Friday, September 28, 2007

Jane Jacobs was wrong about a stadium, but Toronto ain't Brooklyn

So, what might the late Jane Jacobs think of the planned Atlantic Yards arena, thrust--on two borders--into a low-rise residential neighborhood? We can't be certain, but we can say that a sports facility she famously misjudged was quite different.

In a 5/31/93 New York Times profile of Jacobs, headlined An Expert on Cities, at Home in the World, followed the urbanist as she gave a tour of her longtime home of Toronto. Eventually the tour reached the SkyDome, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, and now known as the Rogers Centre.

The Times reported:
Because the Sky Dome is amid downtown office buildings with ample parking and easily accessible by public transit, it did not require the sort of vast parking lots that turn the areas surrounding most stadiums into wastelands. The Sky Dome also incorporates stores and hotels that make it active even during the off season.

"Before it was built, I had thought that would be a terrible site for a stadium, blighting the area like other stadiums," Mrs. Jacobs admits. "But I was wrong. I am wrong plenty of times, you know."

(Photo from here. Map from here.)

Toronto vs. Brooklyn

But the site in downtown Toronto did not border a residential neighborhood, as in Brooklyn and could rely on empty office parking rather than nearly 1600 spaces of interim surface parking. (The planned Phase 2 of Atlantic Yards--which could be delayed, based on market conditions and other reasons, and not be completed in the projected ten years, ultimately would supply arena underground parking.)

In that way, the Toronto facility is somewhat like the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, which claims to be within reach of some 10,000 parking spots and offers just 475 parking spaces of its own.

Overriding city zoning

And there's nothing near the Rogers Centre that resembles the clapboard house at 474 Dean Street that would be across the street from the arena block. (Across a much wider street from the Verizon Center, actually, are some low-rise historic commercial buildings.)

As Lumi Rolley of NoLandGrab reminded us, while city zoning "prohibits arenas within 200 feet of residential districts as some of the operations could be incompatible with districts limited primarily to residential use," the state plans to override that zoning for Atlantic Yards.

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

1 comment:

  1. Oh the poor little clapboard house on Dean. Boo Hoo.
    I think I'm tearing up.

    Hmm. Nope just some dust in my eye.

    What a shame to see the owners value skyrocket when the project is built.

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