Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star City asked to designate public spaces on private property

June 25th, 2014

Jennifer Pagliaro

Toronto Star


The city is looking at making it mandatory to designate green spaces, like this one at Cityplace, as open for public use. There are at least 100 within the city that are privately owned and maintained.


Everyone should get to smell the roses in a Yorkville Ave. garden next to the Four Seasons hotel as the city looks to define and advertise open spaces on private property.

That goes for the misting fountain too.

In July, city council will decide whether new condo and commercial developments that incorporate green space, courtyards and other open spaces into their plans should be required to post signs stating the public is welcome.

On Wednesday, the planning committee unanimously approved recommendations for city council to adopt a new set of design guidelines for what are called privately owned publicly accessible spaces (POPS), including mandatory signage.

“Many members of the public have POPS in their neighbourhood yet they’re completely unaware that those spaces are welcome to them,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who first raised the issue of signage at council in 2012. “I think residents will be very excited once they see the signs literally popping up in their neighbourhoods.”

Those spaces, regardless, are already available to the public at some 100 locations compiled by city staff. Those POPS are searchable in an online map which also indicates where future public spaces will be built.

Matlow said there apparently are 400 potential POPS in Toronto, with the majority still to be identified.

Whether it’s a patch of grass at CityPlace or public art tucked away on a lane near city hall, the spaces bolster the city’s more than 1,600 public parks. The spaces are maintained, however, through private funds.

Many residents may not realize they are already enjoying POPS right under their feet. Earlier this year, hundreds swarmed one in Maple Leaf Square to cheer the Toronto Raptors on in the NBA playoffs.

City planning staff created a set of guidelines — endorsed by the committee Wednesday — for incorporating POPS into developments, that looks at accessibility and safety features like lighting.

“In some cases POPS may be underutilized because the public are unaware that they are publicly accessible, sometimes because of poor design and location of the space,” the report reads.

Matlow said the guidelines provide an opportunity to focus on how each new development affects the average person walking by — not just on how the density of the new building will affect the community.

A pilot project ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games has already been implemented, starting at the CityPlace condo development.

The guidelines outline that signage should clearly state the space is “public” and should be “welcoming”.

Matlow said the design of the signs was given much consideration before they settled on a tree symbol with a squirrel, which he has lovingly named “Popsy.”

To read this article in its original form, click here.


Leave A Comment

Please leave a message of support for residents and frontline staff.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support