The artist took her duty to the burgeoning Cityplace community to heart. She found a lot of people travelling through by themselves: earphones in, grabbing lunch to go. She wanted to give them a destination, a sense of place.
floor area and has applied to increase the permitted density by at least 1,500 square metres. For some sense of scale, First Canadian Place, the 72-storey monster at Bay and King Streets in Toronto that, for now, carries the title of Canada’s Tallest Skyscraper, is 250,849 square metres. The St. Lawrence Market South building—to lend some concrete sense to that bottom end—is 10,355 square metres.
“Section 37 benefits are negotiated on a case-by-case basis with developers,” says Gregg Lintern, the director of community planning for Toronto and East York. Unlike some cities where the dollars-and-cents side of density bonusing is formalized with a per-square-metre rate, in Toronto, he tells me, “there are no set negotiations or percentages.” It’s difficult for the City to speak in specifics, Lintern says, tendering only: “the City seeks to capture a portion of the appraised value of the additional density requested by the development applicant.” That’s the same line reprinted elsewhere in City literature. A 2014 report reviewing Section 37 in Toronto lets in a little more light, explaining that “the City’s been able to secure between 10 and 20 per cent of the increase in land value for most developments.”
How that money gets used is determined by a process that identifies community needs and priorities in consultation with the city councillor, local residents and various other municipal departments. The package of negotiated benefits might include things like park improvements and affordable housing. Toronto councillor Joe Cressy tells me that 20 per cent of every Section 37 deal in his ward—which includes Block 31— goes toward affordable housing. The benefit package might also include public art, as was the case with the building wrapped in a Vito Acconci fence across from my apartment near Fort York. Perdue estimates that in the last five years, Section 37 has triggered roughly $45 million in public art in Toronto.
If art is chosen as a fitting amenity, the developer may commission a public artwork on-site for the agreed-upon value, provide cash-in-lieu for an off-site project, or some combination of the two. With the off-site option, the City has the ability to pool money for a larger project on City land anywhere within the same ward. Trump Tower in Toronto, for example, includes a Michael Snow lightwork stretching vertically up its exterior and a more than 500,000-piece mosaic by Stephen Andrews in its porte-cochère; the development also helped pay for an aquatic centre in Regent Park, one of Toronto’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas “requiring special attention.” If the developer decides instead to commission work on-site, the Toronto Public Art Commission, a volunteer panel from the art and urban design communities, reviews the developer’s public art plan and ensures that the selection process, be it open competition or by invitation, is suitable.
Dickie took her duty to the burgeoning Cityplace community to heart. When she was designing her proposal—one of more than 100 submissions the City received for the project—she visited the site almost daily. She’d hang out in the grocery store to get a sense of who lived there. She found a lot of people travelling through by themselves: earphones in, talking on the phone, grabbing lunch to go. She wanted to give them a destination. She wanted to anchor a sense of place.
Standing at the perimeter fence, approximating for me where her sculpture will one day sit, us both transposing the scene imaginarily over a giant pit carpeted by 2016’s first good winter snowfall, Dickie says she’s not exactly sure what happens next, procedurally speaking. We do know, though, that by summer 2019 (again, construction permitting), the character of this neighbourhood will be thoroughly transformed—thanks in part to her work here.
Comparing municipal programs across Canada, I started to see the field as a sort of grand urban experiment, with sometimes-radical permutations on the same basic structure regarding the roles of the public and private sectors in the making of public art. Each city formed a unique set of answers to the questions: ought the City set aside a portion from its own construction projects for public art? From which projects? How much? What should be required of private developers? One culture manager admiringly called Toronto’s Perdue “encyclopedic” when it comes to public art policy in Canada, and even Perdue, over one of our many conversations, told me something to the effect of: I’m really not sure which model works best.
In Montreal, thanks to Quebec’s long-standing “Politique d’intégration des arts à l’architecture,” every building project that receives provincial money and will be open to the public dedicates a percentage of the total construction cost to public art. Projects costing between $150,000 and $400,000, for instance, must set aside 1.75 per cent. The scale slides up from there, so that, at the high end, projects costing more than $5 million must contribute $67,500 for the first $5 million and 0.5 per cent on any additional costs. Alternately, as Michèle Picard, head of Montreal’s public art bureau, explains, if the project generates only a small amount of money, there’s a committee that acquires smaller works—a painting or sculpture, for example—for the space.
The City of Montreal itself doesn’t have an official per cent for public art policy on municipal projects; Picard describes it as “a habit.” “Not every project needs to have public art,” she says. “We prefer to work differently.” Over the past 10 years, her team has cooperated with other municipal departments to involve themselves at the start of large building projects to identify suitable opportunities for public art. A major road reconstruction project at PIE-IX and Henri Bourassa Boulevards, a bridge entering the city, was treated to something major: a $1.1 million, full-scale Ferris wheel sculpture titled La vélocité des lieux by BGL (some practices have become darlings of the arena).
Since permitting in Montreal is scattered across the 19 individual boroughs, there is currently no overarching policy about contributions from private developers in exchange for bonus height or density. Montreal may be experiencing its own condo boom, but to-date, borough councillors