Ideas and Research
The idea for Corner Commons grew from community research on public spaces in the neighbourhood and conversations with local workers about the history of the Jane Finch Mall’s parking lot as an informal gathering space.
In April, we did our first official site visit to better understand how the parking lot was currently being used by community members. To create an accessible, welcoming and inclusive community space, we knew we needed to preserve its history and context in the neighbourhood, while formalizing it as a public space.
We held three community workshops in April and May with local residents, grassroots groups, and other key stakeholders to identify existing site uses and barriers, look at precedents, and gather ideas for Corner Commons’ design and programming. We also talked about various priorities for the project, like providing a safe space for residents and maintaining community ownership.
These workshops led to the formation of the Corner Commons Working Group - a network of resident leaders and local organizations that would help guide the design and construction process, community engagement, programming, project evaluation, and long-term sustainability planning. The Working Group continues to meet on a monthly basis.
Community Design Precedence
Key Design Elements
Taking cues from our research, workshops, and working group members, we began to develop an initial concept design for Corner Commons, starting with some key features and programming. We also started to visualize what Corner Commons would actually look like in the parking lot, giving the design a sense of place.
Night view: looking North on Jane Street
Shading, greenery, and game models
Day view: looking South on Finch Avenue
From August 21st to 28th, we hosted a weeklong pop-up of Corner Commons to test and get feedback on different ideas for Corner Commons and animating the parking lot. With the help of community leaders and volunteers, we built and set up outdoor furniture, planters, and a game zone for community members to enjoy throughout the week. We also held three special events around a range of themes: Service Day, Back-to-School Day, and Play Day. People dropped by the space to play dominoes with friends and strangers, access information about local services and organizations, watch live performances, and so much more.
Through Project BYLD (Building Youth Leadership in Design), Jane-Finch youth got involved in the project by designing a photo booth for Corner Commons. Delivered by the Green Change team at the Jane/Finch Centre, Project BYLD was a pilot after-school design/build program for youth aged 13-18 years old. From October 2019 to March 2020, youth learned about architecture, urban planning, graphic design, and animation, while building their skills in design programs like SketchUp, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to build the photo booth this year, but we hope to make it a reality in 2021.
In March, we set up a table in the Jane Finch Mall to get feedback from the broader community on the current design direction. We laid out a site map with movable elements to see allow residents to arrange the space in their own way.
As the COVID-19 crisis continued, we decided to postpone the installation of Corner Commons until 2021 and move the project online.
We took the extra time we gained with this decision to revise the design for Corner Commons, working with placement students from University of Toronto and OCAD University on a 3D model in SketchUp, renderings, and interactive map. We also worked with community groups and organizations to bring new programming online, like Sunday Sessions and the 2020 Corner Commons Artist Residencies.
We launched cornercommons.ca in August to bring everything together online.
See you at Corner Commons in 2021!