The City of Toronto announces a partnership with visionary philanthropists and Waterfront Toronto to reclaim unused space under major elevated highway. The City of Toronto, together with private donors Judy and Wil Matthews and Waterfront Toronto announced a $25-million partnership that will create a new public landscape beneath a large section of the Gardiner Expressway. In making the announcement, Judy Matthews was joined by Mayor John Tory, Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell, and other city officials and residents.
The Matthews’ generous gift will fund the creation of more than four hectares of new public space and 1.75 kilometres of multi-use trail beneath the elevated expressway from Spadina Avenue to just west of Strachan Avenue, proximate to Toronto’s waterfront. The unprecedented philanthropic partnership represents a new, collaborative model for building high-quality public spaces.
The initiative, temporarily called Project: Under Gardiner, will transform the areas beneath the expressway into vibrant community spaces that will play host to a range of cultural programming – creating a new outdoor living room for the use of the 70,000 residents in nearby neighbourhoods, as well as for all Torontonians and their visitors. Project: Under Gardiner will create a new off-street route for walking and cycling, connecting attractions across Toronto’s waterfront, including the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, and the Air Canada Centre.
Renowned city planner and urban designer Ken Greenberg heads the design team, working with Adam Nicklin and Marc Ryan from PUBLIC WORK, a leading urban design and landscape architecture studio. As a starting point, the design team has established a framework that respects the existing structure of the Gardiner, and resourcefully responds to the found condition, treating the underside as a covered street in the heart of the city. The Gardiner’s columns and beams (also known as “bents”) could be used to hold rigging, lighting, and signage. Storm water catchment can provide the basis for a water garden. The spectacular height of the canopy at this location offers the possibilities for multi-level experiences and suspended art installations. The design team hopes the project’s aesthetic will also be derived from its resourceful roots, with industrial or abandoned materials given a new life through craft and collaborative making.
The spaces between the bents have been conceived as “rooms” that can hold a wide variety of activities and atmospheres. Up to 55 civic rooms will house a kaleidoscope of year-round destination and activities including gardens, an adventure playground, bike trails, cafés, public markets, art fairs and exhibitions, design and fabrication studios, creative workshops, festivals, theatrical and musical performances.
All images by PUBLIC WORK