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From CityPlace To Liberty Village Condos, Project Under Gardiner Is Underway

From CityPlace To Liberty Village Condos, Project Under Gardiner Is Underway

Nov 30, 2015
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Toronto continues its revitalization of the underutilized and, in some stretches, downright derelict parcels of land near the waterfront in new and creative ways.

The Canary District in the West Don Lands , just east of the Distillery District, is shaping up nicely post Pan Am Games. The central waterfront has already received a revitalized Queen's Quay district and the revival of the East Bayfront and Lower Don Lands are underway, led by Waterfront Toronto, a corporation funded by all three levels of government.

The latest Waterfront Toronto project - made possible through a very generous $25M gift by philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews - is the most surprising of the bunch. Eyes are now turning to the underbelly of the Gardiner Expressway and how we can make the most surprising of spaces functional and sustainable for local residents and tourists alike.

Here's what we know so far.

Revitalized Lands Under Gardiner Would Stretch From CityPlace through Fort York, West To Liberty Village Condos

under-Gardiner-map

under-Gardiner-map

It wasn't too long ago that we were discussing tearing down the Gardiner and now it seems focus has shifted to maximizing its potential. The new Under Gardiner proposal includes plans for bike trails, walking trails, a skating rink, various arts and cultural spaces, multiple parks and play spaces for kids along with a retail hub including a major Loblaws centre. It also includes a new pedestrian connection to the Exhibition GO station.

All in, the Matthews' family donation will create more than 10 acres of new public space and 1.75 kilometres of multi-use trail beneath the elevated expressway that stretches from Spadina to just west of Strachan.

The proposal is still in its infancy but all signs are pointing to a well thought-out, multi-functional space that will actually get used by residents - i.e. spaces are designed with practicality and sustainability in mind. This is great news for condo communities in CityPlace, Fort York and the Liberty Village as well as those living in the waterfront communities around Bathurst Quay.

Waterfront Toronto describes it as "...a new outdoor living room for the use of the 70,000 residents in nearby neighbourhoods and for visitors who use the many amenities and attractions in the area."

Construction is set to begin in summer 2016 on a very ambitious schedule with phase 1 completion by the end of 2017.

under-Gardiner-Fort-York-visitor-centre2

under-Gardiner-Fort-York-visitor-centre2

One of the most innovative aspects of the project is that the donors required the model to be self-sufficient. In other words, the new space has to have the built-in operations and maintenance services needed to support the infrastructure and its activities. If achieved, this will no doubt serve as an innovative new model for future revitalization projects across Canada and indeed the world.

Under Gardiner Vision Includes Three Distinct Sections Or "Hubs"

East Section - Near CityPlace Condos and Toronto Waterfront Condos

under-Gardiner-East-communityhub

under-Gardiner-East-communityhub

The proposal for the eastern section known as the "Community Hub" includes a new park with an off-leash dog area and a market hub - the restaurant and retail section underneath the Gardiner with a flagship Loblaws store and numerous cafés and shops.

What's known as the "Passive Hub" also begins here and extends into the Fort York mid section. It's a space meant for quiet contemplation and weekend strolls featuring a water garden and "liquid acoustic features" which is likely a fancy way of saying some sort of intricate fountain system.

Mid Section - Near Fort York Condos and Niagara

under-Gardiner-Fort-Central-Programminghub

under-Gardiner-Fort-Central-Programminghub

The mid section, known as the "Programming Hub" is perhaps the most touristy of the bunch with a gallery, Visitor Information Centre pictured below, programming spaces and various areas to host festivals throughout the year.

Toronto is already known as the city of festivals and so incorporating a space for festival programming is a smart way to connect this area to the rest of the city. The proposal for the Fort York section also includes a winter outdoor skating rink which would be a great addition to Toronto's already packed and popular choices at Harbourfront and Nathan Phillip's Square.

Under-Gardiner-skating

Under-Gardiner-skating

And while it may seem like a stretch that people are going to want to hang out under a underpass, think of it this way - just by creating a safe and aesthetically pleasing walking trail - even if nothing else was added from an entertainment and amenities standpoint - you're linking condo residents to some of the City's top attractions through this new new east-west corridor including the Molson Amphitheatre, BMO Field, Fort York, Queens Quay and Harbourfront Centre, the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium, the Air Canada Centre and more.

Just as a safe walking and biking trail alone, this is going to get used. A lot.

under-Gardiner-Fort-York-visitor-centre

under-Gardiner-Fort-York-visitor-centre

West Section - Near Liberty Village Condos

under-Gardiner-West-Creativehub

under-Gardiner-West-Creativehub

Stretching through the revitalized Garrison Point Park to Liberty Village is the "Creative Action" hub. Here you'll find the cultural section with a theatre, gallery spaces and more.

City planner and builder Ken Greenberg together with urban designers and landscape architects Public Work are heading the project. They're drawing inspiration from the most creative outdoor cultural spaces around the world for this section of the Gardiner corridor, noting various inspiration points on the project website including the Place Émilie-Gamelin Creative Play, Montreal, the SESC Pompéia Community Space, Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Red Bull Music Academy, Madrid, Spain and the Highline seating and overlook in New York City.

There's also a family area with kids' playground and activity spaces planned between Liberty Village and Garrison Point. This falls inline with the Garrison Point revitalization plan where developers are planning more family-friendly condos and pushing for a new private school and daycare centre - something residents of nearby Liberty Village have been lacking, many feeling forced out as they age out, looking for other neighbourhood options once becoming parents.

Here's a look at a section of the Strachan hub via an elevation:

under-Gardiner-Strachan-elevation

under-Gardiner-Strachan-elevation

Stay Connected

We were skeptical at first, as many of you probably are, when we heard that not only is the Gardiner staying put but we're actually investing money into it to make it a cultural and retail corridor. The ugly underbelly of a highway is not really where we envision ourselves hanging out on Saturday afternoon.

But take some time to read through the Under Gardiner proposal in-depth. It's really creative and the fact that it's privately funded and is being planned to be as self-sufficient as possible is pretty incredible.

If you're interested in having your voice heard, Waterfront Toronto will no doubt be conducting public consultations throughout the project. To stay connected, you can sign up for updates directly from Project: Under Gardiner here .

They have confirmed already that the first consultations will start in December around the naming of the space in hopes of agreeing on something that, as the organizers have put it, is "uniquely Torontonian".

All renderings, maps and elevations © Public Work, courtesy of Project Under Gardiner.