Toronto’s first and Canada’s most extensive park built beneath an underpass is now officially open to the public.
Located at the northeastern edge of the emerging West Don Lands community, south of King Street East under the Eastern Avenue and the Richmond/Adelaide overpasses, Underpass Park has transformed a three-block tract of underused land into a bright, fully accessible neighbourhood amenity.
The 2.7-acre park’s first phase between St. Lawrence Street and Bayview Avenue and accessed from River Street, south of King Street, officially opened to the public Thursday, Aug. 2.
The special day was feted with sno-cones, Brazilian drummers and music. Children from the summer camp program at the Wellesley Community Centre were invited to check out the $5.3 million park’s new jungle gyms, while members of the C.J. skateboard crew tested out the park’s new skateboard area.
Toronto’s growth has brought forward the need to think about how we best use spaces in our city that might otherwise go unused. The opening of the Underpass Park is an excellent example of how we turn neglected space into a community hub,” said Mayor Rob Ford during a speech at the launch event.
In a release, Ford said Underpass Park is a “great example of how you can take a space that was neglected and turn it into a nice place for people and families to enjoy.”
Waterfront Toronto’s president and CEO John Campbell said the unique public amenity is a “great example of creative city building.”
“By viewing the space under the overpasses as an opportunity, we turned a potential liability into a great neighbourhood asset, one that helped connect the community and raises the bar for urban space,” he said in a release.
Ground officially broke last May on the new 315-metre-long, 2.7-acre park, which was designed by Vancouver-based landscape architect Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg in collaboration with The Planning Partnership and features a series of ribbon-like concrete and wood structures, a suspended public art piece called Mirage by award-winning artist/architect Paul Raff as well as mobile cafes.
The new public space, which was envisioned to have a “focus on the everyday” by making use of available sunlight and rain as well as the bridges’ concrete columns and beams, will also include community gardens, flexible public areas for markets and festivals, areas for active recreational sports like basketball, tennis and street hockey, sitting areas, children’s play and climbing structures and planting areas for native wildflowers and grasses.
The second phase of Underpass Park, west of St. Lawrence Street to Eastern Avenue, is set to open in the spring of 2013.