Breathing Life Back Into Toronto’s Laneways

  • Back city lanes often have a bad reputation. These shabby looking spaces discourage people from using them for anything more than a means of entry and exit to their homes. Toronto’s Laneway Project is an innovative urban design and planning organization that is working to change Toronto’s relationship with its laneways.

    As Toronto continues to densify, there is an increased need for more enjoyable public space. Toronto has more than 2,400 publically owned laneways, covering more than 250 linear kilometres of public space. This offers a huge amount of untapped potential for multi-purpose public space. Consisting of planners and urban designers, The Laneway Project works with city officials and community groups to green, beautify, and breathe life back into these back alleys in the city.

    Map of Toronto's laneways

    Map of Toronto’s laneways

    Through online resources, The Laneway Project looks to engage creative Torontonians who are looking to pitch in and improve their communities. Neighborhood groups are provided the resources needed to put together plans, seek further funding and navigate city regulations surrounding laneways. Through community engagement, The Laneway Project hopes to create connectivity and neighborly relationships. Due to the involvement of community members, each laneway project becomes unique to the needs of the residents.

    Photo: Katrina Afonso

    Photo: Katrina Afonso

    Harbord Village Laneway Greening

    Harbord Village Resident’s association and the David Suzuki Foundation are working with The Laneway Project to green Croft Street. The addition of hardy vegetation and space-efficient greening measures (like vines and planters) will help to give the space new life. Residents were invited on June 4 to come out and help with the planting process.

    Photo: Michelle Senayah

    Photo: Michelle Senayah

    Laneway Puncture Demonstration Project

    The Laneway Project joined forces with The Laneway Puncture Demonstration Project to replace the impermeable drainage channel in two west-end laneways. This would allow for storm water to percolate into the soil rather than flowing into the storm water sewer system. This Project hopes to demonstrate the viability of unique landscape interventions that re-imagine storm-water management.

    Photo: Katrina Afonso

    Photo: Katrina Afonso

    The Laneway Crawl

    This year The Laneway Crawl was introduced; a pop-up festival looking to redefine how Torontonians think of, experience and use city laneways. Scheduled events brought life to Toronto’s laneways through workshops, pop-up greening, music, and much more. Each event helped to transform the laneways into vital, vibrant parts of the surrounding neighborhood’s public realm.

    Photo: Michelle Senayah

    Photo: Michelle Senayah

    For years, Toronto laneways serve as the canvas for graffiti artists, backed onto some interesting yards, and offered a make shift court for soccer, baseball, and of course road hockey. These urban arteries serve as a core feature of Toronto’s built environment. The Laneway Project is helping citizens to transform these areas into liveable and accessible public spaces within the city.