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Creating a plan for a more welcoming campus

By Will Sloan

Gould Plaza

Ryerson hopes to create a more pedestrian-friendly Gould Plaza, shown in this rendering, as part of its Public Realm projects.

There’s more to a university campus than just its buildings. Ryerson University has unveiled an ambitious new plan to guide future development of the campus, which will help foster campus life, improve accessibility and further define the school’s identify.

The Public Realm report, which was approved by the Ryerson board of governors and released on October 5, aims to improve the public spaces (streets, sidewalks and pedestrian areas) within Ryerson’s precinct. It establishes a vision to improve safety and accessibility on campus, while also helping Ryerson better define our campus environment.

“When we’re looking at the future of the campus, we have to think about a lot of things, and one of them is the space between the buildings,” said Janice Winton, vice-president, Administration & Finance. “Even though we’re located in downtown Toronto, we like to have a way for people to know: now you’re on Ryerson campus.

“We were always Toronto’s best-kept secret: ‘Where is Ryerson?’ We want people to know when they’re at Ryerson. It’s a way of identifying us.”

The plan was developed over 13 months (beginning in February 2015) and involved extensive  town halls and consultations with faculty, students, custodial/maintenance staff, and city officials. An online survey also provided the team with feedback and design suggestions. The report is founded on the principles and objectives outlined in Ryerson’s 2008 Campus Master Plan, including enhanced accessibility and walkability, and creating a signature Ryerson University landscape.

The first proposed project is an enhancement of Gould Plaza and which became a vibrant pedestrian-friendly area after it was closed to car traffic in 2011. The plan proposes to raise the former roadway to the level of the sidewalk (creating a single shared surface), and incorporate new lighting.

“The idea is to have a central courtyard: ‘You’re in the heart of Ryerson now,’” said Winton. “And now that it’s closed to traffic, we want it to be clear to people that you can walk on the street. Also, we want to be able to make it more accessible for people in wheelchairs, or with any kind of mobility challenges.”

Future proposed projects under the public realm plan include implementing a pedestrian-priority improvements to campus streets (including accessibility features); redesigned entrances at Yonge/Gould and Dundas/Victoria; and a range of solutions to improve eastern areas of the campus as well as underutilized laneways. The plan recommends a phased approach over the course of 11+ years.

“We’d like it to be clear that you’re ‘on campus’ and not at an intersection. We also want people to be proud of the campus. We want people to say, ‘Wow, look at Ryerson, look how welcoming it is. You always know when you’re on the Ryerson campus.’”

The Public Realm plan will be introduced at an event on Gould Street, today (October 5) at 12:15 p.m. Feedback is welcome. For more information, click here.