Rail Deck Park Overview
In fall 2016, Toronto City Council endorsed a proposal for a new major park in Downtown Toronto, to be built over the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way. Known as Rail Deck Park, the project will transform this unused air space into Toronto’s next great gathering space for recreation, culture and celebration.
The project is in stage 2: due diligence and concept development as outlined on page 9 in Results of Feasibility Analysis and Next Steps for Implementation.
Staff intend to bring forward the next project report to Council in 2020 which will provide direction on the scope and budget for ongoing work on the Rail Deck Park project. The next report is expected to provide proposed terms for coordination with the Metrolinx GO Expansion program. It will also include the funding and financing strategy for land acquisition and capital work, based on the framework previously approved by Council, as well as public engagement and park design considerations.
The Official Plan Amendment (OPA 395) was appealed and upheld by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Toronto City Council adopted the Official Plan Amendment (OPA 395) which designated this area of the rail corridor for parks and open space.
In December, City Council approved stage 2: due diligence and concept development
The implementation strategy for Rail Deck Park was approved by City Council.
At approximately 20 acres, Rail Deck Park represents a bold and creative solution to the challenges of city-building; the first of its kind in the city and the country. An innovative deck structure – essentially a giant bridge across the rail corridor – will provide the foundation and be designed to minimize impacts on rail operations below. It will be engineered to support all the elements of a vibrant and dynamic urban park: lawns, gathering and play spaces, trees, water features, public art, and more.
The downtown rail corridor area is the last remaining site suitable for a large park to support growth in the Downtown and serve as a city-wide asset. In keeping with the principles of the recently-approved City of Toronto Parkland Strategy, Rail Deck Park will connect the broader parks and open space system, unite surrounding visitor attractions (Rogers Centre, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York, The Bentway) into a major destination district, and enhance regional connectivity by integrating with the planned GO Expansion program.
As a result of early consultation with the public and key stakeholders, a draft vision was developed for Rail Deck Park. The vision is for a bold transformation of the space above the active rail corridor into a signature public park for the local community as well as acting as a major destination for all of Toronto to enjoy. The Rail Deck Park Secondary Plan provides the building blocks, objectives and desired outcomes for Rail Deck Park. There are six objectives outlined in the report:
- Provide a park for all of Toronto
- Enhance connectivity and accessibility
- Create a place to gather and celebrate
- Invest in resiliency and green infrastructure
- Support and integrate rail
- Acknowledge and conserve the history of the railway lands.
Objectives of this public space include making connections across the rail corridor between neighbourhoods, between cultural and entertainment facilities, and to connect other area investments such as the Bentway and the proposed Spadina-Front GO Regional Express Rail station. To the immediate east of Blue Jays Way, Oxford Properties Group’s Union Park proposal includes approximately 3 acres of contiguous park and open space, including 2 acres to be built above the rail corridor. This proposed park and open space would be immediately across the street from the eastern extent of Rail Deck Park, providing a unique opportunity to align the design and implementation of both in order to enhance the public benefits of each proposal. The combined parkland resulting from the Union Park proposal and Rail Deck Park (at full build-out) could bring the total park space above the rail corridor to up to 23 acres (9.3 hectares).
The Secondary Plan applies to the land within the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jay Way, and directly adjacent city-owned properties. This includes Northern Linear Park and the planned Mouth of the Creek Park. The total area of the Rail Deck Park Secondary Plan is 8.8ha (21.7ha).
Toronto has a long legacy of investing in its parks and public realm network, which has endowed it with a well-used open space system that extends across the city.
As the City grows, it must take stock of its parks and open space system to identify where needs and opportunities exist to expand and enhance parkland to support the increasing number of people who call Toronto home.
The City began a major review of its parks and public realm as part of the TOcore Study and the development of the proposed Downtown Plan in 2014. This study identified a need for expanded parkland in the Downtown to serve growing populations and maintain liveability. However, in rapidly intensifying areas like Downtown, finding space for new major parks is difficult and costly. Through the TOcore study, the rail corridor, between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way, was identified as a major opportunity for parkland acquisition in the Downtown.
The vision for Rail Deck Park was formally announced by Mayor Tory in August 2016. Shortly after, City Council endorsed a work plan for Rail Deck Park. The work plan includes an Updated Planning Framework to support a park use over the site and an Implementation Strategy that addresses design, phasing, real estate, and financial considerations.