The City's vision for the proposed Rail Deck Park in Downtown Toronto has been protected by a landmark decision of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) which dismissed an appeal of a 2017 City Council-approved Official Plan Amendment (OPA) that designated the air rights above the rail corridor between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way as park space.

Rail Deck Park, image courtesy of City of Toronto

The OPA was appealed by a joint venture partnership of developers known as CRAFT Acquisitions Corp. and P.I.T.S. Development Inc.who had a plan known as the 'ORCA Project'. Co-appellants were the Canadian National Railway Company and Toronto Terminals Railway Company Ltd. who had sold their air rights to the developers. CRAFT/P.I.T.S. sought to build new towers along the north edge of the site fronting Front Street, while building a similar but narrower park over the rail corridor on the south half of the site. The LPAT dismissal of the appeal noted the importance of creating new parkland in this parkland-deficient area with a rapidly growing population. 

ORCA Project, image via submission to City of Toronto

With the appeal dismissed, the City's planning vision and framework as laid out in the 2017 OPA can now begin moving forward. The area surrounding the rail corridor is amongst the fastest transforming sections of the GTA. While a park of this size and significance is expected to draw people from a wide swath of the city, residents of the developments in the immediate vicinity would keep the park busy in themselves. They include the may towers of the CityPlace neighbourhood to the south, and the several towers of The Well project rising currently to the north. There are many other new residential buildings nearby, both completed and in various stages of development.

Concept plan for Rail Deck Park, image courtesy of City of Toronto

In response to the news, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement declaring "Today's decision about Rail Deck Park from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal is good news for Toronto and its future. This reaffirms the City's initial intentions to make this land available for an important community development that will ultimately be a very popular park." 

Toronto’s Chief Planner and Executive Director Gregg Lintern, echoed Tory's sentiments stating, "Rail Deck Park is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a larger park in the downtown area. It will create a unique and flexible space that can accommodate a variety of different activities." 

The City's official press release states that the City "looks forward to working with the various stakeholders in the rail corridor, including Metrolinx, to make this project a reality" and that they are pursuing something that will be recognized as "a transformative city-building project which will be recognized on the world stage." The City's 2017 study determined that the park might cost $1.5 B to construct. The City has approximately $400 M in a fund to create new parkland in Toronto's central area. It is not clear how much of that could be used on this one project, nor where the remainder of the necessary funds will be found. Chicago's Millennium Park was similarly built over a rail corridor and raised much of its funding from private sector corporate benefactors.
You will find more images of the rejected ORCA plan in the database file linked below. You can participate in the discussion in its associated Forum thread, or our thread dedicated to the City's Rail Deck Park proposal here. You can also let us know what you think in the comments section provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  Sweeny &Co Architects Inc.