A screenshot of a post on The Sidewalk Files.
We could have sworn sidewalk construction was just a mildly disruptive thing that happens every now and then, but it turns out it’s actually a carefully coordinated sculptural collaboration between awesome, friendly guys in day-glo vests. Credit this epiphany to The Sidewalk Files, a pop-up blog by staff at Urbanspace Property Group, a company that owns and manages an office building at 401 Richmond Street.
Urbanspace spokesperson Erin MacKeen says her organization spent eight years waiting for the City to deliver a new sidewalk along the stretch of Richmond Street north of the building, from Peter Street to Spadina Avenue, to replace the makeshift concrete barriers that had been placed there in the interim. The lack of pedestrian space created a potentially dangerous situation for 401 Richmond Street tenants and passers-by alike; that part of Richmond Street is a busy, one-way, three-lane thoroughfare.
In October, the City finally came through. Whereas most property owners would have been satisfied to allow the construction simply to unfold, Urbanspace took the unusual step of creating The Sidewalk Files to document the whole process in photos and text.
“We did it as part of the living history of the building,” says MacKeen, “because it’s a pretty big transformation for us, just in terms of the building and our relationship to Richmond Street. So why not share it? Especially with our tenants.” (When MacKeen speaks of “living history,” she’s alluding to 401 Richmond’s past: more than just an ordinary office building, it’s a repurposed turn-of-the-century lithography plant with its own spot on the City’s list of designated heritage properties.)
The Sidewalk Files has simple descriptions of some of the techniques involved in laying sidewalk (thanks to those, we now know what “truck poo” is—a bit of knowledge for which we will be forever grateful), but the best part is that all the day-glo vest dudes seem pretty amused by the prospect of local internet celebrity.
“They’re very keen on having their pictures taken. I think they’re enjoying the process,” MacKeen says. “I don’t think people engage with them that way very much. They’re just sort of the invisible worker out there.”
Visit The Sidewalk Files here.