Media Releases

Ep. 5 Really Seeing Richmond

May 13, 2015

Explor­ing then-and-now in the neigh­bour­hood of Rich­mond and Spad­i­na, with fourth-year stu­dents in Shau­na Brail’s Urban Stud­ies course. Plus, a sneak peek into Doors Open Toron­to on May 23–24, includ­ing 14 free walk­ing tours spon­sored by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

To learn more about Doors Open Toron­to:‑t

For more on The Cities Pod­cast:



Ep. 5 Real­ly See­ing Rich­mond

This is The Cities Pod­cast, I’m Bri­an­na Gold­berg.


I’m stand­ing in front of 401 Rich­mond, near Spad­i­na, in down­town Toron­to.


It’s an area of town where the Finan­cial Dis­trict starts melt­ing into the Fash­ion Dis­trict… one of those tran­si­tion­al spaces where mon­ey meets design. Lots of archi­tec­ture offices around here. Lots of shiny con­dos going up. And then there’s 401 Rich­mond.


I first came to this build­ing about a decade ago I was report­ing for a sto­ry on the Inside Out film fes­ti­val, its office is upstairs. I remem­ber being excit­ed by the feel of the space. It’s his­toric and indus­tri­al and artis­tic and mod­ern at the same time and so full of light.


401 Rich­mond start­ed out in the ear­ly 1900s as a fac­to­ry but declined over the years. It was set for the wreck­ing ball in the mid-1990s … until Margie Zei­dler saved the day with a plan to trans­form it into a mixed-use build­ing with a focus on the arts.


Zei­dler is one of the alum­ni from U of T’s Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape & Design… cel­e­brat­ing its 125th anniver­sary this year… whose work is re-shap­ing Toron­to. The force dri­ving the Glad­stone Hotel revi­tal­iza­tion, the Cen­tre for Social Inno­va­tion, Jane’s Walks…  she’s always open­ing new doors.


Lat­er in the pod­cast you’ll get a sneak peek into Doors Open Toron­to, hap­pen­ing May 23rd and 24th. It’s a fes­ti­val of explo­ration where more than 150 spaces … ahem, open their doors… to any­one curi­ous to learn more. As part of this, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is spon­sor­ing 14 free walk­ing tours through­out var­i­ous areas of the city. Stick around to find out how you might be able to score an extra spe­cial take-away at Doors Open Toron­to…


First, though, the doors opened by Zeidler’s vision for 401 Rich­mond: an inno­v­a­tive, afford­able space fos­ter­ing gal­leries and star­tups and NGOs and head­quar­ters of indie film fes­ti­vals… inspir­ing.


But I near­ly lost my life get­ting there! Traf­fic rush­es through the Rich­mond cor­ri­dor at ter­ri­fy­ing speeds. It nev­er had prop­er side­walks or bike-lanes. I remem­ber shim­my­ing along the side of the build­ing to avoid get­ting flat­tened by cars speed­ing through.


Since then I’ve avoid­ed it. When walk­ing across the city, I’d take a dif­fer­ent route or at the very least hur­ry by with­out both­er­ing to look around. I’m not the only one.


401 Rich­mond remained this island of cool stuff sur­round­ed by pedes­tri­an-dan­ger on every side.


Then Shau­na Brail asked me to join her class there for an after­noon.




Thank you for being here and on time. We’re very for­tu­nate to go on a tour around the area. Think back to a cou­ple hun­dred years ago, this was the man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­tre of Cana­da. We’re close to the rail­way lines, we’re close to the water­front, and this area has under­gone an enor­mous trans­for­ma­tion in the last even in the last almost 20 years from what it was when we were hew­ers of wood and draw­ers of water to a very advanced knowl­edge econ­o­my, so let’s go inside…




Brail calls on her back­ground in plan­ning and geog­ra­phy as she teach­es the Urban Stud­ies Pro­gram at U of T’s Innis Col­lege. She works with stu­dents on issues of com­mu­ni­ty lead­er­ship and built envi­ron­ments and city-plan­ning and tran­sit.


But on top of their research and dis­cus­sions about forces chang­ing the city… they also get out into it. The pro­gram opens doors to posi­tions with com­mu­ni­ty groups, urban orga­ni­za­tions, city councillor’s offices. It’s all part of their course­work.


Heads up, there were a lot of them in the group and I couldn’t get my mic right into all of their faces in time… you’ll have to lis­ten close­ly in a few parts.


Clip of stu­dents:


Ahmer, I’m doing my place­ment at the office of Coun­cil­lor Bailao.

Kevin, at City Hall, with coun­cil­lor Joe Mihevc.

Noor, I’m with the Cen­tre for Social Inno­va­tion.

Ann, with Friends of the Pan-Am Path.

Flo­ra, with Park Peo­ple…




The class also vis­its impor­tant hubs in the city. Every year Brail brings her stu­dents to 401 Rich­mond to hear its sto­ry of trans­for­ma­tion and to watch it change.


And then after­wards they do a lit­tle walk around the neigh­bour­hood. If you can call it a neigh­bour­hood.  Because as I said, I knew it as a sort of a traf­fic-heavy, tran­si­tion­al space…




Clos­est to the down­town core it’s got the loca­tion, it’s got good build­ing spaces, there’s antic­i­pat­ed to be some­thing like 50,000 employ­ees and 35,000 new res­i­dents based on the devel­op­ment pro­pos­als, appli­ca­tions, sub­mis­sions, things that are approved, so let’s go east and see what’s hap­pen­ing there. That’s also the neigh­bour­hood where all the night­clubs have been, there’s some­thing like night­club capac­i­ty of 43,000 peo­ple. That was in 2005, I think that’s declined since then, but I haven’t seen a lot about night­club issues in the area recent­ly…




Now there are high-ris­es full of peo­ple who call this area home. Things are chang­ing and it’s time I paid atten­tion. Time we paid atten­tion.


Brail invit­ed me to join her stu­dents as they explored the area – to see it through their eyes.


It was one of those rare calls to wake up to the city grow­ing around you. Brail opened the door and all I had to do walk through… onto the slick new side­walk.




So this side­walk is new, there used to be just a con­crete bar­ri­er here, and I remem­ber tak­ing a class and in some places there was a bar­ri­er and in some places there wasn’t, so you were actu­al­ly prac­ti­cal­ly in the road. So this is some­thing that rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in this area…




Thank good­ness for that. So we walked… safe­ly… around the neigh­bour­hood. And for the first time in years I actu­al­ly looked it.


The stu­dents had a more spe­cif­ic focus. Some were tasked with keep­ing an eye for green spaces, oth­ers built form or tran­sit.


After our stroll, we regrouped at the cor­ner of King and Spad­i­na, and every­thing I’d been blind to for the past 10 years came into view.


[Clip of stu­dents fol­lows.]


Brail: Okay, ‘pub­lic realm.’


Stu­dent 1: We felt that the side­walks were still pret­ty con­gest­ed, but there were on the oth­er street trees that had pro­tec­tion, so that was good.


Stu­dent 2: It’s still real­ly dom­i­nat­ed by cars around here, like there’s so many sur­face park­ing lots still, and the streets are real­ly wide so there’s a lot of parked cars and mov­ing cars, it doesn’t real­ly feel like the pedes­tri­an is val­ued.


Brail: Alright, good. Archi­tec­ture?


Stu­dent 3: We noticed a build­ing that had like four floors of the her­itage on the bot­tom and then an apart­ment on the top. I’m not a big fan of it, I don’t real­ly like it, but I think it’s just evi­dence the area is chang­ing.


Brail: You’re not a fan in the way that you don’t like how it looks, it’s not visu­al­ly appeal­ing? Or it doesn’t meet the sort of intent in terms of the orig­i­nal guide­lines for reuse?


Stu­dent 3: Yeah, I think it’s bet­ter to just con­serve the entire site rather than just build­ing a new site on top of it.


Stu­dent 4: We felt that the mix of archi­tec­ture in the area is def­i­nite­ly good. The mix of the her­itage build­ings and some of the rede­vel­op­ments have an inter­est­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion between how the archi­tec­ture of the area is devel­op­ing. But we felt that some of the new­er archi­tec­ture takes away from the focus because it’s a bit homoge­nous in the way it looks.


Brail: Tran­sit – oh, let’s hear from the tran­sit folks.


Stu­dent 5: We high­light­ed the exis­tence of the bike lanes but at the same time we made an obser­va­tion that they’re not real­ly well sep­a­rat­ed and they have often just a few poles so they’re just like in tran­si­tion from being a part of the road to an actu­al, full-fledged bike lane. And we also dis­cussed how the King Street­car is mas­sive­ly over­crowd­ed and it’s not very effi­cient, but it’s there.


Brail: Okay, any oth­er tran­sit.


Stu­dent 6: There’s aban­doned old street­car tracks here on Ade­laide, I guess. Poten­tial maybe for re-use…?




Not sure if you heard that – he men­tioned aban­doned street­car tracks on Ade­laide. I had nev­er noticed these before. When I got back to the office I start­ed search­ing online and there’s a whole body of lit­er­a­ture about Toronto’s “tran­sit ghosts” – lines long since aban­doned on Mt Pleas­ant and Rogers Road… and Ade­laide.


And anoth­er stu­dent point­ed out that in this indus­tri­al area of traf­fic and con­crete… there is green­ery around. It’s just hid­ing.


Stu­dent 7: There’s a lot of pub­lic park­ing areas but I do know that some of these build­ings have green roofs, so that could count. Like, I think that build­ing has some­thing like a green roof…




So, okay… still most­ly park­ing lots. But also… green roofs. Life can flour­ish here, both above and amongst the flow of traf­fic.


[Clip of stu­dents]


Brail: How was our last field trip?


Sev­er­al: Amaz­ing, fan­tas­tic, superb.


Brail: What didn’t you like about it?


Stu­dent 8: How short it was…


Brail: I’m not actu­al­ly look­ing for like, a… [laughs]. Okay, fine, it’s fan­tas­tic.




And if you would like to see more lay­ers of the city around you then pull out your cal­en­dar and mark off May 23 and 24. Those are the dates for Doors Open Toron­to.


The annu­al event is set take over 155 build­ings in Toron­to.


As part of this, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is spon­sor­ing 14 free walk­ing tours through­out var­i­ous areas of the city.


One is all about where art meets nature in Guild Park.


Anoth­er is about the Isling­ton neighbourhood’s murals.


There’s one on inter­sect­ing high­ways of Toronto’s Indige­nous His­to­ry.


Neigh­bou­hood movie the­atres…


Tours of the down­town tow­ers, the water­front, Fort York …


And there two that show off some of the hid­den his­to­ries at U of T…


At the Scar­bor­ough cam­pus it’s a tour of ravine lands that dou­ble as a wildlife cor­ri­dor.


And at St. George cam­pus you can learn about the past cen­tu­ry in sports, leisure and recre­ation at U of T. Besides the Goth­ic archi­tec­ture at Hart House and more his­toric tid­bits, the tour wraps up at the very new and the state-of-the-art Goldring Cen­tre for High Per­for­mance Sport.


And here’s your insid­er tip:


Reg­is­ter for that walk­ing tour ear­ly to bet­ter your chances of scor­ing a free pedome­ter to help you count your steps dur­ing Doors Open and every day after that. Reg­is­ter­ing will also lock you in for a few sneak peeks of the Pan-Am games… at St. George cam­pus, see where the field hock­ey, foot­ball, archery and oth­er events will go down in July, check out sports demos and meet Pan Am swim com­peti­tor Zack Chetrat, Olympic gold medal­ist Vic­ki Suno­hara and oth­ers.


To reg­is­ter, head to and click on the Doors Open Toron­to ban­ner on the home­page. We’ll also link to it wher­ev­er you find this pod­cast online.


You can pass this tip along to your friends by shar­ing the pod­cast… copy the link and post it to your Face­book , or email it, or just plain tell some­one.


Please do. Because the more peo­ple we invite into The Cities Pod­cast, the more we can tell the sto­ries of your city. Tweet with the hash­tag #uoftc­i­ties or send me an email at .


Tell me who and what you’d like to hear more about in the show, tell me and about the walk­ing routes and secret cor­ners of the city that you love. More than like­ly I’ll end up using them in an episode, like this one …




Hi, my name is Heba and one of my favourite places in Toron­to is the Rosedale Ravine near Yonge and St. Clair. I love going down there because it’s so peace­ful and seclud­ed and real­ly nice place to get away from the busy city.




Thanks, Hebah. Hebah just wrapped up her first year at U of T where she took a course on Cit­i­zen­ship in the Cana­di­an city taught by urban colum­nist Shawn Micallef. It’s one of the cours­es where they get out in the city, too, part of the UC One pro­gram. You can hear more about that and from Micallef in one of the back episodes of the pod­cast.


Music you heard in this episode comes from Jaz­za­fari, found on the Free Music Archive, and from Jay Fer­gu­son —who com­posed and per­formed this music espe­cial­ly for us, so thanks to Jay.


Sub­scribe to this pod­cast on iTunes or fol­low us on Sound­cloud to get new episodes as soon as they’re ready…


For exam­ple, you’ll get the one I’m so excit­ed to share with you, where I sit down with poet lau­re­ate George Elliott Clarke…


That’s com­ing up on The Cities Pod­cast.


This series is pro­duced by me, Bri­an­na Gold­berg, with help from U of T News edi­tor, Jen­nifer Lan­thi­er.


Thanks for lis­ten­ing.