Toronto’s Union Station – located at the intersection of Front and Bay – brings together thousands of civilians from all over the GTA and surrounding areas on a daily basis. The GO transit allows people to come into the heart of the city for work, for school, and for various other reasons. Union Station’s rail corridor between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way, which allows all the trains to pull into the platforms, is a space that is 21-acres in size; and although that space is very important and useful, it does not stop the architects and planners from coming together and imagining that 21-acre space as something which serves more purposes than simply bringing in trains.
The City of Toronto Planning Department presented a proposal for Rail Deck Park in Fall 2016. It is the design for a new major park in downtown Toronto, which will be one of a kind not only in the city, but in all of Canada. The city describes the park as “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 train operations below. It will be engineered to support all the elements of a vibrant and dynamic urban park: lawns, gathering and play spaces, shade trees, water features, public art, and more. Rail Deck Park will support the continued growth, prosperity, and liveability of our city.” I think we could not agree more with this description.
While the design proposal for Rail Deck Park was going smoothly down the yellow brick road, picking up Mayor John Tory along the way, there appeared a bump in the path – P.I.T.S. Developments. P.I.T.S. proposed a design called the ORCA Project where they envision adding 8 towers on top of Rail Deck Park. They envision more towers for a city which is only becoming more and more congested by the day. Seven out of the eight towers are going to be private/residential units: this means a space which was meant to be for the public will now have to be shared with the private sector. Although the mixed use of the public and private sector can be a good thing in some cases, it won’t necessarily be for this one. The design for ORCA plans on taking 42% of the green space away from Rail Deck Park. This means a lower amount of fresh air, less space for major public events and gathering, and a missed opportunity to make Toronto even more unique than it already is. And let us also not forget about all the other problems which will arise from this project, like restrictions to the use of park space below because of the complaints that will come from the residents living above.
Now, let’s go over all of the benefits that Rail Deck Park brings to the city. Firstly, Toronto is a city which is extremely diverse by nature, which is one of the things that makes it so unique. Diversity means there will be more cultural celebrations, more traditional events, and more gatherings of various groups, and there is no better place to do that than in large park spaces. Rail Deck Park will allow space for all of these events to happen, and even better, the park will be located in an area which acts as a border for the city. Secondly, it will be a major attraction, bringing in millions of tourists from all over the world to witness. It will set Toronto apart in yet another way. Thirdly, the biggest benefit that Rail Deck Park will bring to the city is more green space. The city is growing rapidly, towers are being built everywhere, many projects are underway to house more people, and in this process of figuring out where to place people, we forget that humans also need interaction with nature. Cars, trains, buses, trucks, all release many harmful toxins into the air, and we breath it all in daily. More green space can help alleviate those harmful gases and allow for us to breath cleaner and fresher air.
Considering of all those amazing facts, thinking of the possibility that we might not be able to experience them is an unfortunate thing. Therefore, let us envision a Toronto which is greener, fresher, and better for the future generations to come. Let us not support the construction of 58% of Rail Deck Park, but the complete 100%. Let us all support and help create a better Toronto.