Green Line: Ossington. Photo by Mark Kasumovic

A Green Line for Toronto?

The Green Line Ideas Competition invites architects, landscape architects, planners, artists and community members to contribute to an overall vision for the public use of a 5-km-long hydro corridor from Davenport Village to the Annex. The Green Line route goes past everything from autobody shops and Portuguese bakeries to the Tarragon Theatre. A bonus is  a great view of Casa Loma.

Architects are asked  to propose how a piece of infrastructure can be transformed into exemplary public space, similar to the celebrated High Line in New York. This design competition aims to demonstrate the potential of the particular hydro corridor site in midtown Toronto and also to foster a discussion on the public use of similar spaces in Canadian cities.

Helena Grdadolnik, associate director of Workshop Architecture, the competition’s organizer, says, “Imagine our electricity infrastructure as a Green Line – a continuous pedestrian and cycling link across the middle of the city and a public space and recreational amenity to the many neighbourhoods across Toronto that it links.” She goes on to say, “We encourage multi- disciplinary teams to propose bold ideas and practical solutions to address important issues such as alternative transportation.”

Why now?: Parts of the hydro corridor are already licensed to the City of Toronto for recreational purposes through the Provincial Secondary Land Use Program. Councillors Palacio and Mihevc are currently in the process of negotiating licenses for a few key pieces that could complete the link. The licenses are contingent on the result of studies into potential contamination (the City will not assume any contaminated land), on the Province and the City coming to an agreement, and on securing permissions and funding to realize more recreation space along the hydro corridor.

Timeline: The competition launches today and closes on Feb. 4. A jury of urban issues experts and design professionals will award $6,000 in prizes, which will be announced in the spring. These are made possible through the generous support of major sponsors: the Ontario Association of Architects and Astley Gilbert Limited, Canada’s largest and greenest construction printer. The winning ideas will not be built, but the best proposals will be exhibited at a community event in May, for the purpose of getting the people who live, study and work near the site to start discussing its future potential.

The Green Line is already well used by local residents; it has splash pads, sports fields, allotment gardens, parking lots and children’s playgrounds, but many of the spaces are in poor condition and the corridor does not currently provide a continuous physical connection due to level changes (where it intersects at Shaw Street), street crossings (the dangerous crossings at the rail underpasses, particularly at Dovercourt and Geary) and fencing (preventing access through the parking lot at the TTC Hillcrest Yard).

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