The renovation of Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto’s most important public space, is in the news this week as the city searches for a restaurant operator. Good to revisit it: it’s an excellent and very important project for this city. I spoke with CBC Radio and TV today about it.
The design team, led by Plant Architect, are doing a thoughtful job with their design to add to the original, competition-winning square and building. They won a competition that wound up in 2007. Here’s what I had to say about the project back in the spring...
And here’s my tour of the green roof on City Hall, which is a spectacular success. It’s one of Toronto’s best public spaces. I’ve included it in two travel stories about the city for international publications.
Predictably, this has provided another occasion for the mayor and some conservatives to complain about the cost once again. Why? It’s had a cost overrun of about 25%, from about $40-million to $52-million, during construction.
These attacks are frankly dishonest. What they do not mention is that most of those additional funds are going toward replacing the guts of the square: a roofing membrane and mechanicals for the enormous parking garage underneath it. This is a large public works project, most of which is invisible. The buildings and landscaping on the square are the tip of the iceberg.
They will be an attractive tip, which will transform the square into a place to gather, eat and hang out on any day of the year. It was a good idea five years ago and it is a good idea now. And $52-million over five years is a reasonable number for this task: to fix and improve the most important gathering place in a prosperous major city.
When it’s done, I bet almost everyone will agree.