Tucked away in the heart of Toronto, on the College Park block bordered by Yonge, Gerrard, Bay, and College, sits Barbara Ann Scott Park. Originally built in the 1980s, the 0.75-hectare park was constructed on top of a parking garage, and prominently featured an oval skating rink named after the Canadian 1948 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles figure skating, Barbara Ann Scott. Yet in the face of budgetary pressure, the City of Toronto decided not to reopen the rink in the Winter of 2012. This was followed by the decision to remove the iconic rink and cut down the current trees as part of the planned redevelopment of the park, now surrounded by towers.
Significant public backlash, centered on the importance of keeping the ice rink to serve the neighbourhood’s growing population, led planners to reconsider the initial proposal. Canderel Stoneridge, the company responsible for the adjacent Aura development at Gerrard and Yonge Street, has through section 37 and 45(9) agreements with the City agreed to provide approximately $3M to the park redevelopment. Toronto's Parks, Foresty and Recreation division (PFR) Landscape Architecture Unit is supervising the revitalization, which includes planning and design work from RAW Design, the MBTW Group/Watchorn Architect and Project for Public Spaces (PPS).
The revised master plan (shown above) features an ice-skating trail to replace the former oval skating rink. This style of public rink has found success in Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke and Gage Park in Brampton, but is not represented in Toronto's downtown core. In combination with the trail, improving accessibility and visibility are the main criteria behind the revised layout. The new proposal not only strives to reintegrate the park with the surrounding city blocks, but also manages to create a dynamic environment through the use of landscaping features embedded around the artificially cooled skating trail.
The project is split in two phases, starting with the park demolition and parking garage membrane retrofit in the Summer of 2015, with the actual construction of the new park expected to reach completion in the Fall of 2016. The challenge inherent in this project is avoiding damage to the parking structure below ground. Netami Stuart, a landscape architect with the city’s parks and recreation department sums this up as:
“It’s easier to plant a tree in the ground than it is to plant one in a roof.”
A pavilion with a rubberized "skate friendly" surface will give skaters a sheltered space to change.
While the renderings of the park focus on winter activities, the park will have an assortment of features to provide for summertime enjoyment. Many new trees, gardens, benches, a play area, a central water feature, and lawns have been worked into the design. Renewed walkways will connect to Yonge, Gerrard, and Bay Streets, and sidewalks will connect with surrounding buildings. The 5-metre wide skating trail will become a walking loop in the summer.
Additional information can be found in out dataBase file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or leave a comment using the space provided at the bottom of the page.