Design Jam brings new ideas for Downsview airport lands

High school students from across the GTA gathered this weekend for this year’s 1UP Conference, with a task of brainstorming and prototyping designs for the Downsview airport lands.
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Design Jam brings new ideas for Downsview Airport Lands
Seventy high school students from across the GTA gathered this weekend for this year's 1UP Conference. Sunday’s challenge was to brainstorm and prototype design solutions for the Downsview airport lands. Lexy Benedict reports – Mar 25, 2024

Seventy students put their heads together over the weekend to come up with a new use for the Downsview airport lands.

The two-day Design Jam was to allow high school students the opportunity to get more involved in city building. The event was held by Urban Minds, a local non-profit with a mission to create meaningful ways for youth to shape equitable and sustainable cities, to have teens come together to brainstorm, design, prototype and present design solutions for the site.

Partnering in this project was Northcrest Developments, the lead for planning and redeveloping the 370-acre piece of land.

“We’re redeveloping and making communities, and housing, that will come to life in the next 20 to 30 years,” Alana Mercury with Northcrest Developments said on Sunday. “This land is where the airport formerly operated out of, before permanently closing earlier this year.”

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Urban Minds hosted the Design Jam at this year’s 1UP Conference.

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“This year’s theme is ‘thrive,’ so we are focusing on how young people, old people and anyone can enjoy public spaces inside and outside,” said Angela Ng with Urban Minds.

The theme is meant to represent the dialogue between youth and city builders about how to use spaces and improve the well-being of old and young residents.

The task: create a design that will help the community thrive, play and explore the open runway — literally.

“So now we have given them the challenge of what kind of activities will people want to see, experience, and do on our site to bring people to our lands ahead of redevelopment,” Mercury said.

For students participating, there was excitement in seeing what their peers would come up with.

“Expecting to see things like accessibility, inclusivity and diverse ideas when it comes to the arts, or even helping the community become more sustainable as a whole,” student Audy Noor said.

But most importantly, Sunday’s event allowed students to feel like they can make a difference.

“Us youth don’t have as many opportunities as we would like to get involved in the city building sector as early on, so these opportunities to be able to do that is really liberating,” Noor said.

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Daniel Sun said that “when you are designing public spaces and parks, having youth opinions are really important to understand what is needed in those public spaces and parks.”

While the Downsview airport lands redevelopment still has a long road ahead, organizers say they hope students feel empowered in having their voices heard with a chance to see their ideas come to life.

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