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Tory announces plans for 21-acre park over downtown rail corridor

Last Updated Aug 10, 2016 at 2:29 am EDT

Toronto may be known to many as a city of parks, but the downtown core, with its burgeoning population, has been neglected in that regard.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory announced the new 21-acre Rail Deck Park, a project meant to remedy that deficiency in a way that’s “bold and innovative, sustainable and surprising.”

The park would be built over the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way — which would continue to be used by Metrolinx and Via Rail — and connect the neighbourhoods of King-Spadina, City Place and the waterfront.

“The people of Toronto love their parks,” Tory said. “The parks give us breathing room in our lives. They’re places to meet friends, to play with our kids, to have events, to sit back and simply enjoy the out of doors.”

He said the population in the area between King-Spadina and City Place is almost 40,000, up from 1,000 in 1996. In the next 25 years, the population downtown is expected to double to almost 500,000.

Meanwhile, 75 per cent of downtown parks are considered no more than parkettes as they’re smaller than half a hectare.

“We’ve allowed a lot of development to take place without taking a step like this, and it’s time to move forward,” Tory said.

The park will take four to five years to build and the price tag will likely be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which Tory said would come from both the city and the private sector. The Millenium Park in Chicago, a similar project, cost $33 million per acre.

Area councillor Joe Cressy said he’s been working on a new park for the Entertainment District and a YMCA near King and Spadina, but the Rail Deck Park would be a destination for the entire city.

“This idea won’t happen overnight. It will take years,” he said. “But it is bold, it is ambitious, and it is exactly the type of big thinking that the city of Toronto is ready for.

“As we grow, we need to ensure that we’re building neighbourhoods, building communities, not just building towers.”

Staff will present a proposal for implementation and public consultations to the city’s Executive Committee in September.

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