When Toronto’s first planners set out to plan the city’s street pattern, they had the chance to be creative. They didn’t take it. Instead of using the city’s natural geography, early Torontonians tried to flatten the city out by planning a grid-based street network. It made turning the land into lots simpler. However it also turned the city’s ravines and waterways to obstacles to overcome. It’s a little sad, they could have been assets to improve.
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One loss was Taddle Creek, which flowed from what is now St. Clair Avenue through what became Philosophers Walk, all the way to the lakeshore. Remembered in the Annex neighbourhood of the same name, Taddle Creek was covered up as the city streets crisscrossed through its path. The old creek has long flown under the city unnoticed but routine maintenance scheduled along University Avenue has unearthed new possibilities.
Much of University Avenue is scheduled to be torn up in 2024. as the pandemic has sparks conversations about how to build a healthier city, Toronto is taking a fresh look at the street. Evergreen (The people behind the Evergreen Brickworks), The Michael Young Family Foundation (a charity working with the AGO) and the urban design firm PUBLICWORK want to turn University Avenue into University Park. The proposed park will stretch from Bloor to Lake Ontario and there’s a lot to get excited about.
The Future: University Park
University Park will make more room in the downtown for pedestrians and greenspace, all while keeping space for cyclists. The project promises to dig up a bit of old Taddle Creek between Bloor and College. Not only does this provide people with a cool place to relax, it also addresses one of Toronto’s major environmental problems. It seems like the rainfall gets worse and worse each year, and once the snow melts people begin worrying about their basements. Luckily, opening Taddle Creek back up should help with flooding and keep the city a little dryer. University Park also brings Toronto in step with places like New York, which is increasingly devoting more urban space to parks and bicycles. By bringing back forgotten geography like Taddle Creek, Toronto can do something really unique. University Park lets the city do something new, while making up for lost chances.
You can find out more about the proposed University Park project here.