When it comes to architectural trends in Canada, Toronto is often at the forefront. This is especially true when it comes to urban redevelopment and design. For proof, just look at one of the more recent and more ingenious urban renewal programs, Underpass Park, located beneth and around the overpasses at Eastern Avenue, Richmond Street and Adelaide Street in Toronto's downtown east side. Fun city planning fact: this is the most extensive park of its kind in Canada and the first such space in Toronto!
First off, it’s obviously a really smart use of space. Recreational parks, pedestrian paths, and green space are some of the most highly coveted amenities in general but, invariably, are in short supply in urban settings due to the scarcity of land. This is why the imagivinative and bold idea of creating Underpass Park is a big gulp of fresh air; it has breathed new life and new purpose into an unexpected space. Located under busy elevated vehicular ramps, these forlorn derelict spaces had long been regarded as 'no man's land'.
Courtesy of EventsInToNow
The infrastructure of this overpass represents the postwar ribbons of concrete that wind over the century-old grid of Toronto's original urban fabric. When the automobile ursurped its postwar supremacy and highways dominated modern day land use – regardless of what was in its path, including vibrant century-old neighbourhoods – the blockbusting process served to ravage, divide and isolate communities as well. But with the re-development of this space, these representative barriers come down, reconnecting the north and south of Toronto's West Don Lands which dates back to the 1850s. It’s also a gathering space in an urban setting that provides a truly one-of-a-kind experience. This is a really unique asset for the West Don Lands, and the historic Corktown and Distillery District neighbourhoods.
So how do you beautify concrete 'n cool and make it accessible and interesting to the general public? To start, refashion the space to suit the lifestyle, hobbies, and goals of those who will (and do) use it. And, while it may seem important to appeal to those is closest proximity, Toronto deserves a pat on the back for making the site alluring and inviting to everyone, regardless of neighbourhood, even for those who travel to get there.
Courtesy of ExploreWaterfrontToronto
What will you find at Underpass Park? The usual park amenities – but in a unique setting that makes them even more desirable and enjoyable. By virtue of being located under an overpass, this park is shielded by the rain, which makes it a great skateboard park. It also has basketball courts and a playground. There is seating, pedestrian walkways and concessions. LED lights flood the columns at night, injecting light and colour, softening the hard edges – at least visually – of the structures.
Courtesy of ExploreWaterfrontToronto
It’s also a contemplative space, with art work to absorb and consider during your time there. An installation made up of 57 octagonal mirrored stainless steel surfaces applied to the underside of the columns makes for a multi-dimensional art piece by Toronto artist and architect Paul Raff. Vibrant paintings and murals adorn the columns and concrete structure.
What perhaps is most special about this particular urban space is how it is a shining example of how imagination, community spirit and clever design are the true engines of urban renewal.
Want to learn more about Underpass Park? Click here to read “Waterfront ‘Eyesore’ Comes To Life As Underpass Park Officially Opens”, “About Underpass Park”, and “Underpass Park”
How cool would it be to have this truly special park right at your doorstep?
Located on the east side of the Underpass Park is a fairly recent new mid-rise neighbourhood called River City, which comprise a collection of stark black and white architectural cubes that nod to the area's industrial past while providing affordable rental and condominium housing.
Check out our recently sold one-bedroom soft loft listing in River City that sold for $446,000: Concrete ‘N Cool In River City, Corktown.
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If you enjoyed this, you may be interested in these other Urbaneer.com blogs on city green space:
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** Title Image by Toronto photographer, Alex Lukey.