Downsview Airport: A Tale of Aviation History and Urban Renewal

Downsview Airport, located in North York, Toronto, Canada, boasts a significant historical and operational background. It has played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s aviation history for nearly a century.

Facts About Downsview Airport

The Downsview Airport, nestled in the heart of Toronto, Canada, carries with it a storied history and a transformative future. Here are some fascinating facts about Downsview Airport that show how it evolved and impacts the community.

1. Historical Roots

Downsview Airport’s historical roots lie in its establishment as Downsview Airfield in 1929. It serves as a pivotal center for general aviation and aircraft testing by de Havilland Canada.

The airport’s close proximity to the de Havilland manufacturing plant made it an ideal location for testing and developing aircraft. Over the years, it has played a significant role in the advancement of aviation technology, making it a key part of Canada’s aviation history.

2. World War II Transformation

During World War II, the airport underwent a significant transformation. The Royal Canadian Air Force expanded its facilities, underscoring its strategic importance during the wartime era.

RCAF Station Downsview became a hub for military aircraft production, maintenance, and training. The airport saw the construction of new hangars, runways, and support buildings to accommodate the increased activity.

It played a crucial role in training pilots, producing aircraft, and supporting the war effort in Canada.

3. Transition to Civil Aviation

In 1939, the Downsview Airfield underwent a transformation and became known as the Downsview Airport. This airport was unique because it shared its space with the de Havilland Canada manufacturing plant. As a result, aircraft production became an important defining characteristic of the airport’s identity.

4. Military Presence

In 1968, the airport was renamed Canadian Forces Base Toronto (Downsview) and continued its military operations until its closure in 1996. During its active military years, the base served as a vital facility for serving the diverse needs of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Its strategic location and robust infrastructure allowed it to play a pivotal role in supporting various military operations. The base’s contributions to the Canadian Armed Forces were essential in bolstering the country’s defense capabilities and ensuring the safety of all Canadians.

5. Dual Management

After the airport’s military use ended, it was co-managed by both Parc Downsview Park and Bombardier Aerospace. This partnership marked a transition from military to civilian and commercial activities.

6. Bombardier Aerospace’s Presence

Bombardier Aerospace had a significant role in the operations of Downsview Airport. The company owned 12 hangars for aircraft assembly, including some of its most famous aircraft, such as the Dash 8, Bombardier Global Express, and Bombardier Global 5000.

7. Closure Announcement

This airport is scheduled to close in 2023 following its sale to PSP Investments. As a result, the airport’s history underwent a significant change, with implications for the nearby Downsview Park.

8. Downsview Park Redevelopment

The closure of Downsview Airport is part of an extensive Downsview Park redevelopment project that seeks to transform the region into a thriving community. Among the project’s features are new park spaces, housing, and a community center.

9. Community Focus

In the course of the development project, a wide range of stakeholders, including Indigenous rights holders, are involved.

As a result of this inclusive approach, community input plays a major role in the decision-making process, fostering a sense of ownership and authenticity. This reflects a commitment to creating a vibrant and inclusive community.

10. Long-Term Vision

The Downsview project is expected to take thirty years to complete, emphasizing the need for a patient and thorough approach to repurposing the former airport lands. It will include a mix of non-residential and residential areas, transportation infrastructure, parks, and other amenities.

11. Planning and Construction

According to the project’s timeline, approval of the Secondary Plan is expected in the first half of 2024. Subsequently, construction is scheduled to commence in 2025 as part of the Downsview Park redevelopment project.

12. Community Benefits

The redevelopment project is not only focused on the construction of buildings but also emphasizes the importance of the spaces between the buildings. As a result of the redevelopment of Downsview Airport, the community will benefit in the following ways:

Affordable housing: As part of the redevelopment plan, the airport aims to provide affordable housing options for residents.

Accessible public spaces: The project emphasizes the importance of accessible public spaces, such as parks and recreational areas, to enhance the quality of life for the community.

Commitment to fostering a sense of community: The airport’s dedication to community development is evident in its emphasis on creating spaces that encourage social interaction and connectivity among residents.

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