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A first look at Underpass Park in Toronto

Posted by Derek Flack / March 29, 2012

Underpass ParkUnderpass Park has yet to be officially unveiled by Waterfront Toronto, but the current state of the site underneath the Eastern Avenue overpass gives the passerby a pretty good idea of the what unique space will look like when the fences come down later this year. This first stage of the project already features basketball courts, playground infrastructure, and shows off just how the park will serve to revitalize a derelict bit of city space.

The whole thing is quintessentially urban and, dare I say, almost un-Toronto-like. We're not really a city bereft of space, so many of our parks lush and spacious affairs. But that, of course, is what makes Underpass Park so novel and exciting. As Christopher Hume noted recently, this is the first major attempt to "deal with the Gardiner." Even if these ramps actually have more to do with the DVP, his point still stands. There are significant tracts of unused (or at least underused) space across Toronto that could benefit from similarly progressive thinking.

Although it seems to exist in the middle of nowhere right now, as construction proceeds in the West Don Lands, you can bet this space will prove crucial to the community to come. It's also set to get much bigger as the section to the west of St. Lawrence Street is slated for future development as part of the second stage of the project.

More like this, please.


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Photos by Tom Ryaboi / Renderings via Waterfront Toronto



NC / March 29, 2012 at 01:25 pm
Looks pretty cool.
danielle / March 29, 2012 at 01:26 pm
Wow. A great example of making lemonade out of lemons.
Abhi / March 29, 2012 at 01:30 pm
Needs more Trees! Unless they were going for the 'Concrete-Jungle' look!
Alan / March 29, 2012 at 01:31 pm
Looks like a fantastic spot for some recreational stabbing, raping, and drug use.
Nick / March 29, 2012 at 01:41 pm
Looks cool, great re-use of speace. Now if only we could figure out a way to keep historic architecture in this city and stop turning it into bloody condos.
AL / March 29, 2012 at 01:41 pm
Basketball courts look proper, nice.
Jen / March 29, 2012 at 01:43 pm
Are those webs used to trap the homeless?
tj / March 29, 2012 at 01:45 pm
Wow, what a waste of money! Get your priorities straight!
Paul / March 29, 2012 at 01:45 pm
I'm puzzled by one thing; can someone explain? There is a winding footramp that leads up from the park to one of the elevated Eastern Avenue/Adelaide lanes. There aren't any transit routes or even a sidewalk up there. What's the ramp lead to?

Otherwise, the park's great. Even better when residential areas fill in.
Plens / March 29, 2012 at 01:45 pm
I like how this park will be available before the West Don Lands neighbourhood next to it takes shape.
Donny / March 29, 2012 at 01:46 pm
Looks great, very "urban" and un-Toronto as the article suggests. Innovative use of space.
Could have used a bit more soft landscaping and trees, but understandable that natural light is difficult in this location.
Also, remember when playground structures looked like playground structures, with slides, swings, teeter-totters, monkey bars... what happened?
Mark Wilson / March 29, 2012 at 01:48 pm
Alan - that was one of my first thoughts, too. I hope it's well-lit with protected lighting.

Aside from that, I love this use of the space. I don't think we should be afraid to be creative and fun with un- or under-used spaces because someone might do something we don't like there. It'll be up to the community how the space ultimately works out.
twinings / March 29, 2012 at 01:50 pm
I like it! But what happens when a piece of the Gardiner falls on a little precious child?
NC / March 29, 2012 at 01:51 pm
Actually, come to think of it, that basketball court is going to be layups only. Doesn't look like there's a lot of clearance for jump shots above the backboards.
Drug Addicted Stabby Rapist replying to a comment from Alan / March 29, 2012 at 01:52 pm
Yeah, I thought the same. This is somewhere I would, if I had any, want my children playing for sure.
Syncros / March 29, 2012 at 01:57 pm
This park looks great for the kids. How long until the fences come down?
NC / March 29, 2012 at 02:01 pm
Maybe it's just the camera angle ... bball courts are a welcome addition to any part of TO.
Toby Buckets / March 29, 2012 at 02:03 pm
The trees are coming later.
frank / March 29, 2012 at 02:11 pm
Great place for a 4am crack hit.
Bradley / March 29, 2012 at 02:14 pm
A park under an overpass? What is this? Ikiru?
MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 02:19 pm
These 'artist rendition' photos are awesomely optimistic.

I'm down there all the time with my dogs, and that area is FILTHY.
All of the garbage, hub caps and debris that flies off the highway ends up down there. The lighting is basically non existent after dark. Even with the light poles that are installed, it's no where you'd want to be. Not to mention the noise ... CAFE? .. HAHAHAHAHA!

There is no doubt in my mind it will be vandalized once the nice weather hits.

If I had children, they wouldn't be playing down there.
With the shit flying off the highway, it's a huge liability.

Syncros replying to a comment from Paul / March 29, 2012 at 02:21 pm
Paul that stairway up leads to the Eastern Ave bridge on the south side, and there is a sidewalk along there. You can walk either way to broadview or to cherry st. Nearest transit would be along King, a few minutes away.
Rk replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 02:26 pm
Attitudes like yours are why this city develops at a snails' pace. This park is barely finished and you've listed all the reasons you'd think it might suck. What if it just works out? There are lights installed beneath the highway ramps, and it's mid-construction in March; of course it's grey and filthy. There are worse things than being 'awesomely optimistic'.
Paul replying to a comment from Syncros / March 29, 2012 at 02:27 pm
cool, thanks.
Syncros replying to a comment from Paul / March 29, 2012 at 02:27 pm
Paul heres a Google Maps streetview of the bridge, showing where the new ramp up is going and a bit further down where the old/current ramp up is, http://g.co/maps/racr3
MrsPotato replying to a comment from Rk / March 29, 2012 at 02:34 pm
I'm going to assume you don't pay property taxes. Or taxes in general. Or you'd have a different view on this. This is a completely and utter WASTE OF MONEY. MY MONEY. TAX PAYERS MONEY.
mike / March 29, 2012 at 02:35 pm
So awesome! the haters on this site gotta stop hatin'. Anyways this area in five years will be unrecognizable, once river city gets built. cant wait to go see it!
alan replying to a comment from NC / March 29, 2012 at 02:44 pm
there may not be any jump shots but rebounds off the "low ceiling" should be a possibility...
peter / March 29, 2012 at 02:55 pm
more grafitti needed
Rk replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 02:55 pm
oh, sweetheart, cool off. Never assume. My property taxes pay for the electricity that powers the computer you need to write you all-caps screed.

I also pass this place the way to work every morning - and I'd rather see an attempt at dynamic urban planning than a sketchy black hole. Claiming something is a "waste of taxpayer's money" is such a hollow argument; you couldn't find a more disparate section of the population than taxpayers: old folks, young, lefties, right-wing, you and me. Us taxpayers are not a unified mob of park-haters.

That'd just be you.
Alex / March 29, 2012 at 03:12 pm
That climbing rope sphere thing looks awesome. Kudos to TO for taking a crappy space and making something really great out of it.
Chris / March 29, 2012 at 03:14 pm
Remember also that this will be the pedestrian route to connect all the new condos on the north side of this underpass to connect to the new Don River Park. So, instead of having some unattractive gateway to the new park (which I am sure even Mrs. Potato thinks is not a waste of taxpayer dollars, unless you don't think public parks with nature are a good thing), underpass park has made what would normally be a deterrent to using what will be a very usable and beautiful park into something that actually makes the park more inviting. As for wasting taxpayer dollars, projects like these allow there to be more neighbourhoods where people can live, and thus pay property taxes, giving a return on the investment into this park. This in turn can keep other's property taxes lower, including those of Mrs. Potato. The neighbourhood around this park will be a mixed use densely populated area near down town for which municipal services can be delivered more efficiently. Again, this would help keep everyone else's property taxes lower. The only problem with this land before this park (and the Don River park) was built is that the land was too undesirable to live near.

In summary, this is not a waste of taxpayer dollars, but rather a wise investment of taxpayer dollars.
george replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 03:20 pm
What a near sighted perspective you have.

As someone who pays property taxes, projects like this are exactly what Toronto needs!

More please!
Kate / March 29, 2012 at 03:27 pm
Ambitious project, I hope it works out. It could definitely use some more trees and greenery though to counteract all the car fumes that will waft over from the Gardiner.
argo replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 03:28 pm
Your schtick is wearing thin. You may want to consider writing some new 'comedy'.
David replying to a comment from Syncros / March 29, 2012 at 03:32 pm
Syncros - Will there be some change to the area where you cross the entrance to the DVP? Cars generally go pretty fast on that bridge.
Syncros / March 29, 2012 at 03:37 pm
I expect most people will be going below the bridge as the development completes. It is not a pedestrian-friendly bridge to say the least. For the part by the DVP onramp I haven't heard of any changes, but its just a few meters of crossing there and is easy enough to get across because of the lights on Richmond and Eastern creating traffic gaps.
kalo / March 29, 2012 at 03:41 pm
Nice! I cant wait to get robbed here.
Torontoguy replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 03:43 pm
I pay taxes and I think this is a great idea. You know what else is a great idea? Proper grammar. It's "taxpayers' money".
MrsPotato replying to a comment from argo / March 29, 2012 at 03:53 pm
paul / March 29, 2012 at 04:29 pm
if you've played gta4, you know how this place will turn out
Rk replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 04:31 pm
The beleaguered-taxpayer schtick. Thaaaat comedy. It's a bloody park, not a Taliban bed and breakfast.
MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 04:37 pm
I think if you positive-thinkers visited more of these Toronto 'revitalization' projects, you'd see where they end up; neglected and forgotten. And a total and utter WASTE OF MONEY.
i'm not negative, i'm realistic.

Niko replying to a comment from paul / March 29, 2012 at 04:41 pm
life is not your little video games fatty!!!
Adam / March 29, 2012 at 04:41 pm
why is anyone even responding to this potato woman? lol she's a ford troll-- sounds like him, too.

i think this is a great idea provided the transit, residential and commercial development follows-- until it does, the park might be a little sketchy. still, great to see toronto thinking outside of the box!
MrPotato / March 29, 2012 at 04:43 pm
Back inside, dear.
Rk replying to a comment from MrsPotato / March 29, 2012 at 04:50 pm
One thing I don't understand, Mrs. Potato-for-a-Heart. In your first post before you went All-Caps on our liberal lefty asses, you mention bringing your dogs down there all the time. You frequent the place and you still put revitalization in sarcastic quotes? There's no hope for you. Find another dirt-pit to wallow in. We'll enjoy the park.
W. K. Lis / March 29, 2012 at 04:57 pm
Don't they know that roads are for cars, not kids. Kids aren't taxpayers. Bah, humbug.

MrsPotato replying to a comment from Rk / March 29, 2012 at 05:01 pm
I'm a huge advocate of parks, etc.

This is legit concern. This parkette thing .. waste of $$.

I'm not a righty.


ulf / March 29, 2012 at 05:03 pm
looks pretty neat!

But shouldn't the under bellies of the highway, have some sort of netting/tarp/etc extending outwards a bit to protect from potential hazardous debris falling from the highway?

Or something to flow leakage from melting snow/ice away from the park underneath?
Don / March 29, 2012 at 05:04 pm
In the next few years, the Riverside community will be completed. There will be Toronto time-proven mixed income living, and a close connection to Waterfront Toronto's many initiatives.
What you see here is not yet totally completed. Work on the larger Underpass Park section to the west is about to begin.

I bet as usual the totally negative Toronto bashers have not even seen the site nor can possibly envision how it might all work. Let us meet back here in about 2 years OK? Then we can evaluate the success of this project.
MrPotato / March 29, 2012 at 05:22 pm
Dear if you don't get your spud behind back inside, I will turn you into potato salad.
iSkyscraper / March 29, 2012 at 05:48 pm
Well, they are giving it a solid try. The playground equipment looks to be Kompan and Corocord, pretty much the primo European makers of cool urban play stuff. For example, these are the Bloqx:


The flagship park in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6, has the same climbing dome and it is very popular:


The main problem with this playground will be maintenance. Litter, graffiti -- not Toronto's strong suit these days. But certainly I applaud the strong initial effort.

Bucajck / March 29, 2012 at 08:06 pm
It would be nice if Torontonians were a little more positive about things like this.
Ryan / March 29, 2012 at 09:41 pm
Guys this isn't under a highway. It's under Eastern avenue, and that stretch has a speed limit of 50km/h (and is very heavily patrolled for speeders). It's not like truck tires will be raining down on chidren below.
td replying to a comment from Mark Wilson / March 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm
Some images of the proposed lighting can be seen here: http://on.fb.me/H1MeWK
lol / March 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm
lol whoever thought that bbal court was a good idea is a moron.....
PipeDown / March 30, 2012 at 01:25 am
The Gardiner ain't coming down any time soon. Developing underneath, for public space makes sense. It's also a great way to educate 905 single occupant car-commuters about life-style choices, beyond the commuting gridlock.
Jimmy / March 30, 2012 at 04:20 am
Same thing was done in Louisville to some success. I understand some of you may object to a southern U.S. state scooping you on urban renewal, but it's a fact, Google it. As for the Gardiner, if any of you actually believe it should come down, you are in a place that is so detached from reality that it should realistically scare any logical Torontonian out of living on the west side of downtown. Where will that traffic go?
w-hat / March 30, 2012 at 07:45 am
Sydney's Darling Harbor shows how overpasses can be integrated into public spaces and parks properly. When it's done right you don't even notice them.
Don / March 30, 2012 at 08:19 am
To the question of protection to those below the ramp from falling crap. I checked above months ago and found extra protection to halt debris. Anything short of a vehicle will be caught.
agentsmith / March 30, 2012 at 10:42 am
I'm not sure how many people will want to hang out under an overpass, but the biggest problem is that this park is way ahead of the game, and there's basically nothing around there yet. Maybe when the condos are finished in a couple years this park will actually be used... presuming the real estate bubble doesn't pop first.
Franco / March 30, 2012 at 11:00 am
I can't wait!
Josh / March 30, 2012 at 10:22 pm
Stra / April 2, 2012 at 08:58 am
perfect place for a breath of fresh air and great for the little kiddies to get their daily dose of exhaust fumes.
meil / April 2, 2012 at 04:35 pm
newsflash: if you pay rent in Toronto, you are a taxpayer: your landlord has to pay taxes for their property with some of your rent money. the only people who aren't taxpayers in this sitution are the (some, not all) people on the ramps overhead. LOL and can we please stop referring to citizens as "taxpayers"? its almost as bad as "consumers". tactless and vulgar. we all pay taxes, but its our citizenship that is important and gives us ownership.
junctionist / April 2, 2012 at 06:53 pm
I disagree that Underpass Park is "un-Toronto". Toronto has many unique and interesting public spaces, though we could use fewer parks and more squares. Once the West Don Lands neighbourhood is built and inhabited, this space should be lively. While there might be some illicit activity at night, the same could happen at any park. However, this concern is valid (though shouldn't be overblown) as spaces like this one are less likely to have people observant of what's going on into the night.

Many people here have
MrsPotato / April 4, 2012 at 02:56 am
Sorry everyone. I just have a lot of anxiety problems, as you can probably tell from the way I write. Also, my name's not MrsPotato in real life. My head just smells like a potato. I don't know why, but it's part of why I'm always so angry about boring bullshit, and have to whine about it anonymously on the internet of all places....
Justin / April 4, 2012 at 06:36 pm
Go play in traffic.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from lol / April 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm
Really? Maybe it the moron who built the highly successful courts under the West Side Highway in Manhattan.

Emz / April 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm
reminds me a bit of this...

some guy / April 18, 2012 at 01:30 am
I think this whole thing is a great idea... I've been all over the world and have seen this sort of thing work out great. I love that there is a skatepark under there and can guarantee that will be used... I just came back from a skatepark that was constructed in Long Beach California that was placed in a very rough area and the crime dropped by a significant amount. Give the community tools to be constructive and most will use them or at least respect them. Good on ya Toronto for trying... Can't wait to use this area.
A / July 17, 2012 at 03:38 pm
keep your pets AND kids on a leash, thank god theres no wading pool there otherwise it would be sketchy. Also not to mention the fact that the cars and fumes are hovering just above....the SKATEpark will be used! but little kids should stick to other parks
Socrates Apallas / July 20, 2012 at 11:48 am
Come check out Underpass Park Tonight! - FREE Ice Cream @ 730pm - 930pm (Friday July 20th)
Egg / July 29, 2012 at 11:56 am
Great use of space, if it is successful, more parks should be developed under the Gardiner.
Scott / August 17, 2012 at 04:14 pm
Where's the grass? (read this in the voice of the old lady from the Wendy's 'Where's the beef?' commercials)

With global warming and heat island effect being a serious concern for cities to combat, they really should have included more plants and grass. And where are the roof top gardens, plants and trees, that environmentalists have been suggesting for decades??
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lesley / April 28, 2014 at 03:09 am
it looks so beautiful. is there sport area too?
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selim / March 7, 2015 at 02:41 pm
Playgrounds should be around green areas where children can breath free and fresh air. I saw a commercial succes there but not a ground breaking playarea.
sunny / October 16, 2015 at 01:18 pm
Way cool! really every things is perfect!
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