Blue Jays back 'Rail Deck Park' plan as city begins rezoning process
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, November 14, 2017 4:51PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 14, 2017 5:02PM EST
An ambitious proposal to build a 21-acre urban park atop a downtown rail corridor gained an unlikely backer on Tuesday as the city began the process of rezoning the area for future development.
The Toronto Blue Jays organization submitted a letter to the Toronto East York Community Council in which it offered its support for the project, which it said has the potential to “significantly enhance the city and neighbourhood” as well the “experience of the millions of annual attendees of Blue Jays game.”
The club also told the committee that they would like the park to be expanded to the John Street pedestrian bridge , which they said would not only increase park use by baseball fans but would also open up the possibility for “integration opportunities” with the Jays.
Staff have previously said that the park would span from Bathurst Street to Blue Jays Way, which is exactly one block west of the bridge that is accessed by thousands of Jays fans before every home game.
“The rail deck park has the potential to create many opportunities to enhance the overall fan experience in the building and add to Toronto reputation as a truly world class city,” the letter stated. “As progress continues on this exciting opportunity we welcome the chance to discuss the project further and assist in any way we can.”
Zoning changes approved
Toronto East York Community Council ultimately approved zoning changes on Tuesday which would designate the 21-acres of land around the rail and along the rail tracks for parks and open spaces.
The zoning changes, which would still need to be approved by council, could provide a roadblock to several land owners who are intent on building a mix of condominiums and parkland in the area.
One of those developers, P.I.T.S. Developments Inc., also wrote a letter to the committee. They argued that they would be “more than willing” to develop an “immersive open space” in partnership with the city as part of their development. They also warned that developing a large area above an operational rail corridor would be “technically and logistically challenging” and said that their park proposal would be a “viable hybrid” to the Rail Deck Park vision.
Meanwhile, in a separate letter the planning consultant on that project cautioned the city against rezoning the entire area for the development of a public park and urged them to consider a “public-private partnership” that would allow for the development of parkland “at more affordable levels for the citizens of Toronto.”
While we do not dispute that there is planning merit in some of the lands being used as a public park, the answer is not to designate the entire property as a public park,” the letter from R.E. Millward and Associates Ltd. states.
Rail Deck Park remains unfunded with a price point pegged at in excess of $1 billion.