The Bentway, aka. Under the Gardiner Expressway – Toronto’s new urban oasis
Work is to start in early April to build a 1.75 km-long park under the Gardiner Expressway between Spadina and Strachan Avenues.
It will knit together seven neighbourhoods — Exhibition Place, Liberty Village, Niagara, Fort York Neighbourhood, Bathurst Quay, Wellington Place and CityPlace.
The 10-acre park, to be constructed in phases until June 2018, will have a winding, linear trail that becomes a skating rink in winter. Plans are to have one phase open to the public for this year’s Canada Day.
That phase will show visitors preliminary connecting trails and landscaping, a platform at the Fort York Visitor Centre and will give an idea of what a large performance space, next to Strachan Avenue, will look like.
When complete, the park will have gardens, markets, art, special exhibitions, festivals, civic events, food, dance, sports, theatre and musical performances, all with cultural and community programming in mind.
“The local area Councillor (for CityPlace) has proposed an off-leash dog run adjacent to The Bentway and under the Gardiner, at the intersection of Lakeshore and Dan Leckie Way. This is being advanced independently by the City,” wrote in an email to 416 Magazine by Elyse Clinning from Kriss Communications on behalf of The Bentway Conservancy. However, there will be no dog run in the Bentway park. The Bentway Conservancy works in partnership with the City of Toronto, Fort York National Historic Site, the seven adjacent neighbouring communities and other stakeholders and partners across the City of Toronto and beyond.
Designers reached a problem when it came to connecting the trail’s east and west sections at Fort York Blvd. The solution was to build a pedestrian and cyclist bridge over the road.
The park follows Toronto’s original shoreline which has been extended over the past many decades into Lake Ontario as the city grew. It was long ago inhabited by the Mississauga First Nation.
The park, originally called Project: Under Gardiner, has been renamed The Bentway. Bents are the column and beam structures that hold up the Gardiner.
The name was chosen after the public submitted 884 different options that were narrowed down to four and then publicly voted on. The next closest name was The Artery.
It’s being built at a time when other plans are in the works to build another park overtop the railway lands in the same general area.
Urban Designer Ken Greenberg has called the 1.75 km stretch of land “a hidden treasure … This is an area that is sitting in the middle of extraordinary change.”
Greenberg made his remarks when the project was initially announced at a public meeting at Waterfront Community Centre (WCC) last year.
Greenberg is working with urban design and landscape architecture firm Public Work to plan and design the park in conjunction with Waterfront Toronto.
At the WCC meeting, Greenberg said the area, until recent years, was home to industry including Ingles, Labatt Breweries and Massey Ferguson.
The project’s origin can be traced to a philanthropic gift of $25 million for capital costs from the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation.
“Wil and Judy recognized the unusual beauty underneath the expressway and the potential of this space to connect the city to the waterfront, stitch together newly developing neighbourhoods and become a new cultural attraction,” reads The Bentway’s website.
Julian Sleath, who has spent more than 35 years in the performing arts sector, was announced as The Bentway’s new CEO starting March 27.
“The project asks us all to reconsider how we view the Gardiner Expressway and our ongoing relationship with city infrastructure,” he said in a press release.
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