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Rail Deck Park to add attractive green space to the downtown core

It’s was almost a year ago the City of Toronto announced their intention to create the Rail Deck Park. Movement is now underway in addressing the proper funding plan and proposal of this new green space in the urban Toronto area. The park is expected to be a sprawling 21-acre green space in the heart of the city, built above pre-existing transit lines that stretch from Bathurst Ave. to Blue Jays Way.

Over the past few years, Toronto has seen a rise in condominium construction and with that construction comes a thirst for public spaces where families can play and enjoy the sunshine. In other words, a little oasis in the downtown core. Mayor John Tory’s support of the park is something he has been open about and he hopes to see this project become a reality.

Speaking at a statutory public meeting on Sept 25 at City Hall, the mayor said, “I believe this is a bold idea and I’m going to tell you with every ounce of determination that I have: It will be built.”

This November, an official funding plan will be presented at City Hall. The funding and construction plans for the park so far is unclear. The mayor is, however, confident that a big portion of the private sector will cover the cost. So far the estimated cost of the park is approximately $1.05 billion.

The official funding plan will make the steps clear to the public. The park represents the challenges of living in an urban space and making use of city building. This structured city planning will help for future developments that will arise in the city. The unused air space above the park is, however, owned by a mix of private firms. Procurement of these air rights will be negotiated or expropriated by the City of Toronto if necessary.

The mayor has previously compared the Rail Deck Park to places like Central Park in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago, and other global parks under construction — including the 26-acre Hudson Yards public plaza in New York City.  These sites of inspiration imply the park can be a major tourist spot while making the downtown area more appealing and liveable for residents.

This park will add trees, water features, public art, relaxation space, and more. Residents in the city will finally have a space within Toronto’s concrete jungle to connect and relax. So it’s time to sit back and relax as the city is on the path to adding this snazzy new addition

 

What we know so far:

  • Twenty–one acre park built over pre-existing transit hub from Bathurst St to Blue Jays Way
  • Estimated cost of $1.05 billion (not including maintenance)
  • Confirmed to be built in phases
  • Nine acre priority phase announced for east of Portland to Spadina
  • Majority of air–rights to be acquitted
  • City collecting fees from city developers through provincial legislation (this will only cover a small portion of the cost)
  • Great addition to Toronto’s urban planning
  • Labeled as a green space for recreation, culture, and celebration

What are your thoughts on this addition to the city’s green space

Jennifer Keesmaat leaving position as Toronto Chief Planner

Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat has announced she will be leaving her position with the city as of Sept. 29th “to pursue other interests.”

“It’s been an honour to work with Mayor Tory, Council, City staff and my remarkable team in the City Planning division over the last five years,” said Keesmaat in a statement. “I promised myself that after five years in public service I would review my future options. I look forward to new challenges in the important business of city building now enriched by invaluable lessons, new friends and colleagues acquired while serving the people of our great city, Toronto.”

Keesmaat has been a strong leader for the City of Toronto. She was never afraid to confront her colleagues in council or on committees, answering their questions with poise. When asked about how she deals with the politics of city building, Keesmaat always answered with respect for the democratic process and government accountability. With her aide, Toronto has begun its transformation into a more liveable and walkable city. One example is the council-approved Transit Network Plan, which will connect all regions of the GTA together under the “motherlode” of transit plans. And then there is the King Street Pilot, something that may revolutionize how Torontonians view the downtown core.

During her tenure, she also started a podcast called Invisible Cities, which touches on numerous aspects of city building. Through this podcast, listeners are able to hear her passion and the joy she gets from discussing things like density, green spaces, and automated cars.

In July, Women’s Post presented Keesmaat with the City Builder Glass Slipper Award for her dedication and leadership. It was an absolute pleasure to have her as a partner and Women’s Post wishes her the best of luck in her future endeavours.

Woman of the Week: Erin O’Neill

It’s been about five months since the city of Fort McMurray was consumed by flame and smoke.  On May 3, over 80,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Television newscasts showed the wildfire quite literally jumping roads, inching closer and closer to the residential parts of the wooded region in Alberta. Luckily, there were no deaths.

Fort McMurray seems to be slowly healing, but there are still some households that are inhabitable. But, the recovery plan — which focuses on building the community back up — is in good hands.

Erin O’Neill was in Red Deer when she heard about the fire, accepting her new role as president elect of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute. She couldn’t go home and couldn’t get any information. “I was following twitter. I watched the news like everyone else,” she said. “I remember going to sleep thinking I would wake up and not have anything.”

Then she got a phone call on the Saturday afternoon asking her to come back to Fort McMurray.  She jumped on a city bus from Edmonton into the city. “I had no idea where I was staying, didn’t know what my job was. I got there and they said ‘you are going to be the planning chief of re-entry’.”

Her official position, Chief of Planning for the Regional Emergency Operations Center, meant she was in charge of all re-entry procedures — creating a Recovery Task Force, getting critical businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores up and running, and eventually helping people back into their homes.

“You know when you go on vacation? You turn out your lights and gas. We did everything for the whole city and then had to turn it back on again,” she said.  Then, the city had to restock all of their merchandise and get businesses running again, a difficult feat considering smoke had gotten into everything.

O’Neill showed up at 4:30 in the morning on June 1, the first day of re-entry, expecting everything to go wrong. But, according to her, it was almost anti-climactic.

“It was the smoothest day,” she said. “I was like, ‘this is it?’

When speaking with O’Neill over the phone, it was obvious why she was chosen for this important role. She speaks with authority and sincerity — and genuinely cares for her community.  She also happens to be incredibly kind-hearted and humble about her role in the successful re-entry of Fort McMurray.

O’Neill went to school with the intent of becoming a teacher, but in her third year of university she decided it just wasn’t for her. Instead, she went into planning and development. “I think it’s that you can see a piece of land and see it develop and help the people,” she said. “You are protecting the public interest and then you are making a difference. You can see that end result.”

After working in Ottawa processing standard permits, she made the bold decision to move to Fort McMurray. This was nine years ago.

Before she was appointed her emergency chief of planning role, O’Neill was Manager of Land Acquisition and Issues Management, or rather the person who manages land use and real estate interests for Fort McMurray, acting as broker between developers and the province. Now that most of the city’s residents are back in their homes, O’Neill is excited to expand her role, transitioning to handle three sections of the recovery plan following the fire — rebuild, mitigate, and the economy. Essentially, she is creating a legacy for the city, figuring out how to move forward after such a debilitating natural disaster.

It’s quite the portfolio, but it’s obvious O’Neill is more than capable.

GALLERY: Discussing Toronto’s Regional Vision

The Transit Alliance held its annual Toronto Region Vision Summit earlier this month, and the discussion was truly fruitful. Low-carbon living, transit, city building, and housing were all brought up by various participants with differing perspectives. This is how a region grows — by listening to the experts, introducing new ideas, and making adjustments to plans that have been in the works for years to better reflect current-day challenges.

Here are a few photos of the hundreds of participants in the TRV 2016.