News / Toronto

Public space under Gardiner Expressway gets half-million boost

This new money will bring the city's contribution up to $24 million on the project, which will feature gardens, live performance areas, a dog park and a skating trail.

The first leg of the Bentway's skating trail under the Gardiner Expressway is nearing completion.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

The first leg of the Bentway's skating trail under the Gardiner Expressway is nearing completion.

Toronto City Council has approved an additional $500,000 to help expand The Bentway as far east as Bathurst Street.

If all goes to plan, the multi-use public-space project in the shadow of the Gardiner Expressway will eventually stretch from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. It will feature gardens, live performance areas, space for markets and exhibitions and a dog park — as well as a skating trail slated for a grand opening on Jan. 6.

A private donor kicked in $25 million, and this new money will bring the city's contribution up to $24 million.

That's not enough to bring the entire vision to life, said Coun. Joe Cressy, who advanced the motion.

"What we ought not to do is wait 30 years until we have all the funding," he added.

Cressy said the idea is to put the $500,000 toward expanding the skating rink to Bathurst Street sometime next winter but it will not cover the entire cost.

Crews are currently putting the finishing touches on the first leg of the Bentway's ice trail, which stretches 220 metres from the Fort York Visitors' Centre, east of Strachan, to Bastion Street near June Callwood Park.

The new funds will come from the developer of a highrise at 120 and 130 Harbour St.

Under Ontario's Planning Act, cities can require developers of new residential housing to set aside a portion of their land — one hectare for every 300 units — for public recreational use.

When that's not practical, as is often the case in dense urban areas, the developer can pay the city cash instead with the understanding it will be put toward nearby parks and green space.

What makes this arrangement different, Cressy said, is that it obtains funds from a development in his ward, Ward 20, for a project that falls outside of it.

"Far too often, we get cash-in-lieu we only use within our ward," he said. "If I have a resident on the east side of Bathurst, I guarantee he or she will go west to Ward 19 (to the skating rink)."

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