On January 15, 2018, the City of Toronto will issue a call for proposals for temporary public space installations (PSI) as part of the King Street Pilot. (UPDATE: The City just moved up the call for proposals to today, January 9th)
The most controversial aspect of the King Street Pilot has been the loss of business reported by restaurant owners. According to a letter sent to councillors by Laleh Larijani of Forno Cultura near King and Portland, business has dropped by 18% on average.
The Pilot kicked off in November 2017, reportedly affecting business negatively during the typically busy pre-holiday season. Eliminating parking and encouraging more people to take the streetcar with the promise of quicker commutes does seem like it could distract from the use of establishments along the stretch between Jarvis and Bathurst.
But, what no one seems to be focusing on is the fact that the Everyone is King: Design Build Competition is about to launch, which will surely attract more locals and tourists to King St.
There are currently 19 curb lane public spaces in the Pilot. Last December, the City delineated the areas with planters.
Businesses can claim these spaces if they have a good idea of how to use them. Any spaces that are not claimed will be entered in the competition where anyone can submit an idea. Winning ideas will be funded for the design, build, and removal. Winners will be responsible for design, construction, installation, and removal.
At least two of the spaces will be designated for “durable destination parklets.” These spaces will be like mini parks and when the Pilot is complete at the end of the year, the parklets will be moved to another area of the city.
Here are a few ideas that the City provided for how these spaces can be used:
Creative seating, tables, flowers, shrubs, trees, logs, stones, road murals, map, maze, go-karts, zip-line, curling, skating, shuffle board, hopscotch, mini-putt, weight training, ping-pong, bowling, yoga spaces, garlands, banners, umbrellas, photo exhibit, light projections, reflexology infinity meditation path, music, sculptures, hammocks, performance stage, fashion show catwalk, bleachers, propane fire, heaters (if managed by adjacent business), Little Free Library, World Cup 2018 destination.
The call for proposals for the PSIs and the Expressions of Interest for the parklets will be issued on January 15th. If all remains on schedule, there will be 19 stunning, creative, and interactive public spaces along King between Jarvis and Bathurst by April 15th.
In the winter, the Pilot area became a crucial transit corridor for many people working and living on and around King St. During the warmer months, King will remain an important transit corridor, but it will also be a destination for pedestrians, tourists, locals, and shoppers.
The public spaces will encourage people to spend more time on King, which means they’ll likely spend more money. There will be more room on sidewalks since transit riders are waiting in safe designated areas on the street, and all the new public spaces are curbside.
It will be interesting to see if restaurant owners report a year-over-year increase in business through the spring and summer, which may offset the slow winter.
The King Street Pilot is a big change for downtown Toronto. The point of a pilot is to figure out how to do something – it’s a fluid project that changes with the needs of the population to accommodate the majority.
We’re eager to see how the Pilot shapes up throughout the year!