toronto's rail deck park

Toronto’s Rail Deck Park

So, it’s almost final. Our city will be getting its very own central park. And it turns out there are a lot of reasons we should be looking forward to this development.

The history of the proposal for the park dates back to the Fall of 2016. A Toronto city council request that asked staff for a strategy to implement the new park while incorporating factors like real estate analysis, engineering and structural assessment, financial analysis such as preliminary project costs and funding sources.

For those living in the area where the Rail Deck Park will be developed, the benefits are obvious. If you’re living in an apartment without a balcony, if you have a pet, or if you’re simply tired of having to travel to one of the cities larger parks (i.e. Liberty Village) then this will be some welcome news. In addition, a park of this size and location will only serve to increase the overall value and attractiveness of our already amazing city.

That said, there are challenges and benefits to such a development. Let’s start with the challenges first. Unless city council is able to find a unique funding model and not incur the entire $1 billion price tag, there will be a lot of huffing and puffing about the high cost, and neglected programs which could use such funding. However, while initial investment maybe steep, the potential revenue the city could generate from increased business investments and property values means those funds could be redirected to services like the TTC, community programs, and more.

Courtesy: ProjectYU

Also consider also that the project has also been called by many critics as too downtown centric with a disproportionate emphasis on the downtown core at the expense of surrounding city neighbourhoods, and suburbs.  In response to these potential critiques, the most recent Rail Deck proposal contains amendments which includes improvements to suburban parks and funding parks similar to the Rail Deck park.

Details of the Rail Deck Park:

  • is a 8.5-hectare (21-acre) public space to be built above a section of existing rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way
  • estimated cost of $1 billion

Aside from the challenges, lets also look at the potential upsides of the central park. The obvious supporters include politicians representing the constituency, business owners, and home owners who would benefit from property value increases (thereby leading to increased revenue to the city via property taxes as a result of increased property valuations). According to the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat,  “There is a significant park deficiency in the downtown, where 75 per cent of parks are less than half a hectare, and where we are seeing a significant amount of [population] growth. In order to ensure we are creating complete communities, we need to respond to the park deficiency that exists today. The rail corridor is the last opportunity to secure 21 acres of contiguous space. This is a once in a generation opportunity.”

Overall, a central park will provide the downtown core with much needed greenspace.  It will impact the way in which people commute and move through the downtown, as well as alter recreation within those urban neighbourhood.

Those reasons alone would have any city council charging ahead full steam to get get approval and begin development. And so for now, the waiting game begins. So far support seems strong, but as with anything political, optics is everything.

Ultimately, as the city continues to grapple with issues of empty coffers, it will have to look for ways to invest in city development projects like these which will serve to increase property values, quality of life, and finally the demand people and businesses will have to locate downtown and in the city generally.

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