A new 2,600m2 park is coming to 229 Richmond St. W. The site is currently leased to a restaurant and used as an outdoor patio. The City is conducting a two-stage design competition to select a creative and experienced design team for the new park. There will be various opportunities for the community to get involved in the park design process!
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The timeline is subject to change.
This project has been classified as a Collaborate project based on the International Association of Public Participation’s Public Participation Spectrum. This means we aim to partner with the public, stakeholders and rightsholders in each aspect of the design process, including the development of design options and the identification of a preferred design.
As part of Stage Two of the design competition, the five shortlisted applicants submitted conceptual designs for the new park. The concepts will be judged by a jury of experts in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, art, curation, climate resilience, and Indigenous design. During this phase, the public can review and provide feedback on the five design concepts. The feedback will be shared with the jury through a report. The jury will select a single park concept for advancement to the next phase of design and will make its decision in part based on the public’s feedback, as well as each concept’s ability to meet the evaluation criteria and technical requirements identified by the City.
Wàwàtesí is a park with a night life and a winter attitude, who is not afraid to share silenced stories and urgent agendas. In a place where skyscrapers have eaten up the city, Wàwàtesí becomes the compass, lighting the trail to renewal and transformation. She is the boutique and alternative backstage platform of Toronto’s Downtown Arts district: an authentic place for people of all walks of life to discover unique integrated experiences of landscape, light, and performance. Wàwàtesí will be Toronto’s first park with a curator and her own tailored calendar of arts events and installations. This is a place where traditional myths are given contemporary mediums.
Wàwàtesí (Anishinaabemowin: firefly) symbolizes the cycle of life, healing, and the passage of time. Along with the creek that used to cross the site who was buried by Toronto’s rapid urbanization, fireflies have all but disappeared from the urban landscape. Her name calls attention to the power of the unseen and supernatural.
Wàwàtesí invites you to enter a multi-level journey through the woodlands from each of the four directions, as actor and audience in the theatre of life. A stream-like trail leads you along seven stepping stones with different experiential qualities. The Eastern Gateway – humane laneway and park welcome, The Balcony – place to watch and perform, The Riverbed Playscape – with hammocks and slide, The Grove – for fireflies, The Green – to gather, The Source – of water and light, and The Canvas – for light. Her seasonally shape-shifting art piece Aki Illuminations (Anishinaabemowin: Earth Illuminations) celebrates solstice, equinox, and transformation.
This is the Electric Forest. In Anishinaabemowin, Waasamoo-mitigoog means electric forest/trees. Throughout design, our Indigenous Placekeeper led us through teachings about the history of pine and cedar and their importance to this land and its people. The Eastern White Cedar has medicinal and spiritual significance, symbolizing strength and resilience. The Eastern White Pine has deep connections to Treaty 13 and is known in Haudenosaunee as “the tree of peace”. The park’s dominant curvaceous forms take their cues from these trees.
The name also alludes to Electric Circus, the unscripted and kinetically vibrant MuchMusic show. MuchMusic, the Canadian institution that sparked energy and defined a spirit of belonging and open-minded culture-making in this neighbourhood for decades, was a generation’s natural cultural lab. As the park’s name conjures up the spirit of curiosity and experimentation that was MuchMusic, it integrates this with a powerful meditation about land and regeneration. The park is to be a place electrified by charged histories and the regenerative power – mentally, psychologically, and ecologically – of a forest.
If this proposal is about regenerating living environments, it also strives to do so playfully and without austerity. Joy, contemplation, awe, and delight are foremost in our mind. A little bit nature; a little bit culture; and every bit wild, this park is designed as an energy source in the city. With the power of the ancestral forests and the vibrancy of MuchMusic all but turned off from the Queen and John neighbourhood, Waasamoo-mitigoog/Electric Forest is a playful reignition of a public place in our city.
oneSky Park/Bezhig Giizhig (in Anishinaabe) – “we all see it there, one sky.”
The new park at 229 Richmond St. W. faces the challenge of creating a park amidst a rapidly changing area. Situated in a mid-block of downtown, it is close to bustling streets and major attractions, yet surrounded by a neighborhood undergoing substantial transformation.
While these changes are anticipated in a thriving city, they pose day-to-day difficulties for community members seeking an engaging outdoor environment connected to nature. In this dynamic setting, how can equilibrium be established? Where is the common ground that unites us?
The sky provides a universal connection. We all share the same celestial view, experiencing the same moon, sun, and stars. The sky is a constant presence, regardless of alterations in our tangible surroundings, symbolizing our shared human experience.
oneSKY embodies these collective insights: encompassing land and sky, water and wind, with clarity and purpose. It serves as a beacon of unity and harmony in a changing urban landscape.
The vision for this urban transformation is to seamlessly blend nature with urban living and use all the great qualities that the site contains today.
The three key goals of our oneSKY vision is to:
Our park design proposal aims to breathe new life into an old parking lot, ensuring that it not only becomes a lush park but is also future-proofed for generations to come.
Imagine a lush verdant garden in the heart of the city. Imagine it is nestled within a large, sculpted landform – an open palm sculpted in stone. The hand symbolizes the animism of the earth. In cradling the garden, it guides us to care for nature.
It is called Nookomis for this sense of caring guidance. In some Anishnaabe origin stories Nookomis fell from the moon to the earth and gave birth to the mother of the Anishnaabe people. Also associated with the moon, Nookomis is connected to all life on earth, and her gentle hand has long guided the Anishnaabe people in the cycles of life including planting, harvesting, hunting, gathering and ceremony.
Nookomis literally translates as “my grandmother.” The teachings of our grandparents occupy a privileged place in society.
Nookomis Garden is a physical manifestation of the gifts we are offered by the natural world – the stone of the earth, the waters, the soil and the plants that nourish us. Cradled within the hand, these features come together into a lush, dense forest planting. The surrounding mounds carry plantings found within the oak woodland native to these lands.
Nookomis Garden is meant as a meditation on “how to live the good life.” It is a place connected to its surroundings and accommodating of larger crowds, while offering opportunities for quiet contemplation in nature. It is a place for gathering, sharing stories, and honouring the gifts offered by the natural world.
Narratives are powerful tools that shape memory, influence values, and drive behaviour. River Park is centred around reimagining the narrative of urban parks to transform relationships between people and nature in a time when such a shift is urgently needed. The park restores the connection between the city and its natural water systems, paying homage to a lost creek, paved over in the 19th century. The design is guided by three core gestures: tracing the path of the river, lifting the edges to create banks, and connecting the city along the edges. The river, flowing through the park, serves as both a subtle topographic change and an ephemeral water feature, emphasizing the importance of water in the urban landscape. The edges offer spaces for daily life and events, including a pavilion, canopy, stage, and a tilted lawn. Tree-lined corridors connect the park to the city, drawing in adjacent activities and reflecting the character of surrounding buildings. The spectacular sculpture, Resurgences, creates a magnificent and startling gateway off Richmond Street as a monument to the city’s lost rivers.
In proposing the name River Park, we seek to shift the narrative surrounding our relationship with nature and each other. This naming process presents an opportunity to connect with the generational history of this area and its evolution, learn about the building practices and decisions that have led to the present, and instill an optimistic view of the future. We envision River Park as a place for reflection, storytelling, and cultural exchange, fostering inclusivity and equity.
From January to March 2023, the City invited design teams, led by a Landscape Architect, to submit their qualifications for the design and construction of the new park at 229 Richmond St. W. The competition is structured as a two-stage open process.
The five pre-qualified teams that are moving on to Stage Two of the design competition are:
The two-stage design competition is open to design teams, including international talent. Each team must be led by a Landscape Architect in good standing with the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects. The teams must also include:
In this stage, the City is collecting applications from eligible design teams. The applicants will be evaluated based on their qualifications, work experience, and approach to the park site.
Stage One RFSQ submissions will be reviewed by an Evaluation Committee made up of City Staff and the Professional Advisor to the Design Competition. The five highest rated teams will be shortlisted and invited to participate in Stage Two. Each shortlisted team will receive an honorarium of $10,000.
The application submission deadline closed on March 23, 2023 at 12 p.m. EST.
229 Richmond Appendix A – RFSQ Appendix A has more information about the design competition.
In this stage, the shortlisted applicants will submit conceptual designs for the new park. The applicants will receive a competition brief in the form of a Request for Proposals (RFP) which will outline the submission requirements and provide additional material required to develop the designs. This stage will include an orientation session and site tour.
The shortlisted applicants will present their design ideas to the Design Jury. The design ideas will also be shared on this page. A Professional Advisor will collect and summarize all feedback on the design ideas from the Community Advisory Group, the Park Steering Committee, and the community. The feedback will inform the Design Jury’s recommendation.
The design competition will be judged by a Jury of experts in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, art, curation, climate resilience and Indigenous design. Adjudication will take place in November 2023. The Jury is:
Jury is subject to change.
The park goals were developed in this phase of the community engagement process using the outcomes of a visioning survey that engaged over 3,000 participants, Community Advisory Group feedback and an internal City stakeholder group meeting. The park goals will guide the park design development.
The park’s location in the heart of the Entertainment District should provide inspiration for the program and design. The design should reflect and enhance the neighbourhood’s cultural scenes by providing flexible spaces that can support cultural programming. During design development, the design team will continue to consult with the local arts community to determine future programming needs.
The park should be responsive to the adjacent urban context and should draw on the rich cultural and built heritage of the neighbourhood, including the area’s manufacturing history and days as a hub of youth and club culture.
The park should be an oasis and a peaceful green “backyard” to the many downtown residents.
As part of the City’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the park design should incorporate Indigenous knowledge, world views and language(s). The park program should be responsive to the needs of urban Indigenous people for safe places to engage in ceremony, gather and heal. Indigenous people must be included on the design team.
Innovation and artistry should inform the design holistically. A public artist or collective must be included on the design team.
Provide a high standard of design excellence, quality of place and attention to detail. High-quality durable materials, innovative technologies and design excellence should be combined with careful attention to the City’s operating parameters.
The park should set new standards for sustainability in park design and operations by using the lens of net-zero, climate resilience and material life-cycle analysis at all stages of the design. This park should strive to reach the City’s goal of net-zero by 2040.
Toronto has one of the most diverse urban populations in the world and the park should support social activities for a wide range of people, groups and civic organizations, including unhoused people. The Entertainment District is a mixed-use neighbourhood, where increasing numbers of residents live among offices, entertainment venues, retail and dining.
From September 18 to September 27, 2023, those who identify as Indigenous to Canada could apply to become a member of the Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC). IAC members will inform the development of the winning design for the new park, which will be selected by a jury comprised of industry leaders, including an Indigenous artist and curator.
Eight park goals were developed using the outcomes of the feedback collected during this phase of the community engagement process.
On January 9, 2023, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) had their second meeting.
From September 28 to November 4, 2022, the community shared their vision and ideas for the new park and rated the ideas of others in a thought exchange activity. The activity had 3,303 participants, 1,968 thoughts shared and 50,557 ratings.
Download the summary report.
On November 15, 2022, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) had their first meeting. The CAG is comprised of local community organizations and businesses with unique perspectives from years of experience in the King-Spadina community. The CAG will act as an advisory body through the design competition and park design process.
In this phase of the community engagement process, the City will collect community feedback on the shortlisted designs from the two-phase design competition. At the end of this phase, the City will hire a design team.
In this phase of the community engagement process, the City will present the winning design in a series of engagement events to inform the development of a detailed design. The final design will be presented to the community for feedback and revisions.
The site was secured as parkland in 2019 through a transaction involving CreateTO and multiple City Divisions. The transaction resulted in:
Downtown Toronto has one of the lowest parkland provision rates in the city at 5.5m2 per resident (based on the 2016 census) and 1.8m2 per resident and employee. The city-wide average is 28m2 per resident and 18m2 per resident and employee respectively. Nearly 16,000 people live within a 0.5km radius of the new park site, and 52,000 more come to work in this area. This project will create much-needed parkland in a rapidly growing neighbourhood.
A design and construction budget of $10 million has been secured for this project. The new park will be referred to by its location until it is officially named. The park naming process is separate from the park design process.
The future park is located between Richmond Street West to the north and Nelson Street to the south. West of the new park is the future site of a high-rise residential and commercial development at 241 Richmond St. W and 133 John St. with construction starting in 2024. East of the new park are two commercial heritage buildings at 221 Richmond St. W and 30 Duncan St. The site was used as a surface parking lot since the early 1980s. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was leased to local restaurants for summer patio use.
The park site is part of the King-Spadina Heritage Conservation District (HCD), which is an evolved historic district, with a concentration of late-19th and early 20th century residential and commercial buildings, three historic parks and a network of laneways. These historic resources reflect the District’s evolution from an institutional and residential neighbourhood to a warehouse and manufacturing area over the course of the 1880s to 1940s. For the first half of the 20th century, the District was Toronto’s primary manufacturing and warehouse area. After World War II, many industries left the downtown core and relocated to suburban locations.
Subsequent waves of development in the mid to late 20th century saw the regeneration of the District through the adaptive reuse of residential and commercial buildings for a variety of uses. In the 1980s to early 2000s, the area was a mecca for youth culture, as the empty industrial buildings were repurposed as nightclubs and bars. In the last 20 years, a boom of condominiums has transformed the area, creating a mixed-use neighbourhood with offices, bars, restaurants, cultural venues and high-rise residential buildings.