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Under Gardiner project unveiled


November 17, 2015
by Elsa Lam

Wintertime at Project: Under Gardiner near the Fort York Visitor Centre. Image by PUBLIC WORK

Wintertime at Project: Under Gardiner near the Fort York Visitor Centre. Image by PUBLIC WORK

This morning, the City of Toronto, together with philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews and Waterfront Toronto announced a $25 million partnership that will create a new public landscape beneath the western section of the city’s Gardiner Expressway.

The Matthews’ generous gift will fund the design and construction of more than 10 acres of new public space and 1.75 kilometres of multi-use trail beneath the elevated expressway from just west of Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. This unprecedented philanthropic partnership represents a new, collaborative model for building high-quality public spaces in Toronto. The project builds on the city’s approved $150 million investment in refurbishing this section of the Gardiner Expressway.

The preliminary design framework for Project: Under Gardiner outlines a new public space that knits together some of Toronto’s most dense neighbourhoods and connects a number of new or planned amenities. Image by PUBLIC WORK

The preliminary design framework for Project: Under Gardiner outlines a new public space that knits together some of Toronto’s most dense neighbourhoods and connects a number of new or planned amenities. Image by PUBLIC WORK

The initiative, currently called Project: Under Gardiner, will transform the six-storey-high areas beneath the expressway into vibrant community spaces that will play host to a range of cultural programming, ranging from summer water parks to winter skating rinks, and including market vendors, theatre spaces, and open air galleries. The vision is to create a new outdoor living room with year-round programming for the use of the 70,000 residents in nearby neighbourhoods, as well as a new amenity for visitors to the many attractions in the area.

The design team, lead by urban designer Ken Greenberg (centre), and Marc Ryan (left) and Adam Nicklin (right) of landscape architecture studio, PUBLIC WORK Photo by Bob Gundu

The design team, led by urban designer Ken Greenberg (centre) along with Marc Ryan (left) and Adam Nicklin (right) of landscape architecture studio PUBLIC WORK. Photo by Bob Gundu

Project: Under Gardiner envisions a dynamic public space that creates connections between some of Toronto’s newest and most dense neighbourhoods. “It turns what had become a barrier into common ground,” says planner Ken Greenberg, who heads the design team. Greenberg, working with Adam Nicklin and Marc Ryan of PUBLIC WORK, envisages the creation of a series of 55 civic “rooms” that are defined by the series of concrete post-and-beam structural elements supporting the Gardiner. These rooms will be knit together by a multi-use trail for walking and cycling that touches some of the City’s densest and most walkable urban neighbourhoods.

The project uses key landmarks as anchors—Historic Fort York and its new Visitor Centre by Patkau Architects and Kearns Mancini Architects, the new Fort York Library by KPMB Architects, and nearby green spaces such as June Callwood Park by GH3, Coronation Park, Garrison Common and the Toronto Music Garden on Queens Quay.

The vision for the project includes a grand staircase at Strachan that doubles as seating for an urban theatre. Image by PUBLIC WORK

The vision for the project includes a grand staircase at Strachan that doubles as seating for an urban
theatre. Image by PUBLIC WORK

“Architecture and urban design have deep importance to me and my husband,” says philanthropist Judy Matthews, who first became interested in civic initiatives in her early twenties while working on the anti-Spadina Expressway campaign. She later completed an M.A. in Urban Planning from York University and began honing her professional expertise in the Planning Departments at Metro Toronto, the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto. Judy has directed her energy to realizing an impressive array of projects that improve Toronto’s livability and creativity, including the award-winning St. George Street revitalization and the development of the $30-million Open Space Master Plan for the University of Toronto, as well as the creation of the Music Garden at Harbourfront. “Philosophically, I feel very strongly that we need to move beyond our own personal lives and give to the city we all live in. That’s what it means to be a citizen today,” says Matthews.

Looking east from Fort York Boulevard and Iannuzzi Street. Photo by Harry Choi Photography

Looking east from Fort York Boulevard and
Iannuzzi Street.
Photo by Harry Choi Photography

Waterfront Toronto will manage and build the project on behalf of the City. The City and Waterfront Toronto have committed to developing a self-sufficient funding model to support the ongoing operations and maintenance of the new space.

Waterfront Toronto will also lead public engagement and consultation for Project: Under Gardiner, inviting Toronto residents to participate in the design process and development of the programming vision. Through social media, the project website, a drop-in space and public meetings, Torontonians will be able to provide their feedback, suggestions and ideas. Public engagement on this project will begin with Reclaim the Name, a campaign that will ask members of the public to help give the space a name that is uniquely Torontonian. The campaign will begin in December.

Construction is set to start in the summer of 2016, with the initial phase of the project aiming for completion in 2017, in time to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation.

For more information, please visit undergardiner.com,



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  1. […] the City of Toronto, together with philanthropists Judy and Wil Matthews and Waterfront Toronto announced a $25 million partnership that will create a new public landscape beneath the western section of the city’s Gardiner […]

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