Toronto’s Laneway Project By Ariana Cancelli And Michelle Senayah

Laneways tend to be neglected spaces (areas that we pass through only if we have to and don’t give them much thought), but Toronto has over 2,400 laneways (showcased in the map below, created by Tom Weatherburn), which amount to over 250 kilometers of public space.

In a city undergoing a period of intense densification, this results in a huge opportunity to transform these untapped areas into inviting and vibrant public spaces. The Laneway Project, lead by project managers Ariana Cancelli (an urban planner and engagement specialist), and Michelle Senayah (an architectural and urban designer), is an initiative aiming to do just that.






Cancelli and Senayah believe that by empowering and supporting communities, initiating demonstration projects and working with the City and other stakeholders, laneways can be transformed to provide:

1. Increased walkability and connectivity
2. New venues for community events and entertainment
3. Increased space for informal physical activity
4. New public and green spaces close to home
5. A canvas for public art and interventions
6. Unique destinations
7. Patios
8. Pop-up shops and micro-business opportunities

The Laneway Project has selected two spaces to undertake pilot projects in 2015. Their role is to facilitate a process of community engagement, and to develop and implement a vision for the transformation of these areas.





Reggae Lane, near Eglinton and Dufferin, is located in an area with busy streets and very little public space. It’s shared by local businesses on the north side and residents on the south side. The project managers will work with the York-Eglinton BIA to create a place that can play host to events and community gatherings, and offer respite from the traffic for pedestrians.

If you have experiences with, or have ideas for this space, you can share them with The Laneway Project organizers.





The quiet, residential CCBG Laneway on Queen West is already used by residents as a space for gathering, dog-walking and community gardening. The Laneway Project is partnering with the CCBG Working Group to create a more beautiful, safe, and vibrant place for the community to enjoy. Contribute to this project here.

Laneways offer unique opportunities as amenity spaces  - while they’re still shared space within the public realm, they feel a bit more private, somewhere where resident can still feel some sense of ownership and agency within. When transformed, they feel like little hidden treasures to stumble across, adding to the richness of a city’s urban fabric.

Graffiti Alley (also known as the alley where Rick Mercer rants and rages over various issues) runs just south of Queen, between Spadina and Bathurst, and is a great example of a neglected space that visitors now seek out!



All photos courtesy of The Laneway Project


It will be exciting to watch these projects as they take shape in inciting similar projects in Toronto’s vast network of laneway spaces. Whether or not laneway housing in Toronto gets a green light, seeing projects addressing the role these spaces play in our communities is certainly a step in the right direction. The Laneway Project’s website provides some great information and resources, so give it a browse!

Love Laneways? Take a look at other posts on the topic:

Brennan Guse on Lanefab Design/Build's structures and Kristine Krynitzki on SmallWorks in Vancouver

Ulama Hassan's coverage of Studio Junction's transformation of a concrete block structure on a Toronto Laneway into an inviting courtyard house, Taghreed Al-Zubaidi's Jones Avenue Laneway House by Sustainable.TO, and Josh Patlik's round-up of laneway homes across the country


Researched and written by Miranda Corcoran, currently studying Industrial Design and Digital Media at OCAD University.

Posted In: Ontario

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