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City staff want greenlight to plan 3 downtown park projects, including at Bathurst Quay
July 6, 2022

Toronto city staff are asking for council's nod to move ahead with planning for three major downtown park projects, including a proposal for a new waterfront green space at the bottom of Bathurst Street.

Bathurst Quay waterfront park has been in the works since about 2017 and is part of a complete reimagining of the neighbourhood. Planners want to build the park over what is now an aging city-owned parking lot.

Part of the green space would also be developed over the adjacent Portland slip, which the city purchased from the federal government in 2018.

The park would help connect Toronto's growing downtown population to Lake Ontario.

"For so many years, this city turned its back on the waterfront," Mayor John Tory said at a Tuesday morning news conference touting the incremental progress made on the park plans so far.

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Tory's executive committee will meet on July 12 to consider city staff's recommendation to move ahead with the next steps for Bathurst Quay park. Public consultations could begin within 18 months, Tory said, with a hope of completing construction by 2028 or 2029.

Tory said he hopes the whole process can be accelerated.

"I believe some of these timetables are conservative and that we can speed them up," he told reporters.

The report going to the executive committee next week also recommends the city go forward with planning for two other longer-term projects that could drastically transform the downtown core.

Staff is asking permission to begin developing a master plan for parks and public spaces along the rail corridor from Fort York in the west to Union Station in the east. This would include rail deck parks that span over the corridor, as well as public spaces adjacent to it.

Previous plans for a 20-acre rail deck park were scuttled by a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal decision in 2021, though developers involved in the proposal said earlier this year they would be open to restarting discussions.

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The other project is an overhaul of University Avenue, with the intention of connecting the financial district, hospital row and the University of Toronto's downtown campus with one continuous, nine-acre green space. This proposal is in the earliest phases, with any work not expected to begin for at least 10 years or more.

"These are big projects, all of them, and they will take time to get done," Tory said this morning, adding that he and city staff are "completely committed" to seeing them through.

Funding for near-term work on the proposals will come from existing capital spending plans, according to the report. But beyond a five-year horizon, dedicated funding will need to be earmarked by council.

Toronto's downtown population is expected to grow to roughly 475,000 by 2041, roughly double to what it was as of 2016.