Skating trail below the Gardiner turns unused land into public space
'This is a completely different way of looking at the Gardiner Expressway,' says Julian Sleath
New ice has been poured for a new skating trail in a most unusual place — below the Gardiner Expressway.
The trail is one part of a massive project called The Bentway.
"This is a completely different way of looking at the Gardiner Expressway," said Julian Sleath, CEO of Bentway Conservancy.
"The team here is animating an area underneath the roadway and turning it into an urban public space for all of us to use."
Skating, performance and green space planned
The Bentway is a 1.75-kilometre stretch of unused land from the CNE grounds to Bathurst Street. It will be transformed into useable green space.
The skating trail is expected to open as early as late December. And, thanks to assisted refrigeration, could remain open until March break.
But that's just the beginning.
Next summer, explains Sleath, they'll also be opening a green amphitheatre at the far end at the Strachan Gate to house a number of public performances
"Over the next few years we are developing a number of public art commissions so it will be an extraordinary place to come and visit and spend some time," he said.
2 years and a $25 million donation
The project began two years ago with an idea to find a new use for the forgotten landscape under the Gardiner. It was dubbed The Bentway after a naming contest.
Toronto philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews donated $25 million to the project, allowing it to be entirely privately funded.
'Bents' are the concrete pillars that hold up the expressway — Sleath says they fired up his imagination.
"When else would someone have the opportunity to take the Gardiner Expressway and give it a second purpose or a third purpose or fourth purpose? It's more than a road deck, it's a beautiful sculptural element in this city."