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The SkyWalk could come crashing to the ground

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 6, 2013

toronto skywalkUnion Station's arching SkyWalk, that most photogenic of Toronto's urban landmarks, could be on the chopping block if the city's preservation board adopts a report recommending its demolition at next week's meeting.

Revised construction plans from Allied REIT, the SkyWalk's owner, to enclose the downtown terminus of Metrolinx's Union-Pearson Express call for the removal of a large part of the curved glass arcade parallel to Station Street by summer at the latest. A small remaining section closer to to Simcoe Street could be later be gobbled up by the podium for a separate office tower project.

toronto skywalkFinished in 1989, the SkyWalk was built to connect Union Station with the SkyDome and reduce the need for additional parking spaces near the ballpark by providing a direct link to TTC and GO trains. The post-modern curved metal and glass structure was the first major construction project in the railway lands after the CN Tower.

If the area around the station is built to the new, revised plan the route itself from Union to the ballpark and convention centre, which forms part of the PATH network, will be retained inside the a new, square-roofed structure. The bridge crossing the railway tracks will be unaffected.toronto skywalkAccording to digital designs released with the report, Station Street, named for its former location in front of Old Union Station, will be closed off at one end and turned into an pedestrian plaza if the tower project begins as currently planned.

The SkyWalk itself forms part of the Union Station Heritage Conservation District. Though the city says in a report it would have preferred to keep the existing arcade, it cites "construction scheduling and programmatic requirements" as the reason for the design shift, suggesting pressures of Metrolinx's pledge to complete the project in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games are at play.

Allison Meistrich, a city of Toronto planner, insists that's not the case. "It is our understanding that the ARL station fit better (fewer grade changes, etc.) in a reconstructed SkyWalk connection. The ARL is to be running in time for the Pan Am Games and those timing issues will affect the project phasing, construction, etc., but is not a factor in the design change regarding the SkyWalk."toronto skywalkA 2007 report recommended demolishing only the west end of the SkyWalk and keeping the section closest to Union intact. Text on the Union-Pearson Express website describes the new station sitting within the existing structure but that design has since been altered.

The report, if adopted, will have to clear city council before demolition can proceed.

What are your thoughts? Is the SkyWalk a fair price to pay for a decent rail link to the airport or should Metrolinx have found a way to stick to its existing plans?

UPDATE: 14/02/2013toronto skywalkThe owners of the SkyWalk, Allied REIT, have withdrawn their application to demolish the eastern portion of the curved glass roof, the section closes to Union Station, for "a variety of reasons." The Union-Pearson Express station, which was unaffected by Allied's proposed design change, will now stay inside the existing glass roof as originally illustrated on the project website.

The demolition of the western portion, which is part of a separate application, is unaffected by today's decision and could still go ahead depending on what Allied decides in the coming months.

Is this a win for SkyWalk fans or could the space have used a new design? Are you happy that most of the SkyWalk roof will remain?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: "The Skywalk at Night" by Ben Roffelsen/blogTO Flickr pool and City of Toronto.



Pk / February 6, 2013 at 01:27 pm
Good idea, especially if it's to help integrate the PATH system into the neighbourhood's upcoming changes.

It's kinda ugly too.
Yvonne / February 6, 2013 at 01:35 pm
That thing IS ugly. But kept me warm for many trips. Seems like a waste to kill it.
James / February 6, 2013 at 01:41 pm
I won't miss it...but I'll always have the memories of 50,000 people pouring through it on the way to the Skydome. My family would always grab something from the Mr. Sub that was there.

Can't remember what other retail there was. Kind of depressing to walk through it now.
Matt / February 6, 2013 at 01:42 pm
It always smells like pee.
Thomas / February 6, 2013 at 01:45 pm
It never really materialized into what it was supposed to be, with vibracy and shops and lots of activity. Now it's just a long hallway of boarded up shops. Replacing it with facilities that will be more heavily used sounds fine to me.
Another Matt / February 6, 2013 at 01:54 pm
It seemed like a good idea at the time of it being built. Unfortunately, the decreased Blue Jay attendance also led to the walkway becoming a ghost town.
Michelle / February 6, 2013 at 02:01 pm
The Air-Rail Link is ruining EVERYTHING.
ender / February 6, 2013 at 02:10 pm
They should replace the part that goes over the railway too. That section is more hideous than the section they want to replace...
Paul replying to a comment from Michelle / February 6, 2013 at 02:54 pm
Heaven forbid we have a direct rail link to the airport
Dave replying to a comment from Another Matt / February 6, 2013 at 03:36 pm
The Jays attendence will probably be higher this upcoming season.
Christ / February 6, 2013 at 03:39 pm
they need to hurry the f-up with the union station revitalization.

i'm on the platform every single day and i swear i never see anyone working on the glass atrium.

the skypath is a rusted, leaking, p.o.s.

even worse eye sore from track level

im not being a troll. its just whenever you mention public transit in toronto, its always at a snails pace, just to keep the labourers employed for a longer stint.

we should get some ex-dubai laborers. be done in 1/10th the time.
Nick / February 6, 2013 at 03:51 pm
Agree with Thomas: the current SkyWalk configuration is depressing and certainly is not vibrant. Bringing more people to the area will make it more like a European train station with bustling retail and hopefully good restaurants/cafes.

Jer / February 6, 2013 at 04:01 pm
That area definitely seems like a wasted space for years. I remember when Jay games used to sell out and there were some shops there, etc as posted above. Integration with the convention centre would be good too so you don't need to go in the middle of the south/north building but could directly to the north building would be nice.
Why so angry? replying to a comment from Christ / February 6, 2013 at 04:14 pm
Why so angry @Christ?
If it bothers you so much then stay and work in your suburb.
We are building/renovating all these buildings to accommodate you suburb people.

Yes you are right... We should get some ex-dubai workers.
We will do the same as Dubai, import thousands of indian/pakistani workers, put them up in some slum and pay them $3 a month so people like you don't have to look at construction or be inconvenienced when you get off your train...
Give me a break...
Christ replying to a comment from Why so angry? / February 6, 2013 at 04:17 pm
you're hired.

back to work.
Christ replying to a comment from Why so angry? / February 6, 2013 at 04:23 pm
yeah, and being 10 months behind schedule implies one is doing a pretty shitty job of "building".

all i'm saying is the work ethic of a dubai-worker is unequivocally stronger than domestic help.

would be more than glad to ship em over and give'em a market rate
Always a reason replying to a comment from Why so angry? / February 6, 2013 at 04:25 pm
Why does it always take far longer to repair or renovate than it did to build the original?
chris / February 6, 2013 at 04:45 pm
nooooooooo! Where will the film and tv industry go to shoot airport interiors now?
Christopher King / February 6, 2013 at 05:05 pm
Colossal waste of space and a failed retail experiment
ProveIt replying to a comment from Christ / February 6, 2013 at 05:11 pm
And what empirical evidence exactly are basing such broad statements on? That they are essentially tortured, taken advantage of, and forced to give up all their rights makes them have a good work ethic?

They are modern slaves. And you ARE a troll.
Why so angry? replying to a comment from Christ / February 6, 2013 at 05:28 pm
Well last time i checked, Dubai is a desert city with almost no underlaying infrastructure.
Meaning, all the cables, sewers and subway tunnels that we have under our city i am pretty sure it makes it a bit more difficult. I am sure they plan for this, but as always, things happen.
So its pretty much more difficult to build on something existing then an empty plot of land.
The Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building, also in Dubai. It has been completed now for a few years and is still not hooked up to Dubai's sewage system. Meaning, at the base of the tower, somewhere deep in its bowels, there is a huge tank that collects and stores all of the black water from the tower. So everything flushed down the toilet, down a sink is stored in this tank. Then once full, trucks pump it all out and transport it to some treatment facility far out in the desert.
Supposedly this is a major problem with Dubai as most of these new buildings are in the same situation.
Sometimes the truck drivers are stuck in a convoy 24 hours long.
I guess Dubai is not as glamourous as you think...
ItsLogical replying to a comment from Always a reason / February 6, 2013 at 05:28 pm
Think about it. Here's a few thoughts just of the top of my head:
1) They are performing a $650 million dollar renovation of the country's busiest regional transit hub - all while trying to minimize the impact of it.
2) The original design obviously didn't concern itself with the reality of what this future renovation entails. It's bloody complicated. There used to be earth here:
3) Typically, unforeseen conditions creep up that slow progress. Think about renovating something in an old house. You take down the old stuff and find knob & tube wiring and lead pipes or asbestos which you weren't expecting for whatever reason. Typically, you can't fix that kind of thing right then and there and you might be pressed to meet whatever deadline you set for yourself. It's perhaps a simplistic example, but I think the point is clear.

It's simply easier to build new - especially when the renovation of an existing structure is the size of this project.

What we do need to do is hold contractors to timelines and levy contractual penalties if they are at fault or should have realistically foreseen an impact to their operations. I believe Metrolinx for example has imposed something called "Alternate Finance and Procurement" on their projects which imposes financial penalties if late or over budget. Something like this should be the gold standard for any public project - can't speak to how realistically effective it is though.
Christishestupid replying to a comment from Christ / February 6, 2013 at 05:36 pm
Please enjoy 'Slaves of Dubai' c/o Vice:

I'm sure 'Christ' will be running to go work there soon.
v79 / February 6, 2013 at 05:47 pm
I guess it served its purpose back in the day. When the Jays were at the top of their game, it was prime real estate for shop owners. Since then, it's become one of the most depressing walks in town. Ironic that the Jays will probably be contenders again just as it's time to tear it down. Regardless, the new structure going up certainly doesn't appear to be an upgrade by any stretch of the imagination.
Christ replying to a comment from Christishestupid / February 6, 2013 at 09:36 pm
Your slave argument is low-hanging fruit. A bastardize left-wing rant assuming all commerce there is corrupt and immoral.

We pay a ransoms worth in taxes here, and subsidize inefficiency.
Ned / February 6, 2013 at 11:50 pm
Toronto sure hates curves.

Sure love generic square boxers. Aka lazy architecture.
Al / February 6, 2013 at 11:54 pm
And why isn't this the bus terminal?

Buses could pull in under ground. Perfect location for it.
Trev H / February 7, 2013 at 12:39 am
I can understand reconstructing this section for the ARL station to permit fewer grade changes and whatnot, but who says reconstruction = redesign? Can't they rebuild it with a curved glass arcade as well?

It seems too much of an iconic look to give-up, I'm pretty tired of glass boxes being everywhere.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Christ / February 7, 2013 at 04:23 am
You're a piece of shit for saying this, and just a big supporter of indentured servitude. How you call yourself a human being, I don't even know, but you are barely one, if you think that hiring foreign workers who are paid only $3.00 an hour is a good thing. Par for the course of m0st neocons, I'd say.
WellSaid replying to a comment from Simon Tarses / February 7, 2013 at 07:41 am
Christ is a piece of shit. I don't know how he can actually live with himself spouting such BS, even in the anonymity of the internet.

BTW, Simon... those workers aren't paid $3.00 / hour. They are paid about $200 / MONTH. A princely sum to many of them, but divide that into the 18 hours / day they are working, then figure in that they have to BUY their passport back for $2000 before they can leave or even think about sending money back home. If you survive the filthy conditions they are forced to live in. Watch the Youtube link above.
YouSuck replying to a comment from Christ / February 7, 2013 at 07:43 am
It is corrupt and amoral you p.o.s. Have a great day being a douche.
mjb replying to a comment from Christ / February 7, 2013 at 08:02 am
Ex-Dubai labourers (i.e. slaves) might finish the job faster but the quality would be horrendous.
Thomas / February 7, 2013 at 11:42 am
Everyone needs to stop feeding the troll...
Christ / February 7, 2013 at 05:25 pm
Its laughable that some simpletons assume and equate my argument to mean import slave like conditions.

All I pointed up is that work completed over there is done faster.

The counterarguments about quality maybe valid...I'm not in the trade if the truth be told.

Even worse is the implicit assumption that if people are paid more...progress would slow down. Thats what the bleeding hearts in here are implying.

Work is done faster when people are people are paid less.

Bring em over...instead of paying some union salary to lay concrete install glass blah blah blah...

In the end. We agree to disagree. Whatever.
Dweeb replying to a comment from Christ / February 7, 2013 at 08:48 pm
Real Estate Guy / February 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm
Lets think a little more forward here.

Big miss by the City, Province and federal government via CN Rail, not to have required all that development over the past 30 years on the old wider Railway, leave a subteranian strata free for burying the Gardner or the rail lines.

Eventually the rail lines will all be burried from at least Bathurst to Jarvis. The Sky walk will be evolved to part of these coverings like North South sidewalks or incorporated into the buildings built over the rail lines.

All in the name of progress.
Alex / February 11, 2013 at 01:56 pm
They should keep it curved, it will handle snow better that way and be more iconic. Probably more expensive to build though, so maybe they just don't have the cash for it.

I don't get all this rush for infrastructure for the Pan Am games. Does anyone travel to actually see those? I didn't think anybody cared about them except other athletes. I really don't see them putting a huge strain on our infrastructure. I'm glad they're forcing them to get some much needed transit projects done, but it just seems like a ridiculous reason to do something essential.
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Dave replying to a comment from Michelle / July 8, 2014 at 02:47 pm
Yeah, great point there! (sarcasm) How is the link ruining everything? We're one of the only big cities in the world without a link from downtown to the airport. Give your head a shake or move to some shanty town!
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