There has been a tremendous amount of development south of Front Street in the Southcore district. As new buildings continue to be constructed, there needs to be appropriate infrastructure to accommodate the people living and working within these developments. Toronto's current PATH network only goes as far south as the Air Canada Centre, but with several new towers being built in the immediate area, the need for a proper, safe pedestrian connection becomes apparent.
Oxford Properties' RBC Waterpark Place III is one of the buildings currently under construction that is located beyond the current southern terminus of the PATH network. To provide a connection to this new complex, as well as the waterfront, a big piece of a new PATH bridge was installed on Saturday.
The bridge, designed by WZMH Architects, runs from the Air Canada Centre, underneath the Gardiner Expressway and over Lake Shore Boulevard to Menkes' Sun Life Financial Tower and Harbour Plaza Residences development, which is also currently under construction. From there, the bridge will continue south over Harbour Street and the Yonge off-ramp to connect to its final destination, Waterpark Place. Though the idea of tunneling the connection was discussed, water levels, building foundations and the underground parking for the convention centre would have made it physically difficult.
"RBC wanted a PATH connection to the building they were going to take space in," said John White of WZMH Architects. "So Oxford had to have a means to connect to the PATH." The bridge, which had to be assembled off-site, was funded and will be maintained by Oxford Properties.
Delivered via a massive flatbed truck, the bridge had to be carefully hoisted up into place. "This flatbed truck which has 96 wheels on either side - each one of them is actually a piston," said John White. "The truck itself is sitting on these wheels and the piston would shift and the whole thing would lift up into position, and then they put jacks on either side that would hold the bridge in its new position. Then they lowered the platform, put some drums underneath the bridge and then raised it up again. So they kept jacking it up slowly until they could get it to a point to do hydraulic jacks on the four corners of the beams, and within a ten minute spread, raised it up to its position."
The truck itself is a feat of engineering, with each wheel being able to rotate, allowing the entire flatbed truck to move sideways. Once at the correct height, the bridge then had to swivel horizontally to connect to the existing bridge piece, which was installed in June.
Negotiations with the City meant that the bridge had to be movable to the west and to the east to accommodate repairs to the Gardiner Expressway. It was also built wide enough to span a larger Lake Shore Boulevard, should the Gardiner be demolished in the future. "The whole process of getting this bridge up made them realize how to move it in the future," said John White.
The last section of the bridge, spanning from Harbour Plaza to Waterpark Place, is scheduled to be installed mid-September. The entire PATH connection should be open to the public in early October as Waterpark Place nears completion, even as Harbour Plaza continues construction. "90 Harbour will create a pedestrian-safe drywall enclosure that connects the two bridges so that people can walk through," said White.
On the significance of the bridge, John White explained "now we have a gateway to the waterfront and we're opening up that whole section of the city that people tended to think was a barrier. Our business district no longer stops at Union Station, it goes right to the water."
The use of transparent glass was a key design choice, giving motorists the ability to view pedestrians inside and vice versa. "This is actually giving people a different perspective on Toronto," said White. "You're going to be crossing over this bridge and it's going to be like watching the theatre that is Lake Shore. It's actually seeing urban Toronto as an experience that's entertaining, not just something that goes on everyday."
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