Mitchell Marcus “City Building Through Creativity: the Redevelopment of the Downsview Airport Lands” (Spring 2023 Talk #5 Summary)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Our last Spring Talk for the season had Mitchell Marcus talking about how to be creative with one of the largest underused open spaces in the city, indeed in any city in North America.

At first, Mitchell gave us some of his own artistic background in theatre to tell us how he came to be working for a developer, Northview Developments. He is the founding director of The Musical Stage Company, which has produced several original musicals. However, his wise mother encouraged him to have a plan B: he started a business degree, didn`t like it at first, but after many years in the creative arts he was looking for more avenues in which to be creative. The opportunity came when he was offered the position of Executive Director of site activation and programming for the Downsview Airport Lands redevelopment project.

The Downsview Park area in North York has three segments, a green park area, an industrial area and the airport. The airport is the area of interest to the project now that Bombardier has found another site. It is not usually open to the public and is now owned by a pension fund. The long-range plan, reaching to 2050, for this area is for 10 neighbourhoods accommodating much needed residential housing, cultural facilities, retail space and recreation opportunities. It was compared to the Distillery District of the Toronto port lands area.

Mitchell`s challenge is to entice people to come to this area over the next five years to enjoy the space during various events such as free play, community art displays, theatre and dance shows, and entrepreneurial projects. He is hoping that it will become a win-win endeavour for the community and the developer. A few events have already been held. The next steps may be more regular events that should be well publicized in the neighbourhood.

Access should be improved to take advantage of the three nearby subway stations. The Q and A session elicited many questions and comments, as usual for our Spring Talks. There were concerns about the cost, suggestions from the agricultural history of the area to include urban farming, and encouragement to the skilled trades people in the area to help build the project. There should be demonstration on the site of sustainable energy generation for the users of the development. Mitchell enjoys the ambiguities of the potential uses of the site but it needs to have a cooperative buy-in from all interested parties, especially the city of Toronto. We should all “look beyond the stroke of the pen.“

To find out more and to see the pictures that were in the presentation please look at the web site:

by Linda Tu