What’s All the Buzz About?
Oxford was abuzz in 2017 as we welcomed our newest tenants at our office and retail properties in Toronto, Richmond Hill, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. Understanding the decline in bee populations, we recognized that our urban locations, rooftop availability and close proximity to parks and urban agriculture made a perfect home for the bees. Did you know that bees now have a better chance of thriving in our cities than in the country because of this?
Through the summer months, we launched our hives with customer engagement opportunities through lobby events including honey sampling and general information on the fascinating and complex world inside a hive.
The hives started with approximately 10,000 bees in the summer and grew to almost 50,000 (or more) at each property by the fall. We were able to produce over 150 kilograms of honey through our successful hives. We shared our first batch of “Oxford Honey” with our customers, who have grown to love our bees!
We plan to increase the number of hives and locations in 2018. Until then, let us keep buzzing…!
Video Link: Hillcrest Mall Beehive Initiative
2017 NXT City Prize
The 2017 NXT City Prize, presented for the third year in a row by Oxford, awards people under 35 for their big ideas to help inspire, create and activate Toronto’s public spaces. It also provides a platform to connect these young leaders with city builders to help bring these activations to life. The winners were announced on November 28th.
New this year were site specific categories for entries including: Wellington Destructor Site, the Liberty Market Galleria, The Bentway and Civic Tech. Winners received $5,000 in prize money to make their vision become reality.
This year’s prizes were awarded to:
- Wellington Destructor Site – Global Seed Vault by Suzan Ibrahim and Richard Lam. The Global Seed Vault would contain, protect and preserve an extensive variety of seeds from around the world. The site would also be open to the public to enjoy the collection of plants.
- Liberty Market Galleria – Liberty Lights by Daniel Watchorn, Yasmin Afshar, Christina Glass and Eunice Yong. Liberty Lights would create a bustling locale which both residents and visitors are drawn to. Light has the power to attract, invite, illuminate, shine, heal and make things new. By using light, the space can be transformed into a vibrant and dynamic beacon of Liberty Village.
- Civic Tech – Public Space Permits by Lucas DeClavasio and Andrew Patterson, co-owners of local design agency Wysp Creative. Public Space Permits is a mobile app that allows people to reserve and pay for permits for Toronto’s public spaces all in one spot, thus reducing the long and tedious existing process.
Oxford is proud to partner again with NXT City, and help support tomorrow’s city builders, customers and partners.
Meanwhile, Oxford is making its own waves in connecting office workers to public space. Whether it’s our recent extension of the PATH to Toronto’s waterfront, or connecting the occupants of our office buildings to surrounding public spaces through health and wellness events, we too are helping to create what’s NXT for Toronto.
Visiting Peru with Oxford’s Volunteer Sponsorship Program
Through Oxford’s Volunteer Sponsorship Program, Meghan Kinney, Senior Manager, Leasing, had the opportunity to volunteer with an after school care program in the Oropesa District of Quispicanchi Province, Peru.
Meghan’s initial reaction upon landing included being both in awe and light-headed, with her resting heart rate near double as she adjusted to the shock of 11,200 feet. Due to flight delays, she missed the recommended day to adapt to her new surroundings and instead was picked up in a flurry of Spanish greetings and honking horns and taken to volunteer headquarters for an immediate program briefing.
After arriving to Picaflor House, Meghan’s worries about travelling to Peru vanished. Greeted by 60 children of all ages, she was pulled in many directions introducing herself to the children. Right away she went to work on preparing lunches for all the children with two Quechua speaking women in a rustic kitchen. Following lunch preparation, she worked with students to read books in Spanish and work on their word association skills. During her experience, she also taught English to the older students, music, art and chess.
Meghan reflects on her time in Oropesa with so much gratitude – for the selflessness it taught her, the creativity it has inspired, and for the new perspective on life.
Creating Places Out of Spaces
Utilizing over 25,000 square feet of pavement, Urban Oasis at Dix30, in Brossard, Quebec, was built in 2017 as a new gathering place to wander, enjoy the moment and partake in activities for all ages. The team at Dix30 thought out of the box and reinvented part of its Avenue des Lumières to increase connectivity between the Square and the Avenue des Lumières through a vibrant and immersive park. In collaboration with Projekroom, an open platform composed of artists, creatives and communicators, the temporary installation was created. The vibrant colour is designed to bring people together and even includes a basketball court, maze and giant game of checkers.
Echoing the high-trend ephemeral public place movement, the Urban Oasis acted as a powerful driver. The goals of the Oasis included: (1) creating a sense of place; (2) incorporating a retailer aspect through the use of local and community pop-ups; (3) providing weekend entertainment; and (4) bringing in activations focused on family activities.
The public flocked to this new venue, making it their own as they enjoyed play areas and amenities (on-site materials reused to create new park benches and chairs and retailer collaborations), open-air concerts, open-sky fitness, cultural and culinary initiatives, and more. More than 60 tenant activations occurred during the summer weekends including the relocation of lululemon’s in-store weekend classes to the Oasis. In addition, the Oasis was always buzzing with Boom FM’s Friday radio show, tai chi, giant games, a reading corner, and various public art attractions and live entertainment bringing crowds in the hundreds on every occasion. In early August, media reach averaged 7M impressions, 295K on Facebook and 205K on Instagram, along with highlights by influential voices. The Oasis also served as the backdrop for media interviews and morning news.
What started as a pilot project in 2017 will continue as a more permanent installation in 2018 and beyond.
Turning Corporate Waste into Change
In the fall of 2017, OMERS consolidated three offices, moving into a shared space within a newly constructed LEED Platinum building. As part of the transition, OMERS partnered with Green Standards and Herman Miller’s rePurpose program to recover usable resources to support 17 Toronto-based non-profits with renewed spaces that they would not have attained otherwise.
When a company empties or renovates an office space, much of the interior assets – supplies, appliances, computers – end up in landfill. This prematurely ends the life cycle of valuable resources and produces greenhouse gases over time. By working with our Circular Economy-inspired program, OMERS was able to repurpose valuable products with a 99% landfill diversion rate on 400+ tons of surplus items. The majority of items – including tables, desks, chairs, shelves, fridges and dishwashers – were either resold, recycled or donated, reducing costs while benefitting the environment and local community groups.
For office supplies, the plan also included donating any extra, unneeded office supplies to an organization in need. Employees were given large bins to collect the donations, which included paper, pens, pencils, markers, unused notepads, paper clips, binders and more.
We donated a total of 23 skids of supplies (approximately 1,500 boxes) to Arts Junktion, a depot for receiving and distributing donated materials and supplies free of charge to Toronto District School Board (TDSB) staff for use in schools, daycares and parenting centres. The purpose is to recycle material that can be used to enrich classroom projects, in-school creations, and visual arts classes, and to support students in the delivery of curriculum using creativity and innovation. We were pleased to have supported this great program while at the same time reducing our waste in the moving process.
Hoarding for Humanity Puts Waste to Good Use
At one time, temporary construction enclosures made of drywall (also known as hoarding) created a lot of waste at our shopping centres. Used to enclose storefronts undergoing renovations, the drywall was not typically re-used after its short useful life. To remedy the problem, Oxford became a leading partner of Hoarding for Humanity. Partnered with Habitat for Humanity Canada, Hoarding for Humanity puts hoarding to use in charitable community building projects.
Oxford has more participating properties and has donated more hoarding than anyone else in the program. To date, Scarborough Town Centre, Square One, Hillcrest Mall, Upper Canada Mall and Oxford Urban Properties have donated more than 113,000 square feet of hoarding. Laid end-to-end, these drywall sheets would reach the height of 16 CN Towers! That's a lot of waste diverted from landfill, and a win-win for all involved.