The revitalization of James Canning Gardens was the direct result of working closely and collaboratively with a community to bring new life to a run-down urban park. The design addresses community safety concerns, preserves the canopy of mature trees, and provides new amenities for an evolving downtown Toronto neighbourhood.
The park, part of an important pedestrian open space corridor east of Yonge Street, had become a secluded and unwelcoming space with poor lighting, overgrown vegetation, minimal seating, and a neglected playground. Through extensive consultation with the community and stakeholders, the team learned that safety, visibility, and accessibility were critical concerns. Working with the City of Toronto, the City Councillor, and a local developer, Janet Rosenberg & Studio prepared The Yonge Street Linear Parks Master Plan (2017) for improvements to the three connected parks in the system: James Canning Gardens, Norman Jewison Park and George Hislop Park. The Master Plan proposed connected but unique designs concepts for each of the parks in the system, drawing inspiration from the cultural and natural heritage of the area, and exploring opportunities to incorporate engaging elements that would support the project goals.
Upon completion of the Master Plan, JRS led a multidisciplinary team of consultants to realize the revitalization of James Canning Gardens, completed in 2021. To preserve the beautiful, mature honey locust trees on-site, intensive arboriculture investigations were completed using air spades and low-pressure vacuum techniques to expose, locate, and map the significant roots. Roots were protected by custom-designed footings that bridged significant root zones. Seven custom illuminated Corten Steel archways, standing 4.5 m tall, extend through the park, providing a warm level of lighting, clear site lines, and a distinct sense of place. The striking features take inspiration from the 1950s construction of the Yonge Street subway line that lies directly below the park system. The playground was relocated to a more visible and prominent area in the park and is comprised of a porous surface, elevated above the tree roots. New play elements include accessible play structures, balance features, and a large climbing structure. Custom precast concrete stools of varying heights and configurations were created working with a local fabricator. Spaced throughout the park, the playful stools offer casual spots to enjoy a coffee and discussion with a friend. Custom circular raised planters made of Corten Steel are filled with a variety of hardy perennials and spring bulbs that add seasonal colour and texture. The team also worked with the City of Toronto‘s Transportation Department to provide a vegetated boulevard bump-out that extends into the road, slowing down vehicles and allowing for a shorter pedestrian crossing. As a piece of green infrastructure, the bump-out is designed to collect stormwater from the sidewalk and road.
James Canning Gardens is an elegant, well-executed urban park with custom design elements that seamlessly integrates within the urban neighbourhood fabric. The revitalized park provides a safe and engaging open-space experience that promotes health and well-being for the community.
Landscape Architect: Janet Rosenberg & Studio
Project Location: 15 Gloucester St, Toronto, ON Canada M4Y 1L8
Client: City of Toronto, Cresford Developments/Concord Adex
Year Built: 2021