Toronto

A park at King and Spadina? Get ready for green space, councillor says

Coun. Joe Cressy says city staff are moving full speed ahead with plans for a park in the highly developed King and Spadina neighbourhood.

City staff have identified land in the neighbourhood that could be expropriated if owner doesn't want to sell

Coun. Joe Cressy says city staff will approach the owner of a piece of land in the King and Spadina area to buy the property for much-needed green space. (CBC News)

Picture a park at King and Spadina. No, really, close your eyes and picture it. Can't do it, can you?

That may soon change, as Coun. Joe Cressy (Ward 20 – Trinity-Spadina) says city staff are moving full speed ahead with plans for green space in the highly developed downtown neighbourhood.

The city's government management committee passed a motion Monday directing city staff to report to council on how to acquire the land, which is located in the area between Bathurst Street in the west, University Avenue in the east, Queen Street in the north and Front Street in the south.

Cressy and staff at the city's parks, forestry and recreation department, as well as the planning and real estate department, worked for more than a year to identify the location.

Cressy would not say Tuesday exactly where, or how big, the land is or whether it is currently home to a parking lot or an abandoned building because city staff have yet to approach the owner about a sale. But a population boom in the neighbourhood makes establishing park land a necessary, and urgent, undertaking, he said.

"We've seen huge growth in development but we have not seen the corresponding growth in park space. And you need it," Cressy told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.

"You need it because if you're living in a condo tower, the park becomes your backyard. If you want to build liveable neighbourhoods, then you need to have the social infrastructure that families need to live in."

According to Cressy, the neighbourhood's population stood at about 945 people 20 years ago. Today, that number is 30,000 and, when all of the condominium developments that have been approved for the area are completed, more than 40,000 people will be living in the neighbourhood.

City staff will report to council at its July 12 meeting after approaching the owner about buying the land. If the owner is unwilling to sell, Cressy said, staff will consider other options, including expropriation.

City council will then have to vote on the best option to proceed.

"Expropriation, it sounds like a four-letter word," Cressy said. "But the City of Toronto expropriates land every single month for infrastructure projects."

As for the cost of acquiring new park land, Cressy said there's already "tens of millions of dollars" set aside due to booming development in the area. Under the city's planning regulations, condo developers are required to provide some sort of green space. But because many of the lots are small, there's only room for a tower.

"So they provide cash in lieu of park space," Cressy said. "We have assembled tens of millions of dollars that can only be used for one thing: to buy park land."

But available land in the area is running out fast, he said.

"That's why we're moving quickly," he said. "If we don't do this now we're going to have 40,000 people living here with just concrete. And that's not acceptable."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said that the city's government management committee passed a motion directing city staff to purchase the land. In fact, the motion directs staff to report to council on options for acquiring the land.
    Jun 14, 2016 9:40 AM ET

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