The inaugural NXT City Prize has selected the winning idea for visionary public space improvements in Toronto. The finalists were announced August 14 at NXT City Night, an outdoor awards ceremony hosted by prize founder and local urban strategy studio Distl.
Over 500 people attended the event, which transformed a downtown parking lot into a vibrant public space. Modular seating and tables, lush trees, a marketplace, gallery space, drinks and food trucks created a night market atmosphere. Notable guests, including mayoral candidates John Tory, Olivia Chow and David Soknacki, were also in attendance.
Richard Valenzona took home the grand prize of $5,000 for his vision YONGE REDUX, a proposal to pedestrianize the Yonge Street corridor between Queen St. and College St. He’ll also have access to seed funding up to $10,000 and work with a team of industry mentors to help him implement the project.
“Being the recipient of this year's NXT City Prize is a huge honour and very humbling,” said Valenzona, whose interest in Yonge Street stemmed from his graduate research into public street improvements. “I hope YONGE REDUX sets a precedent for how we view our streets in Toronto. We need to start considering streets as public spaces, rather than just vehicular thoroughfares.”
“The winner of this inaugural competition presented a well-resolved, thoughtful submission,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner of the City of Toronto, who led the judging panel. “Really, it is an idea whose time has come for Yonge Street.
“NXT City Prize has sparked the imagination of a whole new generation of city builders who are eager to help transform this city as it continues to grow and evolve into a global city,” said Justin Leclair, Partner at Distl. “It only makes sense to engage young people in decisions that affect them so directly.”
Two runner-up prizes of $2,500 each were also awarded. The Most Visionary Idea was presented to Seven Xiru Chen for Interchange Park, a proposal to reprogram underutilized land around the 401 and Allen Road interchange. The Best Submission, Under 18 was presented to Gloria Zhou, Ananna Rafa, Ezana Michael, and Maria Kashif for New Visions for Old Paths, a proposal to improve wayfinding and enhance safety in their neighbourhood through colourful ground mosaics.
A special People’s Choice award, selected by the entry with the most number of “likes” on Facebook, was presented to Ryan Lo and Angela Ng for Urban Interplay, a playful installation that uses wooden pallets to create a flexible, interactive and inclusive space, complete with swings and seating.
ABOUT NXT CITY PRIZE
Imagined by urban strategy studio Distl, in partnership with the City of Toronto, Loop: Design for Social Good and Gen Y Inc., the NXT City Prize invites young people under 30 to submit creative and innovative ideas to improve public spaces across the city. More than 120 submissions were received from people under 30 across Ontario.
2014 NXT City Prize Winner
YONGE-REDUX A New Vision of Yonge Street
Expanding pedestrian access and transforming the street’s visual appearance are just a few of the innovative ways that YONGE-REDUX proposes to improve the Yonge Street corridor, making the street more people-, business- and tourist-friendly.
Most Visionary Idea
Seven Xiru Chen
Highway interchanges occupy a large portion of city land. Interchange Park proposes to re-program the underutilized land around the 401 and Allen Rd into a more meaningful place for ecology and public use.
Best Submission, Under 18
New Visions For Old Paths
Gloria Zhou, Ananna Rafa, Ezana Michael, Maria Kashif
This project proposes three tiled ground mosaics in an area that lacks a clear identity. It aims to improve wayfinding, enhance safety and bring the community together through art, while also better defining the space.
People’s Choice Award
Ryan Lo, Angela Ng
Urban Interplay transforms a parking lot with wooden pallets to create a flexible, inclusive and interactive space, complete with swings, event space and sound installations.
Download high-resolution images of the NXT City Night awards ceremony at
Download high-resolution images of the winning entries at