[PHOTO] Eight photos from a tour of Toronto's Ice Breakers (#toicebreakers)

When I went down to the Lake Ontario shoreline last month to take in Ice Breakers, the Waterfront BIA's winter public art, I should have known that the effects of the works would have needed a winter. In that the weather this winter really hasn't been very winterish, I was let down. This is not the fault on the part of the artists and architects involved: Leeward Fleet, pictured in the first two photos, remained evocative despite the cold spring weather, I can see how the zebra-striped Incognito and the Icebox at HT0 Park would have worked with a bit of snow coverage, the two waving hands of Tailored Twins have an endearing whimsy, and Winter Diamonds would have been superb surrounded by a field of snow at Music Garden Park. It's just that the weather let these works down.

Leeward Fleet, by RAW


Leeward Fleet, by RAW, against the condos


Incognito, by Curio Art Consultancy and Jaspal Riyait


Inside the Icebox, by Polymetris


Outside the Icebox, by Polymetris


Tailored Twins, by Ferris + Associates, across the street


Tailored Twins, by Ferris + Associates, from the west


Winter Diamonds, by Platant

[URBAN NOTE] "Spillover: when the city comes to the country": Marcus Gee on Shelburne

Marcus Gee's extended feature in The Globe and Mail reports on how Shelburne, a farming town far to the northwest of Toronto that I frankly had never heard about before today, is starting to be overtaken by the effects of the Toronto real estate boom. That the return trip to Toronto for commuters is on the order of five hours is apparently not an issue for buyers.

The soaring new office and condominium towers of downtown Toronto have come to stand for the dynamism of Canada’s biggest city. But if you really want to understand the staggering growth of greater Toronto, don’t look up, look out – way, way out. Look at what is happening to tiny Shelburne, fully 100 kilometres from the city centre.

For generations, this was a sleepy farming community where everybody knew everyone. Farmers would drive their cattle down the muddy main street to board trains to Toronto slaughterhouses. Motorists on the road to the ski chalets of Collingwood or the beaches of Lake Huron would pass by with hardly a second thought.

Today, little Shelburne is the second-fastest-growing town in all of Canada.

New census figures show it grew 39 per cent between 2011 and 2016, second only to Blackfalds, Alta., near Red Deer, among municipalities with a population of at least 5,000 and located outside a major metropolitan area.

People from down the road are flocking to Shelburne (its official slogan: “A people place, a change of pace”) to take advantage of the fresh air, open spaces and house prices that are still in the realm of sanity. Some commute all the way to downtown Toronto and back, an odyssey that can take five hours, round trip.

[URBAN NOTE] "GO expansion could boost GTA property values"

The Toronto Star's Tess Kalinowski reports on a study that suggests, plausibly enough, that increases in GO Transit rail service to outlying communities in the Greater Toronto Area will boost real estate prices there.

The plan to expand the GO train system to 15-minute, all-day two way service could increase some Toronto area property values up to 12 per cent.

It could also make housing up to 18 per cent more affordable in some areas of the region, according to a study of 773 communities commissioned by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB).

But maximizing those benefits depends on local municipalities making it attractive for commuters to get to the station, said the president of a data analytics company that studied the impact of GO’s Regional Express Rail (RER) expansion on Toronto region housing prices and affordability.

“While the GO station may be close to people it may not be accessible to them,” said Paul Smetanin, president of the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA).

Areas that stand to gain the most in terms of affordability from RER are those outside the city, places such as Barrie, Guelph, Hamilton and King.

[URBAN NOTE] "Condo dwellers fight the short-term rental boom in highrise neighbourhoods"

The Toronto Star's Tess Kalinowski looks at how condo neighbourhoods are starting to engage with the various troubles associated with short-term rentals, through services like Airbnb.

Kahile Gondo has lived in her downtown condo for about five years. But even though it neighbours two of the busiest, most eclectic places in the city — the Eaton Centre and Yonge-Dundas Square — Gondo only recently began locking her unit door when she’s at home.

“There’s 44 floors in this building with about 10 units on each and I’ve never had a sense something was wrong,” she said.

But when she returned from her Christmas holiday, Gondo, 26, noticed a couple she had never seen before in the hallway. As the days passed, more strangers appeared on her floor. She also smelled smoke, something she had never noticed in the past.

“I didn’t get a good feeling in the pit of my stomach. I told my brother (who lives with her), ‘We should lock our doors because I don’t feel safe,’ ” she said.

[URBAN NOTE] "GTA home prices jump 27.7 per cent in a year"

MacLean's shares the Canadian Press' report on the accelerating speed of real estate price increases in Toronto.

The average price of homes sold in the Greater Toronto Area last month soared 27.7 per cent compared with a year ago, the city’s real estate board said Friday.

The number of properties sold rose 5.7 per cent from February 2016, even though last year was a leap year which added an extra day of sales, the Toronto Real Estate Board said.

“The listing supply crunch we are experiencing in the GTA has undoubtedly led to the double-digit home price increases we are now experiencing on a sustained basis, both in the low-rise and high-rise market segments,” Jason Mercer, TREB’s director of market analysis, said in a statement.

“Until we see a marked increase in the number of homes available for sale, expect very strong annual rates of price growth to continue.”

The average selling price in the Greater Toronto Area hit $875,983 in February, while in the City of Toronto it was $859,186, an increase of 19.2 per cent. The MLS home price composite benchmark price for all communities measured by TREB was $727,300, up 23.8 per cent.

[URBAN NOTE] "This is what Mirvish Village will look like in 5 years"

blogTO's Derek Flack shares links and images of the plans for Mirvish Village in five years' time.

With the doors to Honest Ed's officially closed for good, it's time to turn our attention to the future of Mirvish Village. We now have a much better of idea of what it'll look like that thanks to the most recent planning documents filed by site developer Westbank.

The Honest Ed's and Mirvish Village project has undergone extensive revisions in response to community consultation, heritage evaluation and municipal feedback. Now in its third iteration, the plans are starting to resemble what we might see in the next few years.

Some of the highlights from the most recent renderings of the project include a sprawling public park that stretches out from Markham Street, a slick new market building that'll span 20,000-plus square feet, and a micro retail corridor roughly where Honest Ed's Alley once was.

[BLOG] Some Saturday links


  • James Bow calls for an end to the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement prohibiting people coming from American soil from claiming refugee status in Canada.

  • D-Brief reports on the vast array of man-made minerals appearing in what is now being called the Anthropocene Era of Earth.

  • Dangerous Minds notes the efforts of the Disco Preservation Society to preserve DJ mixes from 1980s San Francisco.

  • Language Log takes issue with Neil DeGrasse Tyson's argument that cryptographers, not linguists, would be needed in Arrival.

  • The LRB Blog notes impunity for murderers of civil society activists in Honduras.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen talks about Joyce Gladwell's autobiography Brown Face, Big Master.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates the work of Hercules Segers.

  • The Planetary Society Blog is skeptical of the Space X plan to send tourists past the Moon by 2018.

  • Supernova Condensate lists 8 things we know about Proxima Centauri b.

  • Towleroad reports on new walking tours being offered of gay London.

  • Arnold Zwicky engages with a California exhibition comparing paintings with movies.

[URBAN NOTE] "How to reclaim Toronto’s origins"

At the Unviersity of Toronto at Mississauga's newspaper The Medium< Sabiha Shah discusses a recent lecture by Anishinaabe artist Susan Blight talking about ways Toronto can better engage with its living First Nation heritage.

Last Tuesday, Susan Blight delivered Hart House’s annual Hancock Lecture, titled “Land and Life in Tkaronto: New Solidarities Toward a Decolonial Future.” Blight is an Anishinaabe artist, filmmaker, arts educator, and activist from Couchiching First Nation. She is nationally recognized for her work in language revitalization. Blight is also a presidential appointee to the Hart House Board of Stewards, and organizes U of T’s annual Indigenous Education Week.

As the country celebrates its 150th anniversary, Blight sheds light upon Toronto’s 15,000 years of history. She began the lecture by introducing her clan and origins, acknowledging the Indigenous territory that we occupy. The intent of Blight’s lecture was to promote Anishinaabe land, history, knowledge, and particularly, the language—Anishinaabemowin.

In 2013, Blight co-founded The Ogimaa Mikana Project with Anishinaabe writer and educator Hayden King. The project consists of Anishinaabe activists and artists working in Toronto to reclaim the streets and landmarks of Anishinaabe territory with the use of Anishinaabemowin. The main objectives of the project are reclaiming and renaming. This is done by replacing official street, park, and landmark signage with the original Anishinaabe versions. For example, “Spadina” would be changed to the original Ishpadinaa.

“At the centre of the project is the revitalization of the Anishinaabemowin,” noted Blight, “[…] as a pushback against the settler-colonial system in Canada—a system whose objective with regards to Indigenous peoples has not changed.”

Blight acknowledged the dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their land and resources, and how the state’s assimilation policies resulted in devastating effects on Indigenous languages. The Ogimaa Mikana Project aims to remind non-Indigenous people of their place on Indigenous land. It also seeks to reinforce awareness of Indigenous presence in Canada. Moreover, the project hopes to initiate communication with other Anishinaabe in Toronto—a city that can feel alienating to Indigenous peoples with its endless signage that represents the settler-colonial system.