We have just launched our new book Exploring Toronto and are very gratified by the reception it has gotten so far. In it, we tell the stories behind 28 of our favorite public spaces in the city. These range from our deeply incised ravines to lively neighbourhoods, lush gardens and parks, iconic bridges, even repurposed industrial silos and the undercroft of an elevated highway. But beyond these individual places, there is a bigger story of a Toronto that is reinventing itself for a greener future, a future where these dots are connected leading to a new way of experiencing the city as a whole. Today we tend to know and navigate the city by familiar traffic arteries, but looking ahead it is not too difficult to imagine a Toronto known for its extensive green connections. Moving self-propelled through the city at relatively low speeds in these green links we stretch our bodies and enjoy the health benefits of exercise outside the gym or fitness centre. But it is much more than that. It restores the intuitive geographic understanding that the car weakened, a feel for the real distances between things and a sense that it’s all connected, opening the city to areas that were formerly terra incognita.
What is happening on the waterfront where many of the 28 spaces in our book are located is a great example of the dots connecting, as 50 km of public waterfront takes shape through the collective work of generations of Torontonians. Links are being established, connecting the new parkland along the Mimico motel strip to Humber Bay and the Western Beaches. Moving to the east, there is (we fervently hope) the potential for a revived Ontario Place with the wonderful addition of Trillium Park joining with Coronation Park, Little Norway Park, the Music Garden, the Queens Quay ‘Greenway’, Sugar Beach, and Sherbourne Common in the heart of the new East Bayfront Neighbourhood. One tier back is the Bentway overcoming today’s barriers along the elevated highway all the way from Exhibition Place to the Don River. The vast area of Ontario Park framing the outer harbour will link to Ashbridge’s Bay and the historic Eastern Beaches, the Scarborough Bluffs, and beyond. In this public vision for a great and generous waterfront, we are witnessing one of the largest revitalization efforts in the world where work on the Don River relocation and a $1.25 billion floodproofing project is already underway, providing vast stretches of new green space for public use and extending beyond the mouth of the river, right up the Don Valley. The Martin Goodman Trail has become a jewel on the Toronto waterfront, serving Torontonians but also drawing visitors from around the world and contributing to a powerful new image for the city. These ‘connecting’ green networks are a low-cost, high-impact solution addressing many needs and offering multiple benefits: health, active transportation, re-connection with the restorative powers of nature in the city, connecting us with each other, and providing common ground in a form that is free for all.
Ken Greenberg is an urban designer, teacher, writer, former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto and Principal of Greenberg Consultants. He is the author of Walking Home: The Life and Lessons of a City Builder and Toronto Reborn; Design Successes and Challenges. He was selected as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2019 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Toronto.
Eti Greenberg has managed Toronto’s Euclid Cinema, acted as an art dealer, worked for two Toronto city councilors, teaches Tai Chi, and is a Shiatsu and acupuncture therapist. She is passionate about Toronto and walks everywhere, while also discovering new places via tandem bike and kayak.