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30+ Civic Ideas for Toronto’s Filipino Town

From a bitterly cold stretch to a pleasant weather for much of the cosmolis, the new season is accompanied by new beginnings. While spring could easily be associated with lumpia for us Filipinos
(hello, spring rolls?), this author touts a few things for our blossoming community. Unwrapping my wishlist on our unofficial “Little Manila” or Filipino town:

• Regularly placed wayfinding pylons or information pillars, which show directions to important nearby landmarks and attractions, publicly accessible private spaces, and parks (especially Earl Bales park to the north)

• A 4.4 kilometre protected bike lane that could give commuters a safer ride along the stretch from Wilson to York Mills Station

• Advertising-funded street furniture elements including bike-share stations, parking units, transit shelters with solar-powered mobile chargers and public wifi access, benches, and littering/recycling receptacles

• Adaptive reuse of the existing gas station on the southwest corner Bathurst and Wilson intersection by turning it into a vibrant public space with a shading canopy

• A gateway marker or welcome landmark which could be integrated by the entrance tunnels along Bathurst and Wilson to symbolize Filipino contributions to Canada as well as to orient visitors.

• Multilingual street signs which may include the Anishinaabemowin name and transliterated baybayin spelling of English Bathurst Street.

• A tourism-oriented directional sign showing Filipino town off Highway 401 to replace the existing mark westbound via Exit #366 Bathurst Street

• Printed pole banners made out of recyclable fabric materials and strong UV resistance with custom tail at the bottom to enhance the ambience of the neighbourhood

• Seasonal repurposing of pavements by installing parklets—tiny urban parks and seating areas created from the curbside parking spaces—close to the food plaza on the northwest corner of the intersection.

• A creative raised crosswalk to increase safety for slower pedestrians in the entire intersection which could be turned into a walkers-only zone for the length of a long signal

• A wide pedestrian rights-of-way to connect the north-south divide of Bathurst street from Sheppard to Wilson Avenues

• A multi-use pavilion which can be used as a theatre platform, a concert stage or a photography exposition mounted on wheels and located at the parking lot by the supermarket on the northeast quadrant of Bathurst-Wilson

An outdoor public art or mural—possibly to be located by the wall on 320 Wilson Avenue—as a legacy project to draw from the history of Filipino migration to Canada with symbolism and elaborate forms.

• An interactive light and sound projection that would transform the Highway 401 tunnel into a communal public multisensory exhibit.

•An activated back alley or laneway between Wilson Avenue and Charleswood Drive that would remain accessible for service purposes, but would be reimagined as a colourful gathering space and where people could enjoy playful activities

•An outdoor weatherproof public address system with horn speakers ideal for speaking in public gatherings and community mobilizations

•A Philippine ‘walk of fame’ that acknowledges the achievements and accomplishments of successful individuals and/or collectives of Filipino descent

•Construction of an infothèque, or Filipino arts and culture hub which could be considered the Toronto branch of Sentro Rizal

•Creation of local cultural programming including Filipino martial arts (arnis, kali, eskrima), tattooing, weaving, language classes, baybayin calligraphy, folk dance, Philippine cooking, pabalat or paper-cutting art, komiks, ethnomusicology, etc.

•Salinlahi, a heritage documentation project aimed at collecting, preserving and sharing the history of Filipino Canadians and particularly, a compilation of books, primarily fiction (novels, short stories, graphic books, memoirs), that take place in this neighbourhood

•Publicly accessible walking tours that work towards community-based planning and building

•An elementary school along Carmichael Avenue that would address overcapacity in the existing educational infrastructure and would provide culturally sensitive curriculum.

•An arts council that offers advocacy and funding, including tools for writing proposals and applying for financial assistance that would prioritize on an idea or project that contributes to the
promotion of wellness and culture of the people.

•A community theatre or cinematheque which could be one of the venues for Toronto Filipino Canadian Film Festival, or TFCFF showing works of filmmakers and cutting-edge cinema.

•A gallery that will be an experimental open-source platform that endeavours to share, exchange and explore ideas between artists, architects, and the local community.

•A research and design studio serving as the agency that would facilitate community-based participatory research, community service-learning opportunities and capacity-building initiatives.

•A conference hall, which could be named Bulwagang Ruben Cusipag, after the late publisher and community journalist and would house the Philippine Press Club of Ontario and other conference functions.

•A neighbourhood council who would lead the effort for cultural, political, and economic development in the district.

• A community development financial institution, or CDFI, headquartered in the neighbourhood that aims its programs specifically at low-income families

•An official visitors map or street guide with an illustrated map showing significant cultural and natural heritage sites in the area

•Local merchants discount program for subscribers to the establishments in the area

And that’s a wrap! Now, some of them may be difficult to roll out but one way of getting things started is breaking what seems to be complex and overwhelming tasks. Take small simple steps.

Finally, how about using crowdsourced information like open street maps or similar free mapping tools to help people strengthen community planning? Or developing an app that shows all establishment in the area?

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