Could the Gardiner be converted to Toronto’s version of NYC’s High Line park?

New York City’s High Line is a 2.33 kilometre linear park that runs along an old elevated railway line. Since it opened in 1993, city planners and other civic-minded folk from coast to coast have been lusting after it like a raccoon eyeing a fresh green bin. Toronto is far from immune.

The plight of the much-maligned Gardiner Expressway has given rise to thoughts of converting our own cement block behemoth to a linear park snaking its way through town. At a Sept. 21 meeting of Toronto City Council’s executive committee, an idea for a linear park was pitched by architecture firm Brook McIlroy along with a slew of options for reconfiguring the Gardiner in the years to come.

Basically, the proposal reinvisions the eastern portion of the Gardiner as a stack of usages with a rail corridor under the Gardiner Expressway and a linear park stretching for a kilometre at the top. The proposal is linked to the coming expansion of the railway tracks as GO train service expands exponentially over the next 15 years.

The proposal has been dubbed the Green Gardiner. And, at executive committee, the project was included in a selection of options that will move forward to the environmental assessment process with a report back to council as early as next spring.

“I think it’s responding to the fact that these areas are getting denser and denser, so the ratio of density to open space, or population to park space, is so inadequate,” says Calvin Brook, Brook McIlroy co-founder. “Where you can find space, above grade, to make green spaces, green roofs on buildings or something like this project, I think that’s what’s happening and especially on the waterfront.”

Last year, there was another proposal for a linear park. The King High Line would link West Queen West to Liberty Village on an elevated park system over the Georgetown rail corridor. As part of the Nxt City Prize competition in Toronto, there was also a proposal to convert the sad-looking Black Creek concrete culvert into something of a linear park snaking through the northwest part of the city.

Eventually, one of these projects will click with the city, and once again we’ll finally have what the Big Apple has been enjoying for the past six years.