Corridor-wide Systems: Comfort & Sustainability
United through a suite of corridor-wide “systems” or “design lenses”, and informed by what we heard through consultation, the public realm recommendations are grounded in a landscape-first approach and aim for a new balance between commuters and residents; wind and rain; plants and trees; animals, birds and insects; concrete and nature.
The best approach is often the simplest. Nature provides us with many examples of this. Leading with landscape we can efficiently deal with rainwater management in urban areas and turn our infrastructure from grey to green and reestablish a balance between vibrant human activity and functional ecological processes.
In the decades since the highway’s construction, not only has the physical context changed dramatically, shifting from an industrial waterfront and rail yards to vibrant, mixed-use high-density communities, our understanding of human impacts on the natural environment has advanced as well. The Under Gardiner PRP recommends reframing the highway’s relationship with local hydrology, including the way landscape retains, filters, and distributes water as part of a renewed blue-green infrastructure system.
Building on a renewed strategy for water and sensitivity to the specific environmental conditions in the corridor, the Under Gardiner PRP suggests expanding on existing planting strategies used for vegetated wind buffers, bioswales for water retention and filtration, rewilding and naturalization, and pollinator and medicinal gardens, among others. To implement these enhanced systems, the plan will recommend further study informed by consultation with Indigenous knowledge keepers.
The Gardiner Expressway represents a physical and psychological barrier between the city’s downtown core and the waterfront. To help remedy this long-standing disconnect, the Under Gardiner PRP recommends re-framing street-level intersections as gateways and filling in connectivity gaps by establishing a cohesive east-west network of paths and multi-use trails as well as new north-south connections to the waterfront.
The Under Gardiner corridor is an urban spine linking numerous destinations and hubs of activity, but these adjacencies could be greatly enhanced. In addition to enhancing connections among cultural institutions and commercial destinations, the Under Gardiner Public Realm Plan recommends introducing new frontages and uses in previously under-appreciated and overlooked spaces.
As central waterfront communities intensify with new highrise neighborhoods, it is imperative that social infrastructure keeps pace. This means considering local access to childcare, libraries, schools, and community centers. It also requires establishing access to predictable, year-round, public amenities across the corridor including washrooms, warming stations, water fountains, cycling infrastructure, and wifi.