City’s plan for a new park over midtown subway at risk

Ford’s new policies could throw a wrench into bold new public space initiative

An ambitious plan to create new midtown park space by decking over an open-air subway trench between Eglinton and Davisville stations may be jeopardized by recent actions undertaken by the province.

Decking over a 0.6 kilometre section of subway tracks between Chaplin Crescent and Berwick Avenue would create a two-hectare linear park.

The plan was part of the Toronto City Council–endorsed Midtown in Focus Parks and Public Realm Plan, which recommended undertaking an engineering feasibility review of the project while studying cost estimates and funding options. The plan recommended securing the future of the park by designating the lands as parks and open spaces areas in the city’s official plan.

“There is a major parks deficit in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. I think any additional green space will bring immense benefit to the neighbourhood,” said Ward 15 councillor Jaye Robinson, who said she is supportive of the proposal as both chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and a midtown councillor.

Councillor Josh Matlow, whose ward includes the site of the proposed park, said there is a dearth of parkland in the area and that he was the one who moved the motion to have it included in the Midtown in Focus plan.

“Things have changed since then, two critical things. One is, the province has dismissed our Midtown in Focus plan and has also approved Bill 108 that has essentially moved the planning process and handed it over to the development industry,” he said.

“The other big decision of the Ford government was to upload the Toronto subway,” said Matlow, referring to the Province of Ontario’s Bill 107, also known as the Getting Ontario Moving Act.

Matlow said the bill allows the province to take over the land and assets of the TTC, meaning that the property may not belong to Toronto and the TTC in the future.

“So our vision for decking over the tracks and building a park is threatened both by the province’s new plans for development in the area but also the fact that they’ve actually, since I moved that motion, it looks like they may even take over that property itself,” said Matlow.

Robinson said the project is currently in the hands of City of Toronto Planning staff, which is in a holding pattern until uncertainties at the provincial level are resolved.

“It is likely that the project will be delayed due to uncertainty about the proposed provincial upload and ownership of subway infrastructure,” said Robinson. “City staff are still working to determine how changes to the Development Charges Act through Bill 108 will affect Toronto.”