The Under Gardiner Public Realm Plan is not about repurposing a defunct or derelict piece of infrastructure. The Gardiner Expressway is, and will remain, an active transportation system. Any effort to increase public space, active transportation, cultural programming, or recreation uses under the Gardiner Expressway must take into consideration traffic and safety; rain and stormwater management; lighting and acoustics – conditions that create an unpleasant environment for pedestrians and others.
The vertical communities that hug the expressway all rely on the public realm for local outdoor recreation and amenity. The necessity of a well-designed, and accessible network of parks and public realm for all those who live, work and play in the surrounding areas is vital to support thriving communities.
The Under Gardiner also has the potential to become a significant cultural corridor connecting a number of cultural institutions and recreational destinations, including BMO Field, Exhibition Place, the Wellington Destructor, the Scotiabank Arena, CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Harbourfront Centre, Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and the Distillery District. The Under Gardiner PRP presents an opportunity to strengthen the connections between, and access to, these destinations while enhancing the public realm as a cultural destination in its own right.
As Toronto renews its public art procurement strategy, the Under Gardiner is a highly visible and prominent platform to deliver on the 10-year vision for creativity and community everywhere, enhancing the impact of the City’s public art programs for the benefit of residents and visitors.
Equity and Compassion
We must also recognize there are many who have turned to the space below the Gardiner Expressway as a place of refuge and shelter. In the face of dire circumstances, people have created informal networks of self-reliance and mutual aid in these spaces. In contemplating the past, present, and future of the Gardiner Expressway we must face the harsh reality that despite the wealth and prosperity of our city, growth has been uneven. If we are committed to a just and equitable society, we must understand the needs and aspirations of all our fellow citizens and learn from this critical community.