Phase One of Toronto’s Underpass Park opens

Located under and around the Eastern Avenue, Richmond and Adelaide overpasses, Underpass Park is the most extensive park ever built under an overpass in Canada, and the first ever in Toronto. One of Toronto’s most innovative urban parks, the first phase of Underpass Park, a 2.5-acre mixed-use space, opened on Thursday, August 2, 2012.

Constructed in two phases, the first completed sections of the park are between St. Lawrence Street and Bayview Avenue. The second phase of the park, on the west side of St. Lawrence Street, is under construction and expected to open in spring 2013.

Designed by Vancouver-based landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg with The Planning Partnership, Underpass Park is part of an ongoing effort to transform pockets of neglected urban spaces on the waterfront into valued public amenities. With the objective of transforming derelict and underused space, the park takes full advantage of the concrete beams and columns of the overpasses to create a unique and inviting community asset and provide year-round weather protection. Consequently, this bright new urban park will give residents of the West Don Lands and adjacent communities safe and beautiful ways to connect between the north and south sections of the neighbourhood.

A sizeable playground is located in the middle section of the park, between St. Lawrence St. and River Street. With a teeter-totter, hopscotch, 4-square, swings and playful climbing structures, the playground offers something for all ages. The area also includes a series of park benches and flexible community space that can be used for markets, festivals and seasonal public events.

The eastern-most section of the park, east of River Street, includes two basketball half-courts and an extensive skatepark featuring a series of obstacles, rails and ledges. There is also a flexible open space that can be used for community events.

When planning the overarching public art strategy for the West Don Lands, Underpass Park was identified as a high-priority public art opportunity. In late 2009, Waterfront Toronto launched its first ever artist competition and selected Paul Raff Studio, whose Mirage engages the public through the playful use of reflection by bouncing light around the space in an interesting and sculptural way. Suspended overhead of pedestrians, large scale mirror-like surfaces create an illusory appearance, which bends light rays to produce a displaced image much like a mirage. Mirage is made up of 57 reflective polished stainless steel panels fastened to the underside of the overpass.

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