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Series looked at Toronto through new lenses

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

TORONTO — This six-part series on fixing Toronto's public spaces, which ends today, was driven by one purpose: to explore how a city that has lagged badly in the public realm can do some quick catching-up. Burdened by an excess of pragmatism and an almost willful refusal to give aesthetics its due, Toronto has suffered the consequences – drab streets, mediocre architecture and a strange lack of inviting gathering places.

Until very recently, Torontonians seemed resigned to the situation. But we're now seeing debate about the public realm and dissatisfaction with the status quo. Dinner-party conversations buzz over the merit of new buildings and design plans, from the Royal Ontario Museum to the waterfront. When there is a design competition to make over Nathan Phillips Square, people flock to register their preferences. And Fixing Toronto has provoked an online conversation now stretching to more than 100 comments.

Will there be change? The designers who generously donated their time and ideas to this series have sent Toronto a strong message – if there's sufficient public will, a way can be found. While arguments about cost and consensus have their place, it is becoming obvious that what's needed most is public pressure. And the results could be remarkable. Yes, property values will increase and tourism will flourish. But more than this, Torontonians can begin to step into the vast potential of their city.

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