Hey Toronto, you've got another new park courtesy of Waterfront Toronto… and your own tax dollars of course, but we're betting you're going to be pretty happy with how they have been spent. As of today Corktown Common is open to the public at the foot of River Street.
Last night a group of several dozen community members got a sneak peek of the park on a tour led by the local Ward 28 City Councillor Pam McConnell, with Andrew Tenyenhuis, Assistant Project Manager for Parks at Waterfront Toronto, and Jamie McEwan, City of Toronto, Acting Manager in the Planning Department.
Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates with lots of input from community residents, the park opens with over 700 trees and thousands of shrubs and grasses that make up our native Carolinian forest ecosystem. They've been growing for a year and more onsite and are well established, but wetlands still have lines hung with pink ribbons to keep larger waterfowl away until the ponds' ecosystems can handle them.
The east edge of the park is lifted up over the surroundings on a new landform which will act as a flood protection barrier should the Don River ever spill over its banks. The landform has a rocky armour underneath the plantings which can be seen in the image below in a portion that remains incomplete. The Bayview Extension passes over the landform to the left middleground of the photo, while a GO Train runs northbound beside the Don River, hiding the river from view in the right middleground. This side of the park is considered the 'wet side', and it will open next year once the landform is complete and prarie grasses have taken hold atop of it.
To the west of the landform is the low lying portions of Toronto to the east of the city's Downtown core, which you can see on the horizon in the image below. The closest cranes in the photo are for buildings now rising in the West Don Lands which will first become a temporary home for athletes and officials during the Pam Am and Parapan Am Games in 2015 before becoming a new neighborhood for Toronto the following year. This area represents about 30 of the total 500 acres of low-lying land which are protected from flooding by the landform. The berm has been built high enough to hold back a 300-year flood on the Don.
Andrew Tenyenhuis of Waterfront Toronto tells the crowd about some of the spaces in the park. The Van Valkenburgh plan for Corktown Common has many meandering paths that help you get lost in the greenery before bringing you to an overlook and letting you know where you are again.
The park's pavilion, a beatiful steel and wood structure by Maryann Thompson Architects of Boston Massachusetts, sits atop one of those overlooks. It provides programming and washroom space under the flying roofs, while play areas exist to the east and west of it. Below, there is evidence that the fountains were on in the water play area to the west side before we arrived.
We stopped in the temporarily dry wet play area to hear Councillor McConnell speak about the area's and the park's history. Besides the beautiful rocks to sit on in this area, the grounds isn't so bad to stand on itself: it's got some spngy give to it: kids will love this play area.
Jamie McEwan of the City's Planning Department was also along the fill us in on what is still to come in this quickly transforming area of Toronto.
The group was given lots of time to explore the dry play area to the east of the pavilion too.
Swings, slides, sandy beaches, and things that spin here will be swarmed this summer. You just wait and see!
Higher still than the pavilion's location is a rocky lookout spot. It was somewhere near here where the groundbreaking for the park was held in 2010. You won't believe the changes (all for the better except one) since that time if you take a moment to check out this story from that event.
Here's the view to the west. Even just this has changed significantly since our hard hat tour of the park last summer, which you can read again here.
Part of that view includes the new condominiums towers of the Distillery District, with the Gooderham all but topped out, while in the foreground below an important piece of Toronto's huge Public Art collection has recently been refurbished and installed.
Mark di Suvero's No Shoes used to be located in a wooded area of High Park, along with a companion piece, Flower Power. Flower Power was relocated recently to a prominent site at Concord CityPlace and featured in an article we ran last week.
There's still some attention to be paid to the area around the sculpture's base, and a rededication of the work should be coming sometime after that.
You have until early September to enjoy Corktown Common this year. It will be closed again after that to complete the 'wet side', or Don River side of the park. Corktown Common will re-open next Spring.
What's next for the area? There's still the west side of Underpass Park, just to the north. Its opening is being held up by technicalities: there are some signatures required that have not been obtained yet. They should come by the fall when more work has been completed on the Don River Flood Protection Landform. It's all about liability. For now, you can enjoy this view.
Want to know more about both parks? Our dataBase entries, linked below, have lots of renderings and info to quench your thirst for knowledge. Have a thirst for expressing yourself too? Join in on the discussion in the associated Forum threads, also linked below, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.