Located at the heart of the new Downtown neighbourhood now known as the South Core, the cumbersome mid-century off-ramp has occupied increasingly valuable urban space as the city around it grew. Now surrounded by a cluster of high-rises, the area context has drastically transformed since the ramp opened in 1964, when much of the lands south of the rail corridor remained vacant.
The removal of the ageing spiral off-ramp—which has occupied the better part of a city block—will free up space for a new park, stretching between Harbour Street and Queens Quay east of York Street. Although the park remains in the relatively early stages of the design process, the infusion of green space will be undoubtedly meaningful for the area. While land for new parks is notoriously difficult to procure throughout the Downtown core, the space surrounding the off-ramp was already occupied by green space—but which was substantially degraded by the highway infrastructure above.
Already under construction beneath the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp, a comparatively streamlined—and much shorter—new ramp will meet Lake Shore Boulevard and Harbord at Lower Simcoe, a block west of the existing spiral.
Set to be completed and opened to traffic near the end of this year, the new Lower Simcoe ramp will be joined by streetscape improvements to Harbour Street, as well as the green space reborn as a park in 2018.
Taking advantage of the space freed up by the York-Bay-Yonge ramp’s removal, Harbour Street will be widened from three lanes to four between Lower Simcoe and Bay. The expanded street will feature new cycling infrastructure, as well as improved sidewalk conditions, with the aim of creating an improved links to and past the waterfront. With a total cost of approximately $30 million, about a third of the project is being funded via Section 37 community benefit funds from the nearby Sun Life Financial and Harbour Plaza Residences complex.
The new bike lanes and widened, repaved sidewalks—including improved paving and new plantings—are intended to foster a more urban street-level experience, re-shaping a Downtown street that in places still feels like an extended off-ramp.
Complementing the future park, improvements to Harbour Street will take shape in the coming months. Along with the replacement ramp to Lower Simcoe by the fall, the Harbour Street retrofit is set to be completed in early 2018, with the City targeting the completion of “major construction work” in the area by January, notwithstanding the park.
Photo Source: Google