the current shift away from personal ownership of things like bikes and cars toward shared use of those resources though apps such as Uber and Lyft, publicly-owned bike share programs and other innovations of the so-called “sharing economy.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:39 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Behind one Toronto library’s seedy initiative with a lot of growth potential”

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Metro Toronto‘s Mary Warren reports on Toronto’s seed library, something I should take advantage of next year.

There’s a card catalogue at the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library that does more than help people look for books.

Instead, what people find inside can one day turn into everything from beans to watermelons.

It’s one branch of the Toronto Seed Library, where people can “borrow” seeds through a program aimed at bringing gardening to people who might not otherwise be able to dig in.

The city’s 22 branch network has been growing since 2012 and has dispensed at least 100,000 seed packets — many of them to new Canadians and people who might not otherwise be into gardening, like high-rise renters.

[. . .]

“Except where book libraries keep knowledge in the commons, seed libraries keep seeds part of the commons and accessible to everybody,” she said. “The idea is that, until very recently in history, you couldn’t buy seeds, everyone would just save and trade them amongst themselves.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Beach residents eagerly await Penny Oleksiak’s homecoming”

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The Toronto Star‘s Verity Stevenson reports on how the Beach will celebrate the return of Olympic medallist Penny Oleksiak to her home.

It’s hard to tell whether Penny Oleksiak’s neighbours in the Beach cheered harder during her races than they will for her return.

Both are causes for fanfare.

“There’s a buzz on,” says Johanna Carlo, a board member of the Beach Village BIA, which is organizing a homecoming parade for Beach-area athletes on Sunday.

Oleksiak’s big return could be Tuesday at 5: 30 a.m., when Air Canada flights with athletes from several Canadian Olympic teams will land at Toronto Pearson.

The swimming team is one of them. The 16-year-old four-time Olympic medalist’s performance stunned us all watching at home, set the pace for Canada’s own performance in Rio and swept Toronto’s east end, where she’s from.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:19 pm

[URBAN NOTE] CBC News on the recent train derailment in midtown Toronto

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CBC News’ Shanifa Nasser takes a look at the very recent train derailment in downtown Toronto. Since a huge stretch of track extending west to my street was involved, I’d think I’m entitled to some concern.

Two trains are travelling in opposite directions, one headed eastbound at 48 kilometres per hour and another westbound at 80 kilometres per hour, before sideswiping each other at a railway crossover in midtown Toronto.

Why did the westbound train operator see the stop signal so late? No, this isn’t a high school math problem. It’s a key point in the investigation into a Canadian Pacific train derailment that spilled 1,100 litres of diesel fuel near the residential Annex neighbourhood early Sunday morning.

New details emerged Monday as officials looked into the crash that left four rail cars leaning and damaged the tracks.

Neither train was speeding, the Transportation Safety Board says, and CP Rail ruled out mechanical problems, instead pointing the finger at human error, something it reiterated on Monday.

“After careful review, we determined that all track, equipment and signal systems worked as designed, and our preliminary investigation indicates human error is to blame,” the railway said in a statement, adding, “We know one incident is too many.”

On Monday, the union representing CP Rail workers called that conclusion “premature” but said it understands two of its workers are being investigated.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO shares some photos of Toronto in the gritty 1980s.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the habitable zones of post-main sequence stars.
  • Far Outliers notes the ethnic rivalries among First World War prisoners in the Russian interior, and examines how Czechoslovakia got its independence.
  • The Map Room Blog looks at the mapping technology behind Pokémon Go.
  • pollotenchegg looks at how the populations of Ukrainian cities have evolved.
  • Savage Minds considers anthropology students of colour.
  • Transit Toronto notes</a the end of tunnelling for the Eglinton LRT.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests the post-Soviet states built Soviet-style parodies of capitalism for themselves.
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