Waterfront Toronto, in partnership with the City of Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation Department is calling international design professionals to develop visions for the York Street and Rees Street parks. The “request for qualifications” seeks applicants with a “bold vision” for the two new waterfront parks, inviting experienced and talented design teams to the competition. The City seeks to integrate the York Street and Rees Street parks into the “growing collection of vibrant public spaces” along Toronto’s waterfront.

York Street Park and Rees Park, Waterfront Toronto new parks in TorontoArtists sketch highlighting the locations of two new waterfront parks, image via Waterfront Toronto

Applicants are encouraged to design in response to the pressing issues of a growing city and Toronto’s increasingly busy waterfront that attracts millions of visitors annually. Aspirations to help guide designs for the parks have been established, outlining the City’s intent that each space offers a compelling “new park” experience, supporting a range of social activities for a diverse group of people and community groups. A high standard of design excellence and build quality is crucial to the applications, with mandates ensuring integration of public art and new functionality as “gateways to Toronto’s waterfront.”

York Street Park and Rees Street Park context map from Waterfront TorontoContext map showing both York street and Rees street parks, image via Waterfront Toronto

Currently the future space of the York Street park remains as a construction site following the recent completion of the Lower Simcoe offramp. Plans to emphasize the history of the site have been revealed, with intention to keep the eight existing bents left over from the Gardiner’s previous York Street offramp. Ideas including the introduction of mature trees, public art, seating, water features and an off-leash dog area have all been discussed as guidelines for proposals. Open and accessible frontage to Harbour Street and inclusion of designated food vendor and events spaces are encouraged to marry the space to its surroundings. Guidelines for Rees Park (presently a parking area) follows a similar mandate, with intention that the park be used year-round. By including public washrooms, outdoor heating, and adjacent retail spaces, the City hopes to begin creating a “public backyard” for nearby residents and visitors.

York Street park, previously Gardiner off ramp by Waterfront TorontoFuture site of York Street park, image via Waterfront Toronto

The City hopes applicants will draw inspiration from other Toronto public spaces, citing the recently completed Grange Park and Berczy Park as recent examples. Each park exemplifies a high standard of design achievement through inclusion of public art, mature trees, and ample seating. Bryant Park in Manhattan, adjacent to the New York Public Library and the High Line have also been cited as successful outdoor public spaces to emulate.

Berczy Park near the Flatiron Building, TorontoAerial view of Berczy Park, image via Waterfront Toronto

The design competition will follow a two-stage process, beginning with the Request for Qualifications. Upon review, designs will be shortlisted, with applicants then invited to participate in the Request for Proposals stage and compete in a six-week design competition. Input from the public on these shortlisted designs will be sought through workshops, focus groups, online surveys and pop-up engagement events. Final designs are set to be selected later in 2018, with construction of the York Street park to commence in 2019 and Rees Street park to follow in 2020.

Waterfront Toronto seeks ongoing public input through their online survey “How to Make a Great Park”. You can find the survey by clicking the link provided. We will return with updates as further details on these spaces are released. Want to get involved in the discussion? Visit the associated linked Forum pages for the York Street and Rees Street parks, or leave a comment in the space provided below.