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Rail Deck Park (?, ?, ?)

TJ O'Pootertoot

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People keep saying "Millennium Park, Millennium Park!"
Has anyone actually been there? Or read about how it was built and paid for?

Because that is - don't get me wrong - a beautiful park. But it doesn't really serve the "local neighbourhood," which is the ostensible reason for Rail Deck Park, right?

Is this for tourists or for Torontonians? Yes, those things aren't mutually exclusive but while MP certainly serves local functions (hosting concerts at the amphitheater, for example), I'd argue it serves more of a tourist function than a local one. And if THAT is what we're trying to do here, it's a different argument about spending tax $. I've quoted this before but the City of Chicago could not have produced MP with City of Toronto finances. You don't have to dig too deep, just check Wikipedia:

Some observers consider Millennium Park the city's most important project since the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.[3][4] It far exceeded its originally proposed budget of $150 million. The final cost of $475 million was borne by Chicago taxpayers and private donors. The city paid $270 million; private donors paid the rest,[5] and assumed roughly half of the financial responsibility for the cost overruns.[6] The construction delays and cost overruns were attributed to poor planning, many design changes, and cronyism. Many critics have praised the completed park.

So, to recap - this being the model that gets cited all the time:
-The estimated budget for MP was $150M and it cost about 2.5x that. The estimated budget for Rail Deck Park is about $1.7B, which is MORE THAN TEN TIMES the budget of MP. Probably, hopefully it won't end up costing $4B but it's a pretty safe bet it'll be something like $2.5B, at least.

-The City paid about 57% of the final budget. If we did something remotely similar, it would mean the City would be on the hook for about $1 billion -at a minimum - and the other $700M would come from... I dunno. The feds? Private philanthropists?

-And, also significantly, the MP budget did not include the land. As per this article, the rail company (which was not using it as an active rail corridor anymore, unlike RDP) thought they owned it, there was a court case, it turned out they didn't and they DONATED it to the City. In our case, the City still has to expropriate the land at "fair market value," which has yet to be determined.

-AND, finally, MP was supposed to open in 2000 and opened in 2004.


To sum up, despite having superficial similarities (it's downtown! it's a park! choo choo trains used to run underneath!), once you translate to the Toronto context, MP is actually a pretty scary model of how RDP might go.
 
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W. K. Lis

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Is "Rail Deck Park" only a "working title" for the project, or the "official title"? If we need a "working title" that will be officially renamed later, how about "Rob Ford Memorial Park", but only until we OFFICIAL open it with it's "real official name".
 

karledice

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I think it can serve both purposes, a park is good for locals, local visitors, and foreign visitors too.
Look at Trinity Bellwoods recently how packed it was cause locals utilize it.
That park is always packed and it's an example of a downtown park. Tourists would also go to the park cause it's so central, right by CN tower, and that cluster of tourist attraction etc.

I've been to MP a few times, they have restaurants there, then ice cream, hot dogs etc, near the Bean.
Tourists go to Chicago usually stop by the Bean for photos then they use the services around.
I think there's an adjacent museum or some sort of exhibition that is revenue generating too

So all of that the City can charge rent and then all the tax money being spent here can cover some of the cost.

No park, no attraction, no revenue.

Consider that as an investment like building the CN tower and charging tickets to go up to it, besides all of the "cool" and being positioned tourist attraction for people to visit Toronto. Let's have a Bean here that tourist flock to to take pics and promote our city's tourism
 
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TJ O'Pootertoot

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I think it can serve both purposes, a park is good for locals, local visitors, and foreign visitors too.
Look at Trinity Bellwoods recently how packed it was cause locals utilize it.
That park is always packed and it's an example of a downtown park. Tourists would also go to the park cause it's so central, right by CN tower, and that cluster of tourist attraction etc.

I've been to MP a few times, they have a restaurant there, then ice cream, hot dogs etc, near the Bean.
Tourists go to Chicago usually stops by the Bean for photos then they buy the services around.
I think there's an adjacent museum or some sort of exhibition that is revenue generating too

So all of that the City can charge rent and then all the tax money being spent here can cover some of that.

No park, no attraction, no revenue. Consider that as an investment like building the CN tower and charging tickets to go up to it, besides all of the "cool" and being positioned tourist attraction for people to visit Toronto. Let's have a Bean here that tourist flock to to take pics and promote our city's tourism
I loved my own visit to MP and all things being equal, I like the idea of RDP. I'm just trying to be practical. (The CN Tower is not a good example, since it's privately owned by CN who owned the land and built it for a practical purpose (ie an antenna!) and got an awful lot of gravy out of it with its iconic status and attractions.)

If we are making this huge an investment of public $ - likely $2B, if everything goes according to plan - we can't assume we're going to make money back on Instagram likes and a few restaurants. There needs to be a solid business case and to this point, I haven't seen the City present one: just nice renderings and a feel-good campaign about how badly this park is needed, even while someone else owns the land (apparently). And it is needed - it's a great idea. But how are we going to do it, and pay for it... and is it worth it? That's all I'm saying.
 

karledice

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I loved my own visit to MP and all things being equal, I like the idea of RDP. I'm just trying to be practical. (The CN Tower is not a good example, since it's privately owned by CN who owned the land and built it for a practical purpose (ie an antenna!) and got an awful lot of gravy out of it with its iconic status and attractions.)

If we are making this huge an investment of public $ - likely $2B, if everything goes according to plan - we can't assume we're going to make money back on Instagram likes and a few restaurants. There needs to be a solid business case and to this point, I haven't seen the City present one: just nice renderings and a feel-good campaign about how badly this park is needed, even while someone else owns the land (apparently). And it is needed - it's a great idea. But how are we going to do it, and pay for it... and is it worth it? That's all I'm saying.
True I haven't seen that type of analysis yet. Some attractions present more intangible value than just the direct revenue. It puts a city in a symbol and goodwill status.
Parks can do that, on top of revenue generating components. Millenium Park is a resounding success, so is Central Park in NYC, Hyde Park in London, etc. iconic in alot of ways.
 

TJ O'Pootertoot

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True I haven't seen that type of analysis yet. Some attractions present more intangible value than just the direct revenue. It puts a city in a symbol and goodwill status.
Parks can do that, on top of revenue generating components. Millenium Park is a resounding success, so is Central Park in NYC, Hyde Park in London, etc. iconic in alot of ways.
Broadly speaking I agree but it's really comparing apples and oranges. Central Park was specially set aside when Manhattan started growing and the parks in London are also basically crown-owned land that got preserved as the city grew. Alas, we don't have any lovely green spaces where King Henry VIII and his family liked to go fox hunting.

The rationale behind Raildeck Park (and Millennium Park) is that we didn't set aside enough land, which is why we need to reclaim the land now. I think, if/when it's built, it will definitely be a showpiece of some kind and because Toronto loves aping everything World Class Cities do, it will have bean-like public art. I've always been supportive of the general idea - it's a perfect thing to put there - I just continue to be very skeptical of the finances. And the Covid situation isn't exactly boosting the City's coffers. Now, maybe all this will make them thinking of redirecting the $1B for the Gardiner to the park - that'd be something! In the meantime, someone else owns the site and the City has no means to pay for/build it and I just feel like both sides are playing a bit of chicken.
 

Mercenary

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Toronto is obsessed with being a world class city.

Well then it needs world class stuff. The CN Tower is a relic of the 1970s and is nearly 50 years old.

The Rail Deck Park can be the defining public work in Toronto history if it's done right.
 

crs1026

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Well then it needs world class stuff. The CN Tower is a relic of the 1970s and is nearly 50 years old.
It’s good for another 50 years and more.... but people forget why it exits. It was built as a platform for TV and radio communications networks. The tourism aspects are good revenue too, but were never the original purpose.

Telecom has changed a lot in 50 years, and large antennae towers are closer to obsolete. It’s not too soon to muse about the CN Tower’s end of life. It will get expensive to maintain some day. Tourism may not fund that.

- Paul
 

TJ O'Pootertoot

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Well, the people who actually own the site hiring a world-class architect is a peculiar move if they're only doing this as a cash grab but it sure is keeping things interesting!

 

rbt

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Well, the people who actually own the site hiring a world-class architect is a peculiar move if they're only doing this as a cash grab but it sure is keeping things interesting!
Unless they think they can swap public opinion to their side and squeeze some extra density out of councillors who might approve of it.

It kinda worked for Mirvish. I don't think that density would have been approved at that time if they were run of the mill designs.
 

karledice

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Well, the people who actually own the site hiring a world-class architect is a peculiar move if they're only doing this as a cash grab but it sure is keeping things interesting!

From a developer that has never built one single condo, let alone 10 towers above the rail :) and didn't exist before this air rights debacle :)
 

TJ O'Pootertoot

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It's easy to be cynical about the developers. They're clearly not going to win over council but we all know the LPAT isn't council. And public opinion is all fine and good but the city's been whipping up all sorts of feel good support based on a park they can't afford on land they don't own. So, one could be cynical about that too.

The city should have targeted the lands years ago. Now someone else owns it and, in a best case scenario, taxpayers will likely pay through the nose.

I still think a compromise between this dense proposal and the city's unfunded pipe dream is ideal but time will tell...
 
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WislaHD

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They're clearly not going to win over council but we all know the LPAT isn't council.
LPAT isn't the ultimate adjudicator.

This isn't some random development site, and the status of air-rights ownership is contested. The city and the developer here are both likely fully prepared to appeal this through the court system.
 

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