In early August, Mayor John Tory, and Trinity-Spadina councillor Joe Cressey along with senior planning officials from the City of Toronto, proposed a 21-acre rail deck park, proposed to be situated above the downtown rail corridor, between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way[i].
The Rail Deck park, was prompted by the unprecedented growth of the downtown core from 954 people some twenty odd years ago to a staggering 50,000 residents living within the core[ii]. Unfortunately, the availability of park space has not kept pace with this unprecedented growth and the increase in population in the next 25 years will only continue to compound the issue.
This rail deck corridor is based on the findings of a City of Toronto assessment focused on the availability of parkland in the downtown core, as well as an outcome of the larger initiatives of the TOCore project which is focused on addressing growth in the downtown.
One important point of note is the estimated price tag of $1.05 billion[iii], which has already been the point of much debate and contention, both within city council and amongst everyday Torontonians.
The Toronto Rail Deck Park will provide the downtown core with much needed parkland. It will impact the way in which people commute and move through the downtown, as well as alter recreation within those urban neighbourhoods.
This large scale also provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to impact and define the built form of the downtown core and create a legacy of environmental stewardship for future generations.
On Sept. 22nd, the proposal for "Toronto's Central Park" came before Mayor John Tory's executive committee. Following the presentation, Mayor Tory pledged $2.4 million for planning and design work on the Rail Deck[vii]. Following this major milestone, the city now has to acquire the air rights to the space above the rail corridor and proceed to raise the remainder of the estimated $1.05 billion needed to build the park. There may also be a need for a re-zoning of the space, so that the regulatory policies and laws around the space and air rights can be suitable to a creation of parkspace.
If you’re interested in having your say and shaping the development and planning in downtown, share your advice, comments and input using the hashtag #DTadvice on Twitter.
Additional information and details on the project can be found on the City of Toronto’s Rail Deck Park Plan, newsroom page, found here http://bit.ly/2atCJ4V. As well as a selection of preliminary maps, images and concepts for the park, found here http://bit.ly/2f9tybE
Champa Maduranayagam, is in her final year of studying Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. She graduated with an Honour’s Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto, in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies. She has also completed a post-graduate certificate in Aboriginal Addictions Counselling, from Calgary, Alberta. She is currently developing a startup around Emergency Response Planning, with the aid of the Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University. Connect with her on Twitter @ChampaMadu