Toronto's new gathering place will be located in a seemingly unlikely part of the city - under the Gardiner Expressway.
Construction for The Bentway, formerly known as Project: Under Gardiner, is finally underway after 18 months of waiting. The massive project, which is was taken on by The City of Toronto and the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation, aims to take unused space under the expressway (from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street) and turn it into a cultural hub that connects the city.
It became the "Bentway" after 5000-vote public campaign that showed overwhelming support for the moniker. The name, at its core, is an ode to the "bents" of the column-and-beam structures the hold up the expressway.
There is an unusual beauty to the forgotten space under the Gardiner. With a $25 million donation by the Matthews, the area will be transformed into a 1.75-km multi-use park trail that will link seven neighbourhoods together: Exhibition Place, CityPlace, Liberty Village, Niagara, Fort York, Bathurst Quay, Wellington Place.
The park will be fitted with a variety of amenities and attractions, including gardens, a skating rink, public markets, art galleries, exhibitions, festivals, outdoor theatres and plenty of space for community events.
The project has three phases. The first involves development work between Strachan Avenue and Fort York and is slated to finish in December of this year. An 250-seat open-air theatre, skating trail and a 500-seat lawn ampitheatre are set to be constructed during this phase. The second and third phases, which involve decking, lighting, furnishing, and landscape work in front of the Fort York Visitor Centre, will be finished in 2018.
While there are no exact dates on when the entire park will be finished, completion is expected sometime in 2018. The development teams have prepared a phased series of openings in 2017 and 2018, so Torontonians can visit it little by little as it is being completed.
For more information, visit The Bentway's website.