rail deck park

People in Toronto are trying to save Rail Deck Park from becoming condos

Of all the new developments and green spaces proposed for Toronto, Rail Deck Park was undeniably something special — a sprawling public space in the heart of the city atop the bustling Union Station corridor between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way.

Compared to New York City's Central Park and the High Line, the plans promised a unique aerial concept, an amazing location along Front Street right near the CN Tower, and killer views, among other advantages.

rail deck park

Rendering of what Rail Deck Park could have been, by Future Landscapes for the City of Toronto.

Unfortunately, the 21-acre, billion-dollar-plus park that had been in the works for years was scrapped this spring in favour of, of course, condos, as a developer owns the air space.

Local politicians were among those who considered the news a huge disappointment, with Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York City Councillor Joe Cressy, saying that the project could have vastly improved the "vibrancy and livability" of the downtown core.

"If anything, the experience of COVID has affirmed the critical importance of parks and public spaces. Our work to expand them must continue," he said in May when the concept was nixed by the province's Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

Cressy clearly wasn't the only one crestfallen by the decision, either — residents have launched a petition to revive the ambitious undertaking.

rail deck park

Another view of the park, which designers said would "address Toronto's density equation, tilting the balance back towards a more livable parks and open space network for the core." Rendering by Future Landscapes for the City of Toronto.

"There are plenty of other areas to build mixed-use towers. Yet, the developers want to bulldoze plans for a 21-acre park in one of the most densely populated and park deprived neighbourhoods in Canada," the Change.org page, which has garnered more than 2,500 signatures and counting, reads.

"Parkland was promised. Too many developers have bought their way out of providing park space. It is ruining downtown Toronto," one person commented on the appeal.

"Isn't it painfully clear after so much shutdown yet that city planners must prioritize our citizens' wellness? Quality of life over more towers!" another added.

Hundreds more chimed in to express the urgent need for more green space in the dense core, and share their thoughts on how much such a project would benefit the public.

CRAFT Developments, which owns the space, had at one point offered it to the city for a staggering $340 million, or $25 million per year on a lease basis.

As the city never accepted, the company has moved ahead with its plans for a set of residential towers (3,500 units total) with retail and office space — which the city attempted to stall in 2018 — and the tribunal has green lit them to do so given the city's inaction.

Fortunately, the proposed mixed-use community will still include park space, albeit much less of it — but the widespread calls to bring more of such space to Toronto rightfully continue.

Lead photo by

Rendering by Future Landscapes for the City of Toronto

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