Sherbourne Common and Canada's Sugar Beach are two of Waterfront Toronto's recent success stories. They have both transformed former industrial lands in the East Bayfront into public spaces that everyone can enjoy. Building on these successes, Waterfront Toronto is in the midst of designing a third park for this burgeoning neighbourhood. Named after Alexander Aitken, a surveyor who mapped out a plan for the Town of York in 1793, Aitken Place Park will occupy the space to the immediate east of Tridel's Aquavista at Bayside condos.
At 0.75 acres, the park has been designed as a neighbourhood amenity to serve the incoming wave of residents that will soon call this stretch of the waterfront home. Scott Torrance Landscape Architect of Toronto and Thomas Balsley Associates of New York have been tasked with designing the park, which has evolved from its original design unveiled earlier this year.
The revised proposal was revealed at a public consultation at Waterfront Toronto's offices on July 9th.
Attended by about 25 people, the public had the opportunity to ask both Scott Torrance and Thomas Balsley about their vision for the site, who explained that the park will offer a different experience than Sherbourne Common and Sugar Beach.
One of the most visible elements of the plan is the 170 square metre dog run located at the north end of the site. An integral feature of several Thomas Balsley designs, the dog run is sunken by half a metre, allowing the rest of the park to take centre stage.
Though the site is flat, the park itself will slope to the north to a height of 3.5 metres, offering elevated views of the lake and the surrounding neighbourhood. A jagged trail hugs a water rill, providing an interactive play element for children. The twists and turns of the trail are necessary to ensure conformity with the city's accessibility standards, as a slope too steep would create mobility barriers. The slope of the park also provides an opportunity for sledding in the winter.
A shelter clad in corten steel sits atop the slope, a nod to the area's rugged industrial history. The pavilion's roof echoes the grid orientation of Aitken's plan for the Village of York, while the wood floor mimics the current East Bayfront grid orientation.
Of the several seating options, swivel chairs will allow people to adjust their orientation, creating a more flexible space. A toddler play area with a slide and climbing equipment is envisioned for the centre of the western pedestrian promenade that hugs Aquavista. Small seating areas, designed to double as a work space, are proposed to the north and south of the play area.
The park will contain several species of trees, with the idea of creating an 'urban nest' that includes birch, cherry and elm. Tall grasses are also planned for areas where sunlight is the more desired option.
Upon viewing the proposal, some members of the audience expressed hope for a larger dog run and a possible skating rink. Officials from Waterfront Toronto pointed out the rink at Sherbourne Common, noting that Aitken Place Park is primarily a local amenity, and that the relatively small size of the park creates constraints for a larger dog run. Accessibility issues relating to the dog run were also raised. The ground of the run is currently proposed to be outfitted with crushed granite, which could pose mobility problems.
As the park is still in its design stage, the comments received at the public meeting will be taken into account as the proposal enters further refinement. The park is expected to begin construction in the spring of 2017, with a targeted completion date of spring 2018.
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