Toronto, for a long time now, has had a need to revamp and create more green space for its residents. Since its real-estate boom began in the early 2000’s, the City has raked in and sat on a pile of development charges earmarked for public-amenities and greenspace.
In some circles, the amount of funds in the reserve was suggested to be as high as 248 million in 2015, only growing since then. This gathering of wealth has been made possible by the Section 42 mechanism in Ontario’s Planning Act, a tool put in place by the Province to help cities develop more greenspace for their ever-growing communities.
While Section 42 has proven to be successful in creating more parkland, many neighbourhoods have yet to see any drastic change. Such is the reality in Toronto, our rapidly expanding metropolis, where communities and land are becoming more dense and expensive to acquire by the day. But the invaluable benefit of what public amenity space provides for a community should not be avoided just because of the expensive initial cost of land acquisition. With the growing prosperity in Toronto’s development industry, the City should make these essential social investments that are vital for shaping a more complete city, one community at a time. This exact situation has been most apparent in Toronto’s Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina. There, residents who live in densely packed condo units rely on scarce public amenities for enjoyment. Those community members frequenting parkland in Toronto because they don’t have recreational space of their own would certainly agree.
The Coming Green Wave
Thankfully, it seems that the tune of scarce greenspace is beginning to change in Ward 20. Starting in late 2015, it was announced that the area under the Gardiner Expressway would be getting some much needed T.L.C. from a generous $25 Million private donation. It was reported that just after the news broke, you could feel a breeze of anticipation coming from the sighs of densely packed residents from Ward 20 at the prospect of an urban oasis on their hands. This project, labelled as “the Bentway,” will act as a place for Torontonians to laugh, play and come together. It promises to be a well-designed, colourful space and include parkland that will connect two sides of the city that have been segmented for far too long.
The Green Wave has only increased its momentum in Ward 20 since, with the City of Toronto’s recent statement of intention to procure, design and develop two vitally important new green spaces. The first is an expensive plot of land at John and Richmond in an area that has seen limited parkland built and vast amounts of development infilled for more than a decade. The second, a project branded as “the Rail Deck,” championed by Mayor Tory who just this past month made clear his intention to acquire, plan and develop a 21-acre green space atop the rail lands between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way. Tory’s ambitious vision for the space aims to supply local residents an amenity space that has the possibility to become a jewel to the surrounding community. The space, which will be built over rail lands, will prove to be somewhat of an engineering marvel and has the potential to rival Chicago’s Millennium Park, a greenspace with a similar scale. Cue the strengthening breeze from the Ward 20 residents.
What Ward 20 moving towards livability in spite of its expensiveness means is that the City of Toronto appears to be committing to building communities the right way, with inclusivity, variety and vitality front and centre. For such a dense and quickly growing area, these public living rooms and backyards are essential for creating a community where people can enjoy being. With its Green Wave, Trinity-Spadina has taken a leading role in greenspace acquisition, but there are plenty of other underserved neighbourhoods in Toronto that are in desperate need of some green. The City of Toronto has more than enough of one type, it must continue the Ward 20 initiated Green Wave toward developing more of the other.
So, do the recently proposed plans for new green space in Ward 20 satisfy your desire, or is there still room in Toronto for more public amenity space within its underserved communities?