Earlier this year in June, the Toronto City Council voted to reconfigure an eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway, while still preserving the elevated portions in downtown and western Toronto. At the reconfigured eastern portion, the city is planning to construct an innovative public park underneath the freeway.

The project is being called Under Gardiner, and it will convert ten acres of land below the expressway into a utilitarian park for everyone to enjoy. The park will contain space for markets, park space, event areas and other recreational facilities. A private donation of $25 million is being used to build the park. A Toronto architect company called Public Work will design the project.

Under Gardiner is already drawing comparisons to the High Line Park in Manhattan, which consists of an elevated park that runs along an old railway. Much like High Line, Under Gardiner will make use of existing city infrastructure. However, the two projects will also be quite different. While High Line is more of an elevated park, Under Gardiner will actually be beneath the existing structure. While actually existing beneath the structure, Under Gardiner will contain up to 55 different “civic rooms” to provide various sources of entertainment for park goers.

The center of Under Gardiner will consist of a pedestrian and cycling trail that will be a little more than a mile in length. The trail will connect two major design elements. On one end there will be a grand staircase at Strachan Avenue, and the other end will have a pedestrian footbridge that runs over Fort York Boulevard.

The Gardiner Expressway rises roughly 50 feet high, and it is supported by 55 concrete spans, which will function as natural dividers for the various civic rooms that the park plans to offer. These spans will also support lighting and other mechanical necessities. Public Work has stated that the existing structure provides a good starting point.

It is estimated that the initial phase of construction for Under Gardiner will be completed by 2017. The plan still needs approval from top city officials, but it is very likely to go through because of the fact that the funding has been fully covered by philanthropists. Additionally, the Under Gardiner name is tentative, and it might change as construction on the park begins. Either way, the project will certainly make very good use of the existing structure. It’s not every day there is a thriving park underneath an old highway.

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