By Sonia Sharma
The blueprint for the City of Toronto’s future and the proposal which outlines the way the city will develop, grow and expand over the next 30 years has largely omitted Ryerson University from its vision.
The dense, three-volume document, titled visions and policy directives for different land use designations throughout the city, including institutional areas like Ryerson.
Specific areas identified for growth and development are discussed in detail in the secondary plan section. And while the University of Toronto and York University both feature prominently in this section, Ryerson has been left out.
The plan was released earlier this year and is currently being debated at a number of public meetings. City Council is expected to vote on the outcome of the proposal next month.
Kyle Rae, councillor for Ryerson’s Ward 27 said Ryerson is overlooked because it isn’t located in a high-growth location.
“There is very little impact on downtown with the official plan,” he said. “It just maintains the existing character of the neighbourhood. So that’s why I would think Ryerson is not predominate in it because there is no radical change.”
RyeSAC President Darren Cooney believes the omission demonstrates a lack of foresight on behalf of city planners.
“Ryerson is an up and coming university. We are totally expanding and the city of Toronto needs to recognize that and pay more attention to us as a university,” he said. “The city needs to delegate proper resources to our university in terms of planning, policy, growth and space.”
Despite the lack of significance placed on Ryerson in the plan, Rae maintained that the lines of communication to City Hall are always open. “There is a very good working relationship between Ryerson and the city. There are senior staff at Ryerson that work with my staff. [Ryerson] is not out of the loop at all.”
Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse said that Ryerson is not overlooked.
“It is quite clear that Ryerson is mentioned,” he said, referring to small references in the chapter on downtown. “We have a major impact on this part of the city.”
Still, Cooney thinks more thought should have been given to Ryerson and its specific needs.
“I think we need to consider the village to the north and the way we shape our buildings to encourage pedestrian traffic and a sense of a small town community nature,” he said.
“I don’t think we should encourage huge towers and blank store fronts that take away the warmth of the area.”
However, with an expected population increase of more than one million people over the next thirty years, high-density development in downtown Toronto is seen by city planners as a way to accommodate an increasing population.
For many students, preserving and creating new public space around Ryerson’s campus during this time of growth is critical.
“Public space reinforces the idea of a meeting space. It reflects the diversity of the community,” said Hodan Egeh, a second-year urban planning student. “We need spaces where students and the community interact. Places like the chess corner on Yonge Street really need to be preserved and new spaces created.”
The expected population increase is also likely to impact the thousands of Ryerson’s students who commute to class.
Carlos Flores, a second-year urban planning student who commutes from Finch Avenue and Jane Street, said the increased strain on the TTC is a major concern. “The system has been slashed to pieces, it is underfunded, inadequate and does not meet its current demands so I am concerned how it will cope with the increased population.”
Flores says public transport is only one of his concerns when it comes to the future of the city, “I don’t think at the moment it [city planning] is heading in the right direction. The city has huge divisions of socio-economic classes and issues of gentrification which are not being addresses.”
Flores plans to attend one of the consultation meetings, but said they amount to nothing but tokenism.
Cooney said students need to make their voices heard until the city starts to pay more attention to Ryerson’s future in the city.
“Ryerson is a really distinct community,” he said. “I think we need to be lobbying for policy directives from the city that will really help build up our status as a community.”