Engagement

 

 

Early, honest and upfront engagement allows us to establish the trust and support needed to plan and build places that people care for and respect.

 

Our approach to delivering complex community projects includes a rigorous engagement process that allows for meaningful dialogue and collaboration with our clients and stakeholders. This roundtable process is integral to establishing the needs of everyone involved, and sets the fundamental direction of our work.

We bring people to the table to ask questions that help define the nature of the places that we build. What kind of place do you want live in? How can your community change for the better? By listening carefully to the needs of our clients and their communities, we deliver tailored solutions that address both the reality and potential of each place.

 

 

1

Thompson, Manitoba


The Hub of the North

The Thompson Economic Diversification Plan was awarded the Canadian Institute of Planners Award of Planning Excellence in the New and Emerging Planning Initiatives Category in 2014, and the

Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) Towards Sustainable Mining Award for Community Engagement in 2015.

Established as a mining community in the late 1950s, the City of Thompson is known as the “Hub of the North,” a centre for politics and commerce in the region and gateway to Northern Manitoba.

Thompson is located on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation’s Traditional Territory in north central Manitoba. Over the years, the city has evolved into a diverse urban centre, with a regional population of about 65,000. Forty per cent of Thompson residents officially identify as Aboriginal.

In 2010, Vale, a global mining company and the largest private-sector employer in Thompson, announced that it would be reducing its operations with the closure of their smelter and refinery, resulting in the loss of an estimated 500 local jobs. The potential impact of the closure posed a significant risk to the community, and meant that the City of Thompson and it’s regional partners had to immediately begin working together to define the Thompson Region’s economic future.

Meanwhile, Northern Manitoba is experiencing growth in its Aboriginal populations, presenting an opportunity for Thompson to develop its significance as urban centre within the region. Thompson’s current economy is based largely around mining and hydro-electric generation. More recently, the city has started to provide a range of goods and services to regional communities, including retail, education, health and other government services.

The Thompson Economic Diversification Plan

The City of Thompson required a creative, long-term strategy to broaden and diversify its economic base, catalyze new development, and create a sustainable plan for evolving communities within the city and the region.

In March 2011, Vale and the City of Thompson retained SvN and consulting firm rePlan to design and undertake an engagement process with representatives from the city, the region and the community. These groups came together to determine key priorities for what would become the Thompson Economic Diversification Plan.

 

Sustainability through Community Dialogue

The process created through the TEDWG group acts as the backbone to the sustainability of the entire Plan. Through the process, powerful partnerships were formed between municipal governments, Aboriginal peoples, local business organizations, and the resource sector, meaning that existing and future initiatives will benefit from meaningful support and collaboration.

This project is a blueprint for other Canadian northern urban centres to create sustainable economic growth and build technical capacity in communities with large Aboriginal populations. It works to ensure that both local and regional stakeholders can fully engage in planning for the long-term sustainability of their community, bringing their unique expertise, ideas and experiences together to tackle the challenges and opportunities that arise within changing Northern economies and demographics.

2

Eglinton Connects, Toronto


Diverse Neighbourhoods

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Eglinton Connects is the recipient of the 2015 Award of Excellence in Planning by the Canadian Institute of Planners, the 2015 Urban Design Award by the City of Toronto, and the 2013 Project of the Year by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

The Street as Public Space

Toronto’s streets were established as a series of grids – originally laid out to divide farmland in the early 19th century. Very quickly, and without much planning intervention, Toronto became an industrial city. While many European cities were planned with dedicated public squares and parks, in Toronto, this rapid evolution meant that very few spaces were set aside for civic life.

As a result, Toronto’s streets are among the city’s most important public spaces. We see the street as the stage for public life – the place where everything happens. As designers and planners, it is our responsibility to ensure that streets can support many civic functions.

Eglinton Avenue

Eglinton Avenue spans the mid-point of Toronto, ultimately connecting the Airport in the west to the Lake in the east. Eglinton is a metropolitan avenue, with its diverse character represented in the pre-war high street shops of Eglinton West, to the City’s second busiest pedestrian intersection at Yonge and Eglinton, to the former manufacturing-turned-big-box hub of the Golden Mile. The Avenue also has a unique relationship with the underlying topography and landscape; the central city is framed by two large, ravine systems – Black Creek to the west and two branches of the Don River to the east- that connect the city north and south.

Through Metrolinx, the Province and the City are investing over $5 billion in the design and construction of the 26 km Eglinton Crosstown Light Rapid Transit (LRT) line, a completely new form of infrastructure in Toronto. With this line in place, Eglinton Avenue will play an important role within the metropolitan and regional transportation systems, while acting as a vital public space for the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Opportunities and Challenges

SvN was engaged by the City of Toronto to prepare a study to establish the planning and urban design vision, streetscape design, and built form recommendations for Eglinton Avenue from Jane Street to Kennedy Road. This plan will guide and complement the implementation of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. SvN co-led a multi-disciplinary team that included Brook McIlroy, Antoine Grumbach, HDR, Public Work, Swerhun Facilitation, ERA, NBLC & Public Workshop.

SvN was responsible for the development of the Streetscape Plan for a 19 km segment of Eglinton Avenue. While the product was a streetscape plan for the corridor, our overall reach was much broader. On one level, we focused on the street elements – the curbs, bike lanes and greenery, which would act as new, permanent fixtures in the city. On another level, we aimed to create a network of connections to a wide range of places in the city – including the ravines, community facilities, schools, parks, retail stores, homes and offices, to allow people choices for how to move around the city – either through walking, biking, driving or by using the new LRT. In total, the vision supports the City of Toronto’s Official Plan of creating a “complete street” – one that supports the varied and unique needs of each community along Eglinton Avenue.

To understand these needs, we developed a consultation plan that engaged with a broad public and wide range of stakeholders over a two-year process. The stakeholder groups included a range of representatives, including those from the Automobile Association, Cycle Toronto, the Taxi Authority, Green P parking services, neighbourhood Business Improvement Area (BIA) groups, fire and emergency services, a range of accessibility groups, and of course, local residents. Our challenge was to balance the metropolitan vision of the corridor, with the unique geographic and technical concerns of individual stakeholders.

The scale of the project presented another big challenge – we needed to find efficient ways to engage meaningfully with diverse communities over the entire 19km corridor. To lead productive discussions, debates and decisions, we had  to process volumes of technical information specific to each street condition, and present it in a such a way that was accessible to all stakeholders, and elicit feedback to refine the work.

 

The Future of the Street

Over the course of a two-year period, we consulted very broadly at all different levels – at a technical and external stakeholder level, and at a broad public level. We were able to reach over 5000 people through public interactions and online surveys.

Through this process, we created a streetscape plan that included twenty-one specific recommendations for the corridor, including guidance on new street trees, wide sidewalks, transit plazas, public art, patios, new parks and open spaces, and Toronto’s first continuous, fully grade-separated bike lane. The plan received unanimous support from City Council.

The completion of the LRT is planned for 2020, followed by the construction of the new streetscape. Since these project will take years to complete, we know that it is critical to have the buy-in of the community and all of the relevant stakeholders. The greatest outcome of the consultation process is that it created a set of local champions who continue to advocate for the project, to ensure the vision for the Eglinton corridor is realized.