I rode my bike across the waterfront Sunday afternoon from Jameson to Kew Gardens in the Beaches. Just north of the bike trail crossing at Cherry Street and Lake Shore Blvd. is a wide-open space under the Gardiner Expressway (photo above). I stumbled upon a similar sized space on my recent trip to Vancouver, but they used the area to much greater effect.
Back in the 1970s, Vancouver had it’s own version of the Spadina Expressway experience [see Spacing’s Flickr set for Spadina Expressway renderings]. The Strathcona Freeway was proposed to feed into the downtown area from the east cutting through neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Strathcona and Commercial Drive, among others. The expressway was fought and won by local residents and Vancouver remains the only major metropolitan city in North America without an expressway.
But there are ghosts of the Strathcona Freeway. The Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts (photo above) were built in anticipation of the freeway but their intended use was never fulfilled. This is the same fate that befell the bridge on Bathurst just north of St. Clair West which was built to support future on- and off-ramps for the Spadina Expressway.
What’s most interesting is how Vancouver has converted the space below these viaduct into a decent skateboard park (photo above and below).
Toronto needs to figure out what to do with the Gardiner Expressway sooner or later (as previously discussed on the Spacing Wire) so we can get on with either transforming it into a different kind of transit corridor or improve on the structure already in place. If we go with the latter, the City needs to seriously think of how to reinvigorate the spaces surrounding the expressway. Vancouver’s example is a good place to start.
all photos by Matthew Blackett