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Six Projects Carving Out Green Space in Unexpected Locations

These new parks are cutting down the concrete jungle

By Stefan Novakovic

Feeling the squeeze? After decades of non-stop construction, Toronto’s skyline is a sea of towers and very little green space. Our dearth of parkland is felt most acutely at street level — particularly downtown. The solution? A surprising new generation of public projects springing up in the margins of the urban grid.

Green Space - Union Park

Right on Track

At The Bentway, park life thrives under an expressway. So why not above, on a railway corridor? Enter Rail Deck Park, a City of Toronto plan for an 8.5-hectare oasis on the tracks between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way. A marquee civic priority, the project is undergoing a lengthy planning and financing process. In the meantime, Hines’s CIBC Square tests the concept on a smaller scale, with a commons — designed by Public Work — already under construction above the rails separating CIBC’s future office towers at Front and Bay. North of the Rogers Centre, Oxford Properties’ recently announced Union Park (shown) also pairs skyscrapers with a tracks-topping green space designed by Houston-based OJB Landscape Architecture. All in, we can look forward to almost 10 hectares of new green space in the core. TORONTO.CA; PUBLICWORK.CA; OJB.COM

King Street Parkette

King Street Parklets

From the Financial District to Roy Thomson Hall to TIFF Bell Lightbox and a wealth of theatres and bars, bustling King Street cuts through the heart of the city. It also plays home to the busiest surface transit route in Toronto — the 504 King streetcar — and an eye-catching collection of new parklets. With the pilot project that mitigates car traffic recently made permanent, a series of temporary and two durable parklets now meet the sidewalk with playful hangout spaces. Our favourites include the playful Face to Face/Tête à Tête installation by PLANT Architect Inc., a striking two-toned space that frames a casual patio with new planters, creating a sense of insulation from the busy street. BRANCHPLANT.COM

Green Space - Agincourt Mall

Las Ramblas in Scarborough

Malls may be dying, but Scarborough’s Agincourt Mall is being reborn. A bold redevelopment will transform the staid suburban plaza with high-rise density and a pedestrian-first public realm. Masterplanned by Giannone Petricone Associates for North American Development Group, the plan envisions some 5,000 residential units, paired with a big box store (a new Walmart) and fine-grained urban retail. Designed by Janet Rosenberg & Studio, the landscape scheme calls for two new public parks alongside a generous retail-lined, extra-wide sidewalk — inspired by no less than Barcelona’s Las Ramblas — to replace what’s now a surface parking lot. GPAIA.COM; JRSTUDIO.CA

Toronto green space

Alley Cat

Just west of Spadina, two highly anticipated developments — The Well and King Toronto — are poised to reshape the city. Between them? A former nightclub. But not for long: a playful linear park called The Cats is in the works.

The new green space draws inspiration from the unofficial mascot of nearby Draper Street: a plump orange and white feline named Dizzy, who, as any neighbourhood fixture would, kept watch over the area for more than a decade. Dizzy — who, sadly, died last year — will be immortalized with two kitty-shaped statues that will bookend the park, becoming the community ambassador once more.

The landscape design is by Claude Cormier + Associés, and the park will complement his dog statue–ringed fountain at the popular Berczy Park, located on the East End. The canines can have that; the West End belongs to cats. CLAUDECORMIER.COM

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