One week until the DIALOG Design Residency

One week until the DIALOG Design Residency

The DIALOG Design Residency in Honour of Tom Sutherland is an annual event hosted by a different DIALOG studio each year. A cohort of students from a variety of disciplines and cities participate in a three-day workshop to identify and address a community issue. In a week’s time, nine students from eight different Canadian universities will join us in our Toronto studio for the 2019 Design Residency, February 19-22.

This year’s challenge takes a closer look at municipal golf courses. Read on to learn about the issue the students will confront over the residency’s four days. At the end of the week, the students will present their findings to a panel of external experts. We’ll share what happened in a future blogpost.

National Context: Shifting Demands and Recreational Tastes

Golf courses punctuate the built fabric of cities, suburbs, towns, and countryside. Once seen as recreation only for the upper classes, golf grew dramatically in popularity through the 20th century and early parts of the 21st century as a recreation of the middle class. However, since the early 2000s the number of regular golfers in North America has declined steadily.

People point to range of factors for this decline. One is financial—people generally have less disposable income as living costs have increased. Another is time—it typically takes 5+ hours to play 18 holes of golf. As participation rates decline and the demand for golf wanes, courses across North American continue to close at a steady rate. Considering the average 18-hole golf course occupies about 150 acres, there is now a tremendous opportunity to provide new uses on these sites, particularly in urban and suburban areas.

Local Context: Municipal Courses Struggling

Locally, the City of Toronto owns seven golf courses, two of which it leases out, while operating the other five courses as pay-per-use recreational amenities. Like other courses around the country, the five municipal courses are struggling financially. To remain viable, it is estimated that close to $20 million in investment will be required to improve facilities at the City courses.[1]

Several of the municipal courses are in highly urbanized areas that have excellent access to public transit, residential and employment options, and commercial services. Many of these courses also include watercourses that provide habitat for plants and animals and strengthen the ecological diversity of the city, while serving a storm-water management function during extreme storm events.

Site Context: Dentonia Park Golf Course

Dentonia Park Golf Course is in Scarborough, a former municipality within the City of Toronto. The site is approximately 32 acres and is primarily developed and utilized as an 18-hole golf course. Taylor-Massey Creek runs through the site. It is a tributary of the Don River, another important waterway in the region.

The site is adjacent to a mix of apartment buildings, single-family homes, and open spaces related to the Taylor-Massey Creek watershed. The site can be accessed by the adjacent TTC subway station (Victoria Park Station), or by Victoria Park Avenue or Pharmacy Avenue.

  • North: north of the site is a mix of low-density single-family housing.
  • East: the Massey Creek continues east of the site, it is densely vegetated and includes a multi-use trail alongside. There are also three apartment buildings to the northeast of the site on the other side of Pharmacy Ave.
  • South: there are four high-rise apartment buildings that share a property lot line with the site along its southern edge. Also adjacent to the south is a TTC subway line
  • and Victoria Park station. A little further south is located Danforth Avenue, which is a mixed-use and commercial street.
  • West: on the side of Victoria Park Ave. is located a complex of several high and low-rise apartment buildings. Massey Creek and its related green space also continues westward to the Don River.

Design Challenge

Given the waning demand for golf facilities, and mounting urban development pressures in Toronto, could Dentonia Park Golf Course be re-purposed to provide a broader range of recreational opportunities and address pressing needs related to housing affordability, newcomer+refugee settlement, community well-being, and climate change resilience.

The Design Residency cohort will respond to this challenge, seeking design solutions to:

  • Enhance ecological diversity and climate change resiliency
  • Support community well-being and health lifestyles
  • Provide for more affordable housing

We’ll share the Design Residency’s response to this challenge in a future blog post. To learn more about the DIALOG Design Residency in Honour of Tom Sutherland, visit

Any questions? Contact us:
Michael Matthys, Urban Planner


[1] City Staff Report “Future Options for City Operated Golf Courses”, December 22, 2017

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