WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? Finding out what's in store under and around the Gardiner in the coming years + learning about the cool ways the Bentway collects ideas and suggestions from the general public
As the author of Toronto walking guides, nothing pleases me more than reading such statements:
City streets, sidewalks and public spaces are not only links between destinations but are places to be enjoyed in their own right.
This excerpt comes from the full background report of the Under Gardiner Public Realm Plan, published by the Bentway in March 2022. And last week, I attended the first interactive open house to present it to the public, at the Bentway Studio (55 Fort York Boulevard).
More free open houses are to be held at the Studio on Tuesdays January 24, 31 and February 7 from 3 pm to 7 pm. They offer registration but I’m pretty sure you can drop in. Their website also presents a plethora of information to explain the plan.
I was impressed by their way to engage us to write down comments, feedback and wish lists to have a say in the future of our city. It is timely. The City of Toronto is undergoing extensive reinvestment in the Gardiner Expressway, which the Bentway knows is “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to realize a new future both above and below the roadway”.
That’s the way!
One you start to read the information on the installations spread on the floor of the Studio, you’re hooked. They found a catchy way to explain the plan and one feels the team involved had fun brainstorming the future of the Under Gardiner.
They separated the Under Gardiner into five sections, each one with its own personality and colour code, covering the under Gardiner from Dufferin to Yonge: Exhibition West Anchor, Bentway-Fort York, Under Gardiner Islands, Toronto Terrace and Glass Gardiner.
Each one presented in the same fashion. As you walk around each installation, you discover: 1. a map of the section with description of the site today and the possibilities; 2. a panel identifying emerging opportunities, with colour-coded post-its referring to each opportunity to choose and comment on our favourite; 3. a comment wall to stick our post-it (fun to read other people’s comments and to see if one of the opportunities sticks more than the others (bad pun); 4. key insights gathered during previous consultations with community partners and individuals.
Past these installations, The Bentway found another clever way to engage us: designer stickers!
They present ideas and suggestions shared by participants in four installations featuring different categories of recommendations: Safety & Comfort, Wayfinding & Identity, Productive Ecology and Predictable Amenities.
For each category, they offer 3 to 4 potential ideas, each one represented by its own (very cool) designer sticker. Then, they invite us to pick the sticker of the idea dearest to us and post it on a nearby pillar. They also provide regular post-its to add our comments. For example, in the Safety & Comfort category, I picked the Seating sticker and commented that more benches would favour multigenerational walks. (Whenever I lead groups of seniors, the first thing they ask me is to spot the benches along the way!)
While you’re here
After the visit, chances are the sun will have set and you’ll have a chance to admire the cityscape by night. Make sure to walk around the modern complex of Canoe Landing Community Recreation Centre housing the Bentway Studio! Look up! Here and there, touches of coloured lights add whimsy to this land of the giant condos!
Walk towards Spadina. You’ll see the large daycare, then turn right onto Brunel Ct, then right again to cross the vast plaza leading back to Canoe Landing Park. Keep going until you reach the giant bobbers, an impressive art installation by Douglas Coupland. (Read this for more photos of the great public art around the Gardiner.)
While I’m there, I like to walk up Telegram Mews towards the train tracks to see the giant red sculpture with Puente de Luz in the background, the pedestrian bridge running over the tracks.
Note to the curious minds: the CAFE at 66 Fort York is actually a cannabis store which quietly opened way before it was legal! The first time I mentioned them in my walking guides (when it was still illegal), they suggested I describe them as an “Amsterdam-style coffee shop).
On the ground floor, they sell coffee and tea with a twist. You can ask them to infuse any drink with THC, CBD or 1:1 for an extra kick (and additional fee). They even have a Happy Hour from 4:20 pm to 5:20 pm when you can get a 10mg infusion added to your drink, on the house. (More about the signification of 420 here.)
On the second floor, where you can buy anything cannabis, they also carry lots of edibles.
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.
Nathalie's guides are available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.