City BuildingRyerson

Universities and the Urban Public Realm

By November 29, 2018 No Comments

Ryerson University is bordered by Yonge Street, and its campus and students play an active role in the life of the street. Because the infrastructure beneath Yonge is in need of an upgrade, Toronto will soon face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink the street at surface level, improving downtown Yonge’s public realm for residents, workers, students and visitors.

As Yonge Street is outside our front door, we at the Ryerson City Building Institute have taken a keen interest in the proposal to redesign downtown Yonge. Seeking to understand the benefits of a redesigned Yonge to Ryerson University, and support its participation in the municipal redesign process, we partnered with Dr. Zhixi Zhuang to produce a case study analysis: Can Ryerson Benefit from a Better Yonge Street?

Read the full report | Download

The answer to that question — if you hadn’t already guessed — is yes.

“We found that [street redesigns] offer universities many benefits, for example Improved safety and street life, healthier environments, better mobility options, increased opportunities for inclusion, deepened campus and city integrations, and stronger institutional identities,” says Dr. Zhuang.

By looking to other examples where public realm transformations have improved campus life, Ryerson can gain insight into the potential benefits of a redesigned Downtown Yonge Street. This new report offers case studies of Portland State University, McGill University, Philadelphia University, University of Toronto and Vancouver’s Robson Square.

The Downtown Yonge Street corridor is the most iconic main street landmark of Toronto, fuelled by intense commercial activities and traffic flows. What should not be overlooked is its promising potential to serve as an “outdoor living room” of the city that will provide people from all walks of life with important social and cultural spaces beyond its economic and transportation functions … where [people] can enjoy vibrant city life.

The findings from these case studies demonstrate how a pedestrian-priority revitalization of the Downtown Yonge Street corridor could benefit Ryerson’s campus and public life, and the neighbourhood as a whole. By recognizing and responding to these findings, Downtown Yonge Street and Ryerson University will be well positioned for success.

To learn more, read the report and watch our latest video, part of our Citycast series, produced by Shay Alford.

Further Reading
  • Visit, a project of the Downtown Yonge BIA
  • Watch our videos about Yonge Street and the potential to pedestrianize between Shuter and Wellesley Sts.