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Toronto approves move to Phase Two of Rail Deck Park

The proposed Rail Deck Park has multiple functions — providing much-needed green public space as well as becoming a connecting area for GO Transit commuters.

This idea was reinforced with an amendment at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting. In addition to recommending staff advance to the second stage of the work plan in 2018-19, staff will also assess opportunities to create “new connections to Rail Deck Park”, including the Green Line along the hydro lands and extensions of the West Toronto Railpath.

Rail Deck 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. According to the report presented to the executive committee, it will be the largest downtown park outside of the Don Valley.

“If this growth is to continue, there is a need for significant new infrastructure, including parkland, to ensure the quality of life, health, and sustainability of Downtown neighbourhoods. If this cannot be achieved, it may be necessary for the City to reconsider the pace and amount of future development in the Downtown.”

The cost for the project will be an estimated $1.665 billion, or $83 million per acre. This estimate includes about over $600 million in contingencies. The city plans on taking advantage of Section 42, also known as cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication funds. This revenue is collected from new developments with the sole purpose of developing and acquiring parkland. Not much is known about how the park will be funded other than the city will explore sponsorships, donations, and contributions from other levels of governments.

 

The city of Toronto is growing rapidly, and the downtown core is in great need of more green space to off-set future development. There is also an advantage of ensuring connectivity by integrating access to GO Rail.

City staff will report back on the financial feasibility of Phase Two in a few months.

What do you think of the Rail Deck Park? Let us know in the comments below!

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

Hello Spring! Now, get outside!

Have you ever gone outside just for the sake of going outside?

Taking a walk outside and breathing in the fresh air, running along the beach, or just sitting in a field of green can work wonders for relaxation and stress-relief. Nature can be incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating — and luckily in Canada, these green spaces and beaches are accessible throughout any landscape.

Most people feel they need a reason to go outside, whether it be to play sports or for a planned outdoor adventure to get their next Instagram photo opportunity. Instead, why not just go outside for the sake of it. When I’m in a bad mood, taking a break and walking outside cures the blues faster than almost any other possible solution. The fresh air, sunshine, and peaceful silence creates an appreciation of life that is impossible to find anywhere else.

If you aren’t quite sure how to get outdoors for the pure enjoyment of it, the secret to success lies in making sure you do it mindfully. Don’t go outside equipped with your phone to distract you. Free yourself from all your devices and take your lovely self for a walk and really look at the world around you. You will find that there is so much beauty to see once you remove yourself from the bubble of technological existence. Birds still exist. Trees actually grow taller. It is amazing how much can be noticed without our phones two inches from our faces at all times.

Take note of how your body feels when you are outside as well. It is good to stretch out in the open space and understand which muscles are sore and target those areas. Even doing yoga outside would feel relaxing and in tune with how nature can make our aching bodies feel better.  Even if you have a cold, talking a brief walk can help get some fresh air into your body and may rejuvenate you if you have been inside sleeping for a long period of time.

Next time you find yourself with a free 30 minutes (or even an hour), go outside and revel in the oncoming spring. There is so much to be thankful for in good weather, and taking time to appreciate it leads to a more fulfilling and connected life. The more people use the greens paces and natural areas, the more likely it is to be conserved for future generations. Get outside today and enjoy it!

City approves $2.4 million Rail Deck Park study

A $2.4 million study for the Rail Deck Park was approved unanimously by city council Wednesday, despite complaints by the suburbs.

The proposal would cover the rail lines between Bathurst St. and Blue Jays Way with an urban park. Toronto Mayor John Tory compared this 21-acre project to that of Chicago’s millennium Park and New York’s Central Park — all big tourist attractions, with the added bonus of making the downtown core more liveable. The preliminary work is estimated to cost a bit over $1 billion.

Councillor’s unanimously approved the motion to study the feasibility of the park; however, they also took the opportunity to complain about the lack of funding in their wards to maintain park space and clean up their neighbourhoods. York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti told his colleagues he would only support the project if suburban parks were given the same consideration and investments.

Because of all the concerns from the suburb councillors, an amendment to the original motion was added to a study on the “deficiencies in parks in the suburbs” and a study on funding mechanisms for parks in other wards.

Both studies will be presented to City Council next year, and will include feasibility, costs of obtaining air rights to the site, and details of the platform used to suspend the park over the rails. Staff will also look at funding alternatives.

Toronto is always growing and expanding — and while building condominiums and malls is important, councillors also need to remember to embrace green spaces. The value of having community space available downtown, where most people work and live, is incredibly important. Toronto needs to have a long-term vision and ambitious planning goals to ensure future generations don’t suffer from intense gridlock and pollution. Building an amazing park overtop of a transit hub is exactly what this city needs.

Green spaces: necessary for health and soul

Have you ever wondered why you feel so much better when you are biking through a park or hanging out in an outdoors in the city? Green spaces are actually healthy for people living in cities and here’s why.

Having well-kept parks, green areas and cycling paths elevate positive physical and psychological health and also promote social cohesion and community by sharing public space. Understanding the impacts of green spaces helps planners strategically include a natural environment in cities to better people’s lives.

According to a report in the Journal of Urban Health, “by 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities”. The importance of creating appropriate planning infrastructures is paramount to creating healthy cities for the urban sphere.

Looking back, the first public parks were built in Spain in the 16th century. In the 20th century, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States further popularized parks and gardens in cities. Today, most cities have parks, but lack of variety in green spaces.

Walkable Cities, a 2012 report written by the City of Toronto, says that people who live in Toronto with access to green spaces and parks have lower BMI indexes than people living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Using a vehicle to get across the city lowers the amount of physical exercise people obtain on a daily basis. By creating walkable parks and green spaces within the proximity of services, it motivates people to travel to these spaces and remain active.

The study says that 85 per cent of Canadian adults do not get the 150 minutes of prescribed weekly physical activity and 91 per cent of boys and 96 per cent of girls do not get the daily 60 minutes of needed exercise.  Green City, another health study by the City of Toronto reads that children that have a playground within one kilometre of their home were five times more likely to have a healthy weight. Having access to playgrounds, parks and walkable green spaces becomes a necessity for physical health of urban residents.

Poor air quality in large urban centres such as Toronto is a mounting concern for health experts in the city. An increasing pollution has been directly correlated with the rising numbers of people who have been diagnosed with respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases.  Green spaces can also help to emit better air quality and reduce rates of pollution in the area because the concentrated greenery acts a carbon sink.

Green spaces also have positive impacts on mental health. Being in nature lowers stress, depression and loneliness due to the relaxing effect of large open spaces. The Green City study concluded that people living within one kilometre, as compared to three kilometres, of green space reported lowered rates of loneliness and stress. Green space can help children with Attention Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). According to the study, when children play in areas with large trees and grass, the symptoms of ADHD noticeably decreases. Walking for 20 minutes in a park with a child with ADHD also helps improve concentration performance.

If you have ever walked in a large park and seen families enjoying a picnic while other people play sports, it is easy to see the sense of community green spaces help facilitate. People can share spaces in a healthy manner, which allows for community related activity to be fostered. Often, physical activities that take place in green spaces promote social cohesion, which lowers stress rates and promotes people being together in a leisurely manner.

On the other hand, green spaces that are neglected do not show the same positive health impacts as parks and paths that are looked after. Neglected green spaces can become dangerous for communities and, according to a report by Social Science & Medicine, it actually increase rates of stress.

So, next time you walk past that park by your house, duck in for a quick wander and you will come out feeling refreshed and satisfied. By interacting with green space, you will allow yourself a healthy lifestyle, and if everyone uses the green space, the city won’t forget to incorporate parks, paths and green areas into their urban planning strategy.