New Toronto parks and districts will make your eyes pop

Written by By Priya Prakash, CNN Toronto

Each summer, the sun glistens off iconic landmarks like the CN Tower, the Granville Street Bridge and the Distillery District, along a pedestrian-only walkway called the “Walk Between the Arts.” The 700-foot long walkway is the first of its kind on the continent.

It draws more than 300,000 visitors to the area each summer, who are greeted with a colorful light installation, dancing performers and vendors selling trinkets and souvenirs. This year, the cultural hub is growing by 5,000 sq. ft and nearly doubling in size.

Toronto’s Granville Street is getting another cultural “district” Credit: Liz Van Flamme

Set to open in late fall, the $8 million project by developer I.T., Inc. in the Distillery District will bring more than 100 new studio and studio apartments to the area while building the vision of the Distillery District as a “true cultural district.”

“Our challenge in this neighborhood was we have so many world-class arts buildings and we had to turn them into a vibrant living space,” said Luis Buenrostro, who took over as general manager of the Distillery District and helped lead the development, in an interview.

“There’s some fantastic industry that’s here now but we had this void we had to fill,” he said.

To fill that void, the city of Toronto will soon spend $29 million building three new Cultural Districts at Factory, Union and Randolph — bringing Toronto’s urban cultural hub to almost 10,000 people, according to Buenrostro.

In the case of the Detour music festival, a new space will show performances from smaller artists Credit: Liz Van Flamme

Toronto, like most cities, has seen a rapidly increasing population in recent years. With that, city planners have been focused on creating both residential and cultural districts that keep those growing populations housed and moving around the city while continuing to expand tourism.

Credit: Liz Van Flamme

But amidst all these growing cultural districts are still questions about who should decide what’s cultural.

“Fundamentally, to have cities that tell the stories of their own people … requires them to maintain and respect their own diversity and make sure it’s properly represented in their public and government decisions,” said Jayme Rodriguez, an urban planning professor at Rutgers University, in an interview.

“There is a significant cultural and rich history and vibrant and rich African-American community within the Canadian continent and it’s important to have representations of it in the form of cultural districts that are citizens-driven. Ceding that power to an elite board of directors, that’s one area we have yet to see.”

New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. “Fundamentally, to have cities that tell the stories of their own people … requires them to maintain and respect their own diversity” Credit: Liz Van Flamme

NYC’s Museum of Modern Art was officially opened on May 17, 1958 by controversial collector and politician, Simon Legree, who opened the building’s seven galleries with the words: “For you, for me, and for everyone else.”

The museum is considered by many to be the birthplace of Modern art, in part due to it’s emphasis on showcasing artists from around the world.

While the Museum of Modern Art doesn’t make decisions about what’s considered cultural by the city, the architectural park created in its arched main entrance has influenced residents to include the park in their everyday lives.

“For an urban center to be successful, the neighbourhood should be full of places where people who don’t live here can go to have some of that same feeling and for that we need public spaces,” Rodriguez said.

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