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Is the Danforth ready for a linear park?

Posted by Chris Bateman / June 22, 2014

Danforth linear parkToronto has been seeking a linear park for some time now. The Belt Line Trail and the proposed Green Line along the midtown rail corridor notwithstanding, the goal of city park in the mould of New York's High Line hasn't been met. But that could be about to change, albeit in a small way, now that the city has agreed to study linking a series of east-end parkettes.

The cluster of proximate but disconnected green spaces in question sit a few metres north of Danforth Ave., directly on top of the subway between Pape station and Langford Avenue. The Logan Avenue Parkette, which runs for three city blocks, and the slightly smaller Carlaw Avenue Parkette are both surrounded by unwelcoming surface parking.

Advocates of the project say reconfiguring--and later possibly eliminating--the lots to create a single green space, linking Chester station with Langford Parkette, roughly a kilometre to the east between Pape and Donlands stations, would be a boon for the neighbourhood.

Local resident and University of Toronto teacher Dylan Clark led a Jane's Walk through the area in May, repeating a walk he organized in 2010. Clark thought stitching together the disparate public spaces would result in a safer route for the kids that walk between Jackman and Wilkinson public schools.

"I did the Jane's Walk four years ago and, no offence to Councillor [Case] Ootes, but he was the councillor at the time, and several of the people on the walk said there is absolutely no chance he'll do anything--in fact, he would actively fight this sort of thing," he says.

"I was like: 'OK, well, I'm just going to shelve it then, if that's how it's going to be.' And then all of a sudden Mary [Fragedakis] got elected, and it's just an absolutely different attitude entirely."

Danforth linear parkThe timing sounds right. Local councillor Mary Fragedakis says multiple projects involving the subway corridor are currently underway, including public art installations, TTC second exit discussions, and park improvements, so it makes sense to tie them together.

"I thought [Clark's] idea was so cool," she says. "It got me to thinking there needs got to be a better link for all these separate projects that are happening. An that's one of the biggest complaints most people have about the city is that one department doesn't talk to the other department. This is an attempt to fix that."

It would seem that a long park, configured for strolling, biking, and lingering, would be a good fit for the Danforth and its European-inspired atmosphere. In Spain, people gather on "Ramblas," linear public squares, in towns ranging in size from Barcelona to little Figueres near the French border. The challenge Toronto faces is to convince the notoriously auto-friendly city council to cede space to walkers.

toronto danforth parkEven with approval, building the park won't be completely straight forward: creative solutions will be needed for the some thirteen road crossings that would fall within in the park and skeptical local business owners, concerned opening up a walking route away from Danforth storefronts will have a negative impact on trade, will need to be convinced the idea has merit.

"So many of us ever since Jane Jacobs and beyond are looking at the city more and more in that way: slow people down, get pedestrian traffic, get cycling traffic," says Clark. "This is not antithetical to business, actually it's quite good for business."

A motion to explore the possibility of a linear park, put forward by Cllr. Fragedakis, was adopted at this week's Toronto and East York Community Council meeting. City staff are due to report back later this year and work could begin next year.

What do you think of the idea?

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

Images: Chris Bateman/blogTO



Shawn / June 22, 2014 at 06:33 am
I live on the Danforth, and often try to use these parks/parking lots as a nice way to avoid the traffic when trying to traverse the madness that the Danforth can often be. It's an easy trail to follow on foot, but they would need to make the park bike-friendly as well. The curbs between the parks seem to be unusually high, so bringing them down to a more reasonable level fantastic.
Yardl / June 22, 2014 at 07:25 am
Ahh - urban design as a function of unproductivity, sloth, high-maintenance, high cost, low-revenue, and questionable environmental value. Where are you Hudak to stop our endless descent into Portlandia (fictional tv gen-x/y dream city - where the youth go to retire), Sacremento, or worse Detroit - the pits of hedonistic, valueless, slack-space engineering. Let us create a city of distraction, mindlessness, and bright-shiny - and we shall call them parks - for we need a space for all those that cannot hold down a job, pay for a house, finance a car (or bike), or raise a family - to congregate and make merry - or just sit there and watch the local wildlife. Yay for our future.
JD replying to a comment from Yardl / June 22, 2014 at 09:03 am
Yardl is great at parties.
Holy Thundering Jesus replying to a comment from Yardl / June 22, 2014 at 09:14 am
yes! let's all live in concrete boxes and kill everything that has life and is green.
John Meadows / June 22, 2014 at 10:11 am
Great idea, but there likely isn't enough profit for developers, and no benefit for people who drive cars downtown so I don't see this going anywhere.
W. K. Lis / June 22, 2014 at 10:21 am
They should do something similar to the entire Bloor-Danforth corridor. Unfortunately, parking lots have become a bit of a barrier. In Bloor West Village, there are several parking lots. Bicyclists could use the laneway, but it has not been setup as a bicycle path.

They'll need to create a better path for bicyclists and pedestrians to use the entire subway right-of-way, including paths around the station entrances and transfer platforms.
Jack B Nimby / June 22, 2014 at 11:01 am
The idea of a park like this sounds sweet, even though it would be a snowbank from Dec to April. But it's a terrible idea. Driving around there is bad enough. Wouldn't this mean losing the Green P lots? It would really hurt the businesses along the Danforth, which btw aren't doing great at the moment.

TaylorP / June 22, 2014 at 11:39 am
Linear Parks Of The Danforth is, I hope, just a precursor to the removal of cars from the Gardiner and the construction of a crosstown "skyPark" dedicated solely to the pedestrian and cyclist. Can you Imagine? Amazing!
craigm / June 22, 2014 at 01:05 pm
I 100% support this idea. It absolutely needs to happen.
McRib replying to a comment from Yardl / June 22, 2014 at 02:32 pm
i bet you think you're intelligent.
Potrzebie / June 22, 2014 at 03:25 pm
Design it with year-round utility or GTFO.
Water into beer replying to a comment from Yardl / June 22, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Ever heard about the 'pursuit of happiness'? I spent time in Eastern Europe when it was still a commie paradise...lots of cement boxes and not much joy. It's pride week Mr. Boring guy...loosen up that Gluteus maximus and breathe.
piero / June 22, 2014 at 11:51 pm
The city and the businesses should open up back yard patios so they connect to the park. A park itself out of prying eyes is a recipe for trouble. It would be a win-win for everyone.
Albin / June 23, 2014 at 08:54 am
I used to live a few blocks up Carlaw. While maybe nice for local residents it would squarely pit them against businesses on the Danforth itself. Many or most of the happy pedestrians eating and shopping there are parked in those lots.

While the Logan / Alexander statue parkette off Danforth is a natural community gathering place, the others are not and no reason to think linking them would be transformative. Whether a linked slow bike path chopped with crossed streets would be used as an alternative to Danforth is doubtful given excellent fast east-west biking along Mortimer. Walkers are usually happy to walk the Danforth itself or take the nicely treed side streets with their nicely kept yards.
linear = up replying to a comment from Albin / June 23, 2014 at 01:11 pm
The article isn't very clear, I'm assumed by "linear" the writer meant elevated, similar to the highline in new york. If so, the parking lots would stay.;source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=GV-oU5yqM4qpyASCzYCgBQ&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg&biw=1280&bih=895#facrc=_&imgdii=_&
Bob / June 24, 2014 at 04:21 am
I don't think this would work out. The parking spaces at Chester and Pape station are for commuters who folks a few bucks at a time to city hall. There would be seriously lost of income by making them into a park. Nevermind that this linear park lies right on the newly renovated busway out of Pape station.
Rob / June 24, 2014 at 06:42 pm
I live within a few minutes walk of the Danforth. As a resident, I would love this. I frequently walk my dog through those parks, and it would be great not having to cut through parking lots. However, the Danforth is already a notoriously-difficult place to find parking. During busy times (like summer weekends), surrounding residential streets fill up with cars, both legally and illegally parked. Removing the already limited number of parking lots would make this even worse, and I suspect that it could hurt the area businesses. As much as I would love to think that people would park elsewhere and take the subway, that just isn't reality in this city (yet). Maybe a decade or two down the road, with increased transit infrastructure and increased driving costs. But I don't think we're there yet.
DPChurch / June 25, 2014 at 08:29 am
"Won't someone think of the poor drivers who will have nowhere to park?"

Give me a break. Danforth has a subway station every few blocks. There is few (no?) parts of Toronto better served by public transit.

And if parking is really so desperately required, Impark or another of the huge parking corporations will be eager to buy land and build a parking garage.
Steinbrenner replying to a comment from DPChurch / June 25, 2014 at 09:24 am
I suspect you'd be pretty upset if 5 of your nearest streets were suddenly chopped off and turned into dead ends at the south end. Or if you lived in and around Logan, which would become a parking lot. Lovely idea in principle, but cutting off streets isn't really practical.
Heather replying to a comment from Jack B Nimby / June 25, 2014 at 02:19 pm
Agreed. Parking on the Danforth is difficult to get, even though the subway right beneath runs seven days a week. Removing the lots would make it even more inconvenient for people to get to the Danforth for unremarkable sushi.
ginnee / June 27, 2014 at 09:35 am
1. Keep the bikes separate from the pedestrians.
2. Make sure that where the path crosses a street cyclists have no ability to rip across the street without stopping -- or there will be a whole lot of bike-car collisions because the cars couldn't see the bikes coming.
3. Will this park be policed or have some sort of neighbourhood watch on it? If not, then it probably won't be too safe after dusk.
Dylan Clark / July 25, 2014 at 10:38 am
Hey folks, great comments. Just to clarify: the proposal is NOT to remove parking lots. The proposal is to cut paths through those lots, without losing parking (the lots are quite wide and could be narrowed a bit to make a path without losing spaces). And the cost is cheap: a few paths, a couple of crosswalks, a tree or two. The main goal is to make it contiguous, so that a pedestrian or cyclist could safely travel the whole corridor.
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