The undersides of highway overpasses are usually dank and dirty no man’s lands, rife with the stench of things we’d rather not smell. Urban developers in many cities, like Madrid, Seoul, and Seattle, are removing the offending structures, and re-developing the areas into green zones, perfect for cyclists and pedestrians. In Toronto, which seems to have more than its share of vocal pro-car citizens, the solution is going to look a little different. Instead of demolishing the Gardiner Expressway, an enormous raised highway which divides most of Toronto from its gorgeous lakefront property, the City plans to use the highway as a roof for a giant extended park.
“Project Under Gardiner can allow us to re-imagine the Gardiner Expressway underpass from desolate barrier to a ribbon of possibility. A place where the communities united by the Gardiner can work together to create a dynamic public space, a living link joining the city and its Waterfront,” said Lai King-Hum, who is president of a local residents’ association.
The plans, which are yet to be finalized, envision each block of space created by the massive concrete columns that hold up the expressway as an outdoor room, with its own unique activities and atmosphere. The “canopy” rises to five stories high in some sections, so multilevel activities are also a possibility. A multi-use trail is planned to connect the spaces.
The funding for the first part of the project, to be completed in 2017, comes from a $25 million donation from Toronto residents and urban development enthusiasts Judy and Wil Matthews.
“If we can help create a warm welcoming place where you can come to meet a friend, to walk, to cycle, to play, to eat a variety of street foods, watch a performance, listen to music or buy fresh vegetables at a market – we will be thrilled,” Judy Matthews said.
Images via Under Gardiner