Toronto

New project aims to link the city's greenspaces — and neighbourhoods — in west downtown

The city is pushing ahead with a linear park plan that would link greenspaces in dozens of downtown neighbourhoods from the Annex to Little Italy - all of it running through a five-kilometre long hydro corridor.

Project's estimated $10M price tag has yet to be approved by city council

Landscape architect Brent Raymond, a partner with DTAH, standing in one of the spaces proposed as part of the linear park. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

The city is pushing ahead with a linear park plan that would link greenspaces in dozens of downtown neighbourhoods from the Annex to Corso Italia — all of it running through a five-kilometre long hydro corridor.

"This one was really a puzzle in bringing it all together," said Brent Raymond, a landscape architect with DTAH, the firm hired by the city to design the new Green Line park. "There are a lot of different users, and different interests in these spaces, so that's one of the challenges."

For the past few years, local residents and the citizens' group Park People have been giving the city and DTAH input into the design of the Green Line.

Some sections of the proposed Green Line already include formal parks. But more will be added and all will be connected by paths for pedestrians and cyclists. (Mike Smee/CBC)

At present, the route is a ragged collection of 45 parking lots, overgrown fields and hydro tower lanes that runs adjacent to railroad tracks from Dupont Street and Davenport Road, to Caledonia Road and St. Clair Avenue West. And the estimated price tag for the project, around $10 million, has yet to be approved by city council.

But residents along the line have already turned some of those lands into impromptu parks where kids play and dogs are allowed to run.

Although there are a few formal city parks along the route, the Green Line will add more — at least 20 new projects in all. They'll include small parks and playgrounds, public art, bike paths, plazas and community gardens.

An artist's rendition of what the Green Line could look like when it's completed. (DTAH)

The master design plan was made public earlier this month; Raymond believes shovels will be in the ground within three years, and that project could take a decade to complete.

One of the challenges will be to design parks and public spaces through provincially-owned lands that are used to maintain the power grid by Hydro One. As well, there are active parking lots in the Green Line's path.

"In a city like Toronto, it's challenging to get open space," Raymond said. "This provides an opportunity where we can make better use of the space we have.

Residents have already turned some of the neglected lands into impromptu places to relax. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"It's not simple by any means, but it's something we're all looking forward to."

Coun. James Pasternak, who chairs the committee that oversees city parks, said he's confident council will be able to work with the province to ensure the park system can be built without ruffling feathers at Queen's Park.

And Raymond said the parking lots will mean some parts of the Green Line will have to be detoured around them.

In the end though, he said he's confident the challenges can be overcome:

Coun. James Pasternak, who chairs the committee that oversees parks, says he's confident his fellow councillors will support the Green Line. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

"We fully anticipate at some point in the future the need for parking will diminish," he said. "When that happens the city is looking to add these spaces to the Green Line."

What's still unclear is the Green Line's source of funding.

Although it hasn't yet been approved, Pasternak said he's confident his fellow councillors will back the plan, which he estimates will come in under $10 million in costs, when the first of the capital costs come up for approval in the 2020 budget process.

The new linear park will link greenspaces beneath a hydro corridor that runs from the Annex to Corso Italia. (CBC)

When you look at connectivity over that length of geography, it's a lot of money," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's a great investment.

"It gets people outdoors, it gets people into pedestrian corridors, it leverages green assets. That's exactly aligning with the philosophy of the city these days."

With files from Lisa Xing

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