News / Toronto

'Winter treat:' New public space under the Gardiner opens this weekend

The first phase of The Bentway project — a 220-metre ice skating trail — is part of a larger effort for more community spaces in urban areas with high density.

A worker shovels snow off the skating course, putting the finishing touches on The Bentway skating trail that is opening this weekend.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

A worker shovels snow off the skating course, putting the finishing touches on The Bentway skating trail that is opening this weekend.

After opening all their gifts under the tree, Torontonians have one more hiding under the Gardiner.

"This is the first teaser, the opening invitation to imagine what this space could be," said Julian Sleath, CEO of The Bentway project, on the eve of its unveiling.

Touted as an innovative transformation of the underutilized area beneath the downtown expressway, the public space is set to finally open this weekend, giving the public a glimpse of things to come once the entire project is complete.

The first phase, a 220-metre ice skating trail stretching between Strachan Avenue and Bathurst Street, is a "winter treat" for city residents, said Sleath. The full length of the trail is supposed to stretch 1.75 kilometres.

Skate rentals, food and beverages will be available on site. Visitors on Saturday will be treated to musical performances from Charmie Deller of Toronto and Carmen Braden from Nunavut. The Toronto Ice Skate Group will show off some breakdancing and freestyle ice skating. Plus: pop-up curling.

Mayor John Tory is scheduled to host the Mayor's Skate Party this Sunday at the new facility right in front of the Fort York National Historic Site from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Depending on weather conditions, organizers have plans to incorporate visual arts projects at the space, including brightly coloured signs and video installations.

Every Friday night throughout the winter months, The Bentway will host Beats And Bents, a series of uniquely themed parties with different DJs spinning tunes to entertain skaters on the ice. These special events will kick off Jan. 12 with Straight Outta Toronto (with local talents Trevoy Williams and Jennifer Duverge playing hip-hop and R&B music), followed by The Future Is Female on Jan. 19 (with DJ Lucie Tic and Josephine Cruz).

Sleath said projects like The Bentway are especially important in urban centres with high density and very limited green space for outdoor activities.

"Within a 10-minute walk from The Bentway there are more than 70,000 residents," he said.

"As we build urban infrastructure in our societies, we think it's really important to create spaces where people can come together and do things they enjoy."

Some of the features to be added by this summer:

• A green amphitheatre for music perfomances and movie screenings

• A multi-use trail for walking and biking

• Space for special exhibitions and festivals

• A public market

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