Distillery District

Location: Toronto, Ontario

With the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America, the Distillery District in Toronto is a true historic and entertainment destination located east of the downtown. This is also known as Canada’s largest pedestrian-only precinct for arts, culture, and entertainment.

The Distillery District is characterized by its traditional brick streets, which are catered for pedestrians and cyclists. Regular motor traffic is restricted to streets and parking areas, which are located outside of the district’s historic center. There are also many public spaces where pedestrians can relax and socialize; these areas are specifically designed to encourage visitors to spend time in its spaces. Specific to these areas are the trees and the importance they bring to the streetscape. In order for these public spaces to maintain their ease of access and beautiful appearance is to ensure that the trees remain healthy.

The recent renovation project that took place in this district required a group of visionaries which included landscape architects and urban planners and designers who had great plans for this space to create an attractive pedestrian environment. “This is a very special place in Canada with the largest collection of heritage-style architecture, but at one point in time, it was a very isolated place before major changes were made,” said the landscape architect.

The Planning Partnership was heavily involved in the renovation project, especially when the major scope of the project shifted its focus to creating stabilized slopes to the streetscape and planting on brick-lined pedestrian walkways. “Throughout the planning process, we conducted extensive soil and water tests to ensure that the trees being planted would have enough oxygen to survive and grow,” said Michael Ormston-Holloway of The Planning Partnership. “We really wanted to look at what failed in the past, such as high water tables and issues with oxygen, which caused soil compaction and standing water that were not good for tree growth.”

Issues of soil compaction were a major concern especially for the three tree pits and 15 trees that were planted at the Distillery District, which is why the ArborSystem was used for this project. “We wanted to do a good job of armoring the soil to prevent issues of soil compaction that can happen over time, especially near vehicular routes,” Ormston-Holloway explained. “It’s always a big goal to maximize the soil volume for tree root growth, and that’s exactly why we chose to work with the ArborSystem.”

The ArborSystem provided the strength to protect the trees and withstand motor or pedestrian activity on the surface, especially since the trees were planted in close proximity to vehicular routes. Throughout the project planning, there were also concerns among clients to meet H20 Loading and AASHTO standards, which further addressed why the strength provided by the StrataCell made this a beneficial choice. “About 800 StrataCell modules were used, ” explained John Badali of Islington Nurseries. “It’s a really quick snap together system,” he continued.