Like a Bridge Over Troubled Train Tracks
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Like a Bridge Over Troubled Train Tracks

Elliott Avenue Helix Bridge, Seattle. Photo by Brenda Petroff/Torontoist.

Today, Urban Toronto is launching a design charette called “Bridging the Design Gap” to respond to what they say are the “unacceptable plans for the CityPlace box truss pedestrian bridge across the rail corridor.” Design charettes typically serve as a forum to introduce an important project to the community, explore its needs, and identify different design solutions, which means that anybody can get involved and brainstorm about the design and aesthetics of the bridge that will link the Railway Lands West with the neighbourhood north of the CN Rail corridor.
In the 1990s, when the city allowed the railways to re-zone their waterfront lands and sell them to condo developers, the agreement included a requirement for Concord Adex to provide a pedestrian bridge [PDF]. This bridge is to be built over the tracks south of Front Street between Spadina and Bathurst, connecting the established neighbourhood with the new development and Lake Ontario. The developer, Li Ka-shing, promised a bridge that the Post called “sublime,” one strongly supported by the city, but GO Transit and Canadian National Railways have imposed design conditions so restrictive [PDF], construction keeps getting pushed back, and an ongoing battle with the city has ensued. Now, logistical challenges and the desire to just get the bridge built are taking precedence over any notion of creativity, which has rattled several members of Urban Toronto, who are channelling their rage in a proactive manner, recognizing this as a fantastic opportunity for community involvement and collaboration.
In this exercise, the pressing issues are greater than the “fifteen second sight lines” or “minimum twenty-eight foot height restrictions,” focusing instead on how to design the most beautiful bridge possible within the given budget, to take full advantage of the highly visible location. Toronto harbours some truly talented individuals, many of whom have some extra time on their hands, and it will be exciting to see the innovative proposals that are produced as a result of this charette—proposals that will, hopefully, heavily influence the final design of the bridge. The deadline for submissions is May 29.