Rail Deck Park one step closer to reality for Toronto's downtown core

Jan 23 2020, 1:32 pm

The City of Toronto’s Executive Committee has unanimously voted to move forward with acquiring the air rights, through negotiations or expropriation, of about 1.2 hectares of air space beside Union Station for the development of Rail Deck Park.

The huge park, poised to live above the Union Station Rail Corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way, is projected to cover about eight hectares and has been in the works since 2016.

Based on Thursday’s vote, the city will now continue negotiations for ownership of 1.2 of those hectares — that’s about three acres — at market value.

If need be, the city has said it will expropriate them.

“Great cities invest in their future. Rail Deck Park is such a moment,”  Toronto City Councillor Joe Cressy said when sharing the news about the vote.

“It is the type of big city-building move that Toronto is ready for.”

Mayor John Tory shared the city’s announcement about the proposal late last week, and at the time, Cressy detailed the benefits of the city’s motion, highlighting the opportunity for “more parkland, faster.”

Aerial view of Rail Deck Park, looking east from Bathurst (City of Toronto)

Negotiations for the acquisition of the space have reportedly been ongoing with various owners since 2018, with no success as of yet.

Aerial image of downtown Toronto showing proposed placement of Rail Deck Park over the rail corridor with Spadina Avenue cutting through the park (City of Toronto)

The acquisition of these acres, combined with the city’s existing ownership of the one-acre Northern Linear Park property, would support the development of the first four acres of Rail Deck Park.

rail deck

View of the future Rail Deck Park at the intersection of Draper Street and Front Street, facing southeast (City of Toronto)

The project aims to transform what is currently unused air space into a new “gathering space for recreation, culture, and celebration.”

According to the motion, by the third quarter of 2020, city staff will bring forward a report to council for authorization of the project’s next stage, including a funding and financing strategy for the air space, and capital delivery of the project.