Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto outlined the next steps for Rail Deck Park in a recent release, announcing that they are “advancing the work required for a new planning framework.”
That means the City is developing an implementation strategy to figure out the best way to design, fund, and build the 21-acre Rail Deck Park that will occupy currently unused airspace above the track between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way.
“There is a significant park deficiency in the downtown, where 75% of parks are less than half a hectare, and where we are seeing a significant amount of growth. In order to ensure we are creating complete communities, we need to respond to the park deficiency that exists today,” says Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. “The rail corridor is the last opportunity to secure 21 acres of contiguous space. This is a once in a generation opportunity.”
Bordered by the Entertainment District, King West, Fort York, and the Harbourfront, Rail Deck Park would serve as a cultural hub, recreation zone, and green thoroughfare for residents, working professionals, and tourists.
Tory recently welcomed panellists participating in the “Super Park Panel – From High Line to Millennium Park: How Major Parks Transform the Urban Experience” at the Electric Cities Symposium by the Urban Land Institute Toronto (ULI).
“Rail Deck Park will create an ambitious new public space for the people of Toronto and our visitors,” says Tory. “It is important to look to other cities where such visions have been brought to fruition through hard work and unique partnerships and where they have resulted in meaningful and important new public space.”
Exploring potential strategic partnerships is part of the implementation strategy. The City will be looking for community and corporate partners to be involved in the development and funding. The strategy also entails a financial analysis including preliminary costs and potential funding sources. A real estate analysis and engineering and structural assessments are part of the plan, too.
“As our city grows, we must focus on building communities that are vibrant, sustainable, and livable,” says Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity Spadina). “We must be bold and forward-looking in our city-building agenda and continue to create the city where all people can choose to live, work and play, now and for future generations.”
There are 250,000 people living in downtown Toronto. During the day, the population increases to 830,000! By 2041, it is estimated that the population will reach 475,000. We need to start thinking differently about how people interact with urban space if we want to accommodate the growth.
“Today’s international panel of modern, urban public realm projects provides a different lens on Toronto’s consideration of Rail Deck Park,” said Richard Joy, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute’s Toronto District Council, on the day of the panel. “Such projects can serve more than providing civic open space; they can become essential economic generators.”
The next update on the planning framework is scheduled to be released by June 13th, and the official plan for Rail Deck Park should be unveiled this fall. We can’t wait to hear more about the exciting project!