Recent revisions to Grange Park’s proposed revitalization by Vancouver-based Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg (PFS) have been released by the Grange Park Advisory Committee (GPAC). PFS’ design, led by Greg Smallenberg (also known in Toronto for Sherbourne Common, Underpass Park, and others) builds on a brief prepared by the GPAC and an environmental audit done by PMA Landscape Architects. Updates to the design are focused on balancing uses for a multi-generational and culturally diverse populace while honing connections through the site to landmarks like the AGO and OCAD U, and Beverley, McCaul and John Streets. 

Entrance to the revitalized Grange Park from Beverly Street

The collective, co-chaired by Liberal MP Adam Vaughan and AGO Vice-President Rupert Duchesne, formed in 2008  to advise on the AGO’s plans for the park and provide an oversight structure for the ongoing maintenance and program for the vital green space, according to the Committee’s website. The group has worked in partnership with the AGO and the City of Toronto since its inception and most recently W. Galen Weston, Chairman and President of the W. Garfield Weston Foundation and longtime AGO supporter. The AGO announced late February of this year that Weston was donating an unspecified sum for the revitalization of the two hectare downtown park, including an endowment fund. 

Grange Park’s inner circular path grounds the landscape

Grange Park’s inner circular path grounds the landscape and it is this main path that other paths connect to and extend from, gesturing to the city around the park and welcoming visitors from the city. The central path moves you around the park to comfortable areas for pausing and play; it keeps you in the park, this modest tranquil space in the middle of the city. It’s not exactly a space to write home about yet, but it’s getting there. 

PFS Studio's design balances spots to pause and play.

Many updates to the design aren’t immediately obvious; they are subtle yet address community concerns presented at the most recent meeting held on July 7, 2014.

Differences between previous and current designs are subtle

Square planter-benches proposed to line the middle of the John Street walkway have been relocated to the edge of the walkway in the new design, creating better movement and site lines from the prime southern access. Updated designs also show a narrow path to Butterfield Park and OCAD U at the south-east corner of the site that likewise connects to the raised wooden path that winds north-south along the east edge of the site. This wide path draws visitors to the water features at the northern boundary of the site, near the steps that lead to The Grange itself. 

One of two water features at the northern portion of the site bordering the AGO.

The raised path moves around the water features and both the north and south play areas. The play areas have been modified to accommodate toddlers to young adults. 

Play areas accommodate all ages, from toddlers to young adults

Formal benches and informal perches, all with seats made of the same wood used for the raised path, create good east-west site lines from Beverly to McCaul, not to mention a through-line with the use of wood, picked up again in the raised path which can also be used for seating.

Seating with wood bottoms and semi-circle backs.

More naturalized green space is offered where the park meets Beverley Street.

Naturalized green space is featured in particular at the western portion of the site

Semi-circle shaped rows of grasses, wildflowers and trees, play areas, stretches of seating, and informal paths move the visitor inwards towards the great lawn. The middle green bits are not programmed, though the City has proposed this area for the off-leash dog park. The GPAC intends to present an alternative to Council this fall; it was originally proposed for the south-west corner, fronting Beverley. Circular shapes are a motif that unite the elements of the site. 

To those who feared that the park would become the backyard of the AGO as the AGO underwent its expansion work with Frank Gehry, perhaps spruced up with a fancy cafe overlooking the park as the AGO had once contemplated, the redesign makes certain the park will function as more than a backyard for the AGO, pulling in the community at large and suggesting they linger before heading back to the busy streets. 

If you have further questions or comments about the park’s redesign, the GPAC can be contacted at information@grangeparktoronto.ca

Related Companies:  PFS Studio, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg