April 23, 2024
Bear Street plan overview

Working together to create more living streets

Building a woonerf requires a landscaper or landscape architect to collaborate with many stakeholders. From the mayor, city councillors and MPs, to transit authorities, urban planners, and municipal works departments, to business improvement associations, property owners, residents and other community groups — all have input. But who gets to pitch the idea? That depends on who you talk to.

In his experience as superintendent at Seven M Construction, Chris Payne says the process has been 100 per cent led by the municipalities. “They set the tone. They'll do an RFP and send it out. By the time we get involved, there's already a design in place,” Payne said, but stressed that municipalities are hoping companies with technical knowledge put in bids. “The soil cells bring in a different dynamic, and municipalities are very much looking for people with that expertise because things could go wrong if you don’t know what you're doing. So I think they're hoping people like us will put tenders forward for jobs like that.”

Matthew Mohan, executive director from the Cabbagetown BIA, said he’d love to see landscapers approach a community with their ideas for beautification. “If a landscaper or landscape architect already has a brilliant idea, that's tried and true, I think it can make it a lot easier to bring that idea to fruition,” Mohan said, suggesting that people don’t need to wait for an RFP if they have a brilliant idea. “Rather, bring your idea to a community. And if that community is interested, it can potentially start looking for funding and grants.”

Darren Enns looks at the bigger collaborative picture and encourages professional associations to join elected officials on study tours to connect with other municipalities who have successfully implemented a woonerf. “Use these industry organizations as platforms for education and for advocacy around how landscape can play a role in creating great public spaces. I think that's really powerful for elected officials to be able to see other communities and see those places of success and also the challenges,” Enns said. “These trips give elected officials a chance to talk with one another and compare notes. That ultimately influences council decisions like budgets and capital projects, which is where landscape association members are trying to get to.”