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January 2023

The Gardiner is a defining feature of Toronto’s landscape. While the City works to rehabilitate the highway and bring new life to surrounding communities, we have an opportunity to reimagine how this infrastructure can connect, perform, and inspire

In addition to unifying recommendations for the whole corridor, the Plan will take a focused look at five districts:

The elevated Gardiner Expressway stretches 6.5km through the heart of Toronto. The Under Gardiner PRP focuses on a primary study area between Dufferin Street to Yonge Street. Within this area the five districts emerge, each bounded by distinct neighbourhoods , civic assets, existing public realm networks, trails, landmarks, and unique relationships to the Gardiner. A secondary study area covers the portion from Yonge Street to the Don Valley Parkway.

Take a look at the map on this to help orient yourself! 

Two Complimentary Approaches

The preliminary recommendations and emerging opportunities we have identified are the product of two distinct, but complementary approaches to the research and analysis of this study.

The first approach starts with holistic systems thinking and aims to address the Under Gardiner corridor as infrastructure for safety and connectivity with a cohesive identity and predictable features.

At the same time, a complimentary approach was required to speak to the distinct conditions of the districts and neighbourhoods that the Under Gardiner passes through. This district-specific approach allowed for a more bespoke reflection of local priorities, ongoing projects, and driving factors identified through consultation and engagement.

Corridor-wide Systems

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Regrounding Landscape – Immersive Water Landscapes
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.

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Regrounding Landscape – High-Performance Plantings
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.

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Connectivity and Accessibility: Stitching the City to the Shoreline
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.

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New Vitality: Activation Anchors & Animating the Spaces Between
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.

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Community Care & Social Infrastructure
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.