City council votes to officially make Rail Deck Park a "reality" for Toronto

Jan 30 2020, 7:57 am

Toronto city council 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 Wednesday’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.

“You have to imagine the city you want before you can build it,”  Councillor Joe Cressy said when sharing the news about the vote, before noting that the support means that Rail Deck Park can now be made a “reality.”

Cressy has openly backed the proposal for accessing the air space since Mayor John Tory shared the city’s announcement earlier in January.

Since then, Cressy has consistantly laid out his view of 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.”

By the third quarter of 2020, city staff will bring 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.

“Today, city council decided to take the next important step to advance Rail Deck Park, which will provide critically needed park space for our residents and visitors,” John Tory said in a release on Wednesday.

“Torontonians today and for generations to come will benefit from this transformative investment, and moving to acquire this air space brings us closer to getting this once-in-a-lifetime project underway.”