This compare-and-contrast tweet between Toronto’s High Park and New York’s Central Park was not meant to suggest that New York is a perfect comparable to appropriate (Toronto is not New York), or that foliage isn’t important in our urban environments. Instead, it was meant to highlight that:
- The towers north of High Park (and north of Bloor Street) could almost certainly never be built in today’s planning environment. The recently built point towers exist because the slab towers were already there.
- This condition of height/density tucked and setback off of main streets is something that you will find across Toronto, as well as in a number of other cities.
- Sometimes it can be rightly argued that this is being done in order to preserve a fine-grained and pedestrian-scaled public realm, which is important. But in other cases, like the one above, it feels like a clear reluctance to accept big-city status and any sort of urban grandeur. Are we still trying to be a Victorian city?
- Equally important in the design of public spaces are the edges and “walls” that frame it. And High Park’s edges need work. Why is there almost nowhere to go and hang out on the main edge of Toronto’s principal urban park? You have to go up to the Junction for that.
- In general, the land around many of our higher-order transit stations is grossly underutilized. And this is a perfect example of that. What should happen here are some large-scale upzonings.
I leave on Parkside drive, directly across the park and while I absolutely love the park itself and have spent countless hours walking it, its edges are an urban planning disaster. It’s hard to get to, not very safe, all of this not helped by the fact that Parkside is a major north/south artery. I’m not sure what the solution should/could be, but I do know it could be significantly better.
As a new dad, kids access and safety around the park worries me a bit. We’ll have to do a whole lot of training to be sure the kid is safe, until the pedestrian realm is significantly improved.