Beyond Galleria Mall

"Thanks for coming to this beautiful parking lot on this beautiful, sunny day in Toronto. Shari Kasman is speaking into.

“Thanks for coming to this beautiful parking lot on this beautiful, sunny day in Toronto.

Shari Kasman is speaking into a red-and-white megaphone. And its not sunny at all. Its a drizzly May 6 Saturday afternoon outside the Galleria Mall at Dufferin and Dupont.

Kasman, a local artist and author, is starting her latest guided tour, Parking Lots & Parking Spots: Galleria Mall & Beyond. Its one of nearly 180 that took place last weekend in Toronto as part of the annual Janes Walk festival, named for the late urban activist Jane Jacobs.

While other local Janes Walks explore the historic aspects of the city, this tour is dedicated to the unglamorous and utilitarian: where Torontonians in a small pocket of the west end park from the perspective of a non-expert, Kasman tells NOW ahead of the event, making it clear this tour is no joke.

She may not be a parking authority, but Kasman, who already has two other Galleria-based Janes Walks under her belt, has been busy reading up on the subject for the past few weeks.

To prepare, she consulted Donald C. Shoups seminal work, The High Cost Of Free Parking or the bible for parking lots, as Kasman puts it. She also thumbed through ReThinking A Lot: The Design And Culture Of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph and tuned in to podcasts on the subject.

The amateur tour guides research is apparent during the hour-and-a-half-long walk. [A surface parking lot] contributes to the urban heat island effect, Kasman points out to the dozen whove braved the cold to come along. Concrete absorbs a lot of heat, she explains, so itd be a good place to get a tan.

Kasman tells us of a 1982 report from the citys planning department that considered ways to make better use of sprawling lots, including Gallerias roughly 700-spot car park.

After the mall was built, the city realized that this parking lot was a waste of space, so they did a study, she says, citing the Housing On Shopping Plaza Sites report. Now builders ELAD Canada and Freed Developments are proposing an 11-tower mixed-use condo development for the Galleria that would remake this relic from 1972, as well as the area around it.

The neighbourhood has been slowly changing, as evidenced by other stops on the tour. They include a jaunt to a nearby laneway and Wallace Emerson Skatepark. Artist Dyan Maries easily overlooked Walk Here, scattered stainless-steel inlays of childrens stick-figure doodles, lie in a pathway underfoot.

You dont normally look outside your line of sight. Thats what Janes Walks are about, says Kasman.

From Emerson, the tour heads along Dupont toward Geary, where a fish market sits opposite a brewery, and auto-repair shops arent far from after-hours venues. The street is one of the favourites among Janes walkers.

Geary is always interesting to watch develop, says Nicole Dufoe, who grew up in the area and has come on the tour with her dad, David. The whole area was just completely industrial when I was a kid.

Why parking, though? Kasman admits, Someone told me recently that I pay attention to unusual things. It stems from her small obsession with Galleria Mall and the need for yet another excuse to explore the shopping centre before its gone.

But in the developers plans, Kasman sees potential for future episodes of Galleria Janes Walk With Shari Kasman. | @nowtoronto

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