About three weeks have passed since P.I.T.S. Development Inc. filed an Official Plan Amendment application (OPA) to the City of Toronto to develop an 8-tower mixed-use development with a 12.8-acre park over the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way. This is the same site that Mayor John Tory proposed last August for Rail Deck Park (RDP).

According to the newly launched website, the P.I.T.S. proposal, which they have dubbed the "ORCA Project," would take approximately ten years to build out, split over four phases. The first phase would see a structural deck built over the storage yard along the north side of the site, followed by the decking of the active tracks. Next would see the construction of the 4-storey podiums, mostly with commercial uses, over the storage yard. The final phase would see the residential towers and office tower rise over the podiums, while the new park would be put in place over the active tracks. The website notes that in 2013, CRAFT Developments—one of the four companies which make up the P.I.T.S. consortium—acquired the air rights over the rail corridor from Toronto Terminals Railway and CN Rail. A planner with the City is studying the proposal.

ORCA Project, Sweeny &CO Architects, CRAFT/P.I.T.S Development, TorontoAerial of ORCA looking east, image via submission to the City of Toronto

At the same time, the City is continuing to formulate plans for Rail Deck Park over the whole of the site, and held a public consultation on June 13 at Metro Hall, which close to 200 people attended. Presentations covered similar case studies in other cities, and the need for a large central park in Downtown's burgeoning core, emphasizing the continuing influx of residents to an area which is already deficient in park space. As first steps, City Planning is also proposing an Official Plan Amendment which would change permitted land uses to facilitate the proposed park and transportation related infrastructure, while Parks Forestry and Recreation is looking at ideas for Rail Deck Park.

ORCA Project, Sweeny &CO Architects, CRAFT/P.I.T.S Development, TorontoThe proposed ORCA Project, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Attendees of the consultation were provided with round tables seating about eight people each, who were asked to respond to a number of questions, including; 

  • What are some of the best neighbourhood assets in this area? What is missing or could be improved? 
  • Do you agree with Council's direction to update the Official Plan to support a park over the rail corridor? Why or why not?
  • What principles or objectives should guide the future use of the site?
  • Is there anything else you think the City should consider when planning the future use of the site?

Following discussion time, responses were read out from the tables. To no surprise, everyone attending was in favour of the park. One table asked for affordable housing on the site in addition to parkland. Amongst other responses, one table called for "no condos!", one table suggested that the park should include a glass floor—similar to that of the CN Tower—though to watch the trains below pass by. Regarding Spadina Avenue, one table voiced their concerns about pedestrians and cyclists getting across Spadina without having to deal with traffic. For the time being, the City is still accepting feedback online to the questions above, at this link

Rail Deck Park, TorontoConcept for Rail Deck Park, image via City of Toronto

While study of the two OPA applications continues, one thing is clear; we are still a ways from seeing Zoning By-Law applications from either side. A report to Council targeted for Q4 of 2017 will see greater details regarding design, cost and phasing for Rail Deck Park, while there is no date projected yet for a preliminary report on the ORCA project.

We will provide updates as news becomes available. In the meantime, addition information can be found in the ORCA database file for that proposal, linked below. Care to share your thoughts? Feel free to write a comment using the space provided on this page, or join in the ongoing conversation in the associated Forum thread.