The dingy, shadowy spaces under the massive structure that carries heavy traffic across downtown Toronto has been earmarked for transformation in a new project announced last week.
Entitled for now “Project: Under Gardiner,” the scheme envisions building a new connecting trail and cultural “rooms” under the Gardiner Expressway to the west of Yonge Street.
The city is currently rehabilitating the 1960s expressway, which runs east-west along the bottom of the city, not far from Lake Ontario.
One public “Underpass Park” has already been built and is open in the eastern section of the downtown expressway, near the Don River mouth. This new scheme is much longer, with the trail and dynamic public space to stretch 1.75 kilometres west of Yonge Street from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. It will create connections between some of Toronto’s newest and most dense neighbourhoods, including Liberty Village, the Fort York Neighbourhood, CityPlace and Bathurst Quay.
The spaces below the expressway are to be “rooms” defined by the great concrete posts and beams that support the elevated roadway. Up to 55 of these civic rooms will be adapted to showcase music, food, theatre, visual arts, education, dance, sports and recreation.
Philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews have donated $25 million and are partnering with Waterfront Toronto to realize the work.
City planner and urban designer Ken Greenberg heads the design team, working with Adam Nicklin and Marc Ryan of PUBLIC WORK, a leading urban design and landscape architecture studio. Engineering consultants have not yet been selected.
Waterfront Toronto will lead public consultations on the project, which is set to start construction next summer.
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