Development literally takes the elevated route in Toronto

Every major city is distinguishable because of its one or two interesting features- New York has the High Lane, Paris has the Promenade Plantee and Toronto has recently made a proposal for three separate rail decks with which it is expected to foray into vertical neighborhoods.

The idea is to build elevated recreational centers, which are already quite common in some high rise condo buildings and office towers, but they will be a part of public development and will be opened to the masses, especially in areas where the land comes at a premium cost. For example, in the area of Canoe Landing which is located downtown, a community center and two schools will be sharing a rooftop basketball court and a walking track between themselves.

Some preliminary designs for a number of new northeast Scarborough community center have been drawn up and they will include rooftop fitness amenities which will be maximizing the constrained building site in an effort to keep the green spaces of the city intact. Some places that were initially overlooked, those above the eye level are being considered anew for these projects and elevated construction is being considered the next step.

What industry experts feel

The experts have agreed that in an area where the population is high, and the neighborhood is already established, further construction will only hinder the green space in the city and that is not a welcome idea as sustainable and green living is the need of the hour. But to cater to the needs of the people, alternative arrangements have to be made and going vertical give the opportunity to use finite space in a more efficient manner. One of the ideas is to create elevated parks which are definitely unconventional green spaces but will have huge potential if it is done right.

However, these spaces are going to be extremely expensive as well to come by and an acre of land downtown is priced somewhere around 100 million dollars. Some unconventional and elevated parks have already been completed and some of the most beautiful ones are very self sufficient in themselves and are also connected to key surrounding public places like the Berczy Park and the St. James Park and provides great scope of movement for the users as one is urban and paved and the other is forested and more natural and they complement each other perfectly.

Some challenges and other aspects

However, elevated parks are not without their fair share of challenges and they often miss out of vitality mostly because they are above eye level. For example, at Toronto City Hall, only a few people had taken the initiative to climb the ramp at lunchtime from the bustling farmer’s market below and these places are mostly empty, with most of the people still preferring to go to their conventional and familiar parks. However, it can also be attributed to the fact that people do not know about these places much as of now and the numbers will increase slowly. When the people realize it is quieter, more peaceful, breezier and has more sunlight, not to mention the amazing views that can be enjoyed from up there, they are sure to come around but they will have to make an effort to get up there.

Places like the Yonge Eglinton with a roof garden and rail garden are grossly underused because people do not even know they exist. Elevated spaces were designed initially just for passive places of relaxation but the lack of public space elsewhere has encouraged the building of other recreational facilities here like a basketball court, yoga and tai chi decks, picnic spots and walking tracks. Children would be able to go to school during the day and then go right up to the community center. Moreover, these areas are automatically free of traffic, it is a much safer place for the kids to romp about and the parents have less to worry about.

The idea is to make these elevated and vertical gardens an extension of the living areas of the people as the living spaces are actually shrinking. The sizes of the condos are indeed smaller by 25% than they were 15 years ago but these outdoor spaces will ensure that they do not have to compromise on their outdoor life. This will be the way of life for the communities in the future and will also provide a platform for them to come and meet together, something that is often missed as everyone goes about their own life. The community centers are now being efficiently designed to make optimum use of all the available space, which is definitely the need of the hour.