City looking to create new greenspace over midtown subway

City planners are looking into creating a new park in midtown Toronto by decking over the open subway trench between Eglinton and Davisville stations.

The scheme, if it passes an ongoing feasibility study, would create a linear park a little more than half a kilometre long.

"We would love to see this happen," said Toronto Transit Commission Chair Jaye Robinson, whose ward includes part of midtown Toronto. 

"It helps us secure the tracks and secure the subway and ... it adds a linear park to an area that desperately needs it."

Mike Smee/CBC

City staff have written in the past that residents of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood are among the most park-starved in the city, with less that .43 hectares — or less than half a football field — per 1,000 people.

Neither city planners nor TTC staff would speak with CBC Toronto on camera. But in a statement, TTC spokesperson Susan Sperling wrote: "The TTC supports these plans providing our customers and operations are not negatively impacted.

"Much of the original main line cutting between Rosedale and St Clair stations has already been decked over."

However, those greenspaces are fenced off from the public.

A May 2018 city report called  Midtown Parks and Public Realm Plan, envisions "decking over the trench to build a linear park [that] would increase park space in Midtown and provide a new active transportation connection between Davisville and Yonge-Eglinton Centre."

Mike Smee/CBC

City staff would say only that a feasibility study is underway, but that no firm decisions will be made until the province provides a clearer idea of if its plans for the city's subway stations.

The Ford government announced late last year plans to take over control of the subway system, but details of the upload have not yet been determined, Robinson said.

Locals like Richard Kowalski, who spoke with CBC Toronto while relaxing in nearby Fiona Nelson Parkette, are all for the idea.

Mike Smee/CBC

"I think it's a valuable asset. I mean lovely days like this, people can enjoy it. Take your pets out and just enjoy the greenery, which is a rare commodity in the city these days."

Genevieve Graveline, another local resident, said it's a creative way to use a subway right-of-way.

"it's always nicer to look at park land than a train track. So I think it's a great idea. Sounds great, anyway, in theory."

Robinson said details of what the park would be like and its amenities haven't yet been determined, because it's unclear what Queen's Park has in store for midtown Toronto. 

'Costly undertaking'

As well as the subway takeover, the province has yet to okay a city-drafted master plan for the area, which was completed almost a year ago.

The plan is called Midtown in Focus, and lays out a new vision for building heights, and parkland in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

But what is clear, Robinson said, is that the trench park will be expensive.

"It'll be a very costly undertaking, but well worth it," she said.

City funds reserved for park development could be used to build the trench park, she said, as well as development charges that builders pay to the city, and private donations.