Thousands of Torontonians have signed a petition to save the City’s plans for the highly-touted, yet highly unlikely, Rail Deck Park from being quashed.
Although created a few months ago, the petition began re-circulating on Wednesday as the management office of two City Place condos, 8 Telegram Mews and 25 Capreol Court, blasted it out to all of their residents. The petition was also shared in a City Place Facebook group that same day.
The proposed 20-acre Rail Deck Park, first introduced by the City in 2016, was to be built above the rail corridor south of Front Street, spanning from Bathurst to Blue Jays Way. The air rights to that space, however, have been owned by CRAFT Development Corporation since 2013.
CRAFT has been planning to transform the space into an expansive mixed-use community called ORCA, with several tall towers, housing and retail, office space, and 3,500 new residential units. While simultaneously planning the park there, the City rejected CRAFT’s development plans in 2018, saying it did not comply with City standards.
CRAFT appealed the decision to Ontario’s Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), but in 2020, while awaiting a ruling, they offered to sell the air rights to the City for $340 million or to lease them for $25 million per year. The City did not accept the offer but continued planning the park’s development anyway.
Then in May of this year, LPAT sided with CRAFT, allowing them to move forward with the development, noting in their ruling that the City has “not taken any substantive steps over the last almost five years since then to negotiate the purchase of the CRAFT Property – or to commence expropriation proceedings to acquire it.”
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The petition, which has now garnered close to 2,400 signatures, does not explicitly call on the City to purchase the air rights but rather highlights the need for a large-scale park in downtown Toronto.
“There are plenty of other areas to build mixed-use towers,” the petition reads. “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 ORCA development does, however, include plans for a 12-acre park, meaning even if the mixed-use development goes ahead, there will be expansive public green space, albeit much smaller than Rail Deck Park would have been.
CRAFT could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.