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Proposed King High Line would connect Liberty Village, Parkdale, King and Queen West


The early stages of designing the pedestrian bridge

Condo developers Urbancorp and First Capital Reality are in the early stages of designing an extended pedestrian bridge - the King High Line - that would connect Parkdale, Liberty Village, King and Queen Street West

The King High Line is all about connecting neighbourhoods and in this case it’s looking to bridge the gap between Liberty Village and West Queen West.

Condo developers Urbancorp and First Capital Reality are in the early stages of designing an extended pedestrian bridge that would stretch approximately 400 metres from the rail bridge at King Street and Atlantic Avenue across the rail corridor and finish its connection at the future Sudbury Street area of the West Toronto Railpath.

“The thing that’s really interesting is the most intense part of this neighbourhood which is Liberty Village and West Queen West is the one area where any kind of connectivity is missing,” said urban planner Michel Trocmé of Urban Strategies Inc, who’s helping with the project.

“There’s nothing there.”

If the High Line goes forward it would serve as the ultimate link between the areas of Liberty Village, Parkdale, West Queen West and King Street.

The idea is modelled after the New York City High Line, which serves as an all-season elevated linear park that Trocmé says is even popular in the dead of winter. The Toronto version will have a wider than normal bridge that can fit pedestrians and cyclists comfortably with benches and landscaped greenery as well. There’s also a planned elevator tower, with the option of stairs, near Abell Street so people with disabilities, the elderly and people looking to get on the bridge can do so near the middle.

“It allows continuity but it also allows for pedestrian connectivity north and south of West Queen West to Liberty Village,” Trocmé explained.

Although there are plans underway in the area for the King Liberty pedestrian/cycling bridge and the Dufferin bridge on either side of it, this bridge’s reach would dwarf those already planned by the city and would serve as a direct dual connection to one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the area.

The concept has already garnered a few supporters with its “Friends of the King High Line” signatures on its official website. One of them is the West Queen West Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“Sometimes it’s hard to get from Liberty Village to West Queen West and vice versa. It’s so close on a map but to walk it, takes time,” said Robert Sysak, the executive director of the West Queen West BIA.

“Anything that will help with that or solve it, we’re going to greet it with arms open wide.”

Sysak is hoping the proposal will help alleviate congestion problems in the area, boost business in all neighbouring business improvement areas as well as eliminate the physical barrier, the train tracks, between the communities.

“Obviously we want people to come to West Queen West first but when we talk about Parkdale and Queen Street, there’s no border,” Sysak said.

“If someone comes and visits Parkdale or Ossington, they’re going to come to West Queen West, so easier access to all those helps businesses out.”

Liberty Village Residents Association president Todd Hofley is also on board for the concept. He told The Villager he thinks it’s a great idea and so do Liberty Village residents.

“What’s not to like? It connects three great communities to each other, gives better pedestrian and cycling connections…” said Hofley.

“It also gives us some green space and perhaps even some cool multi-use space that we can get creative with - pop-up music performances, town criers, who the heck knows - but it’s something the community can participate in and get creative with.”

But with every proposal suggested in communities, Hofley said it’s important to look at projects like this with as little naiveté as possible.

“The renderings and current look are gorgeous and this is what needs to happen, or better, but not worse,” Hofley said.

“This isn’t something that we can water down and turn into some utilitarian crossing with a horrible design aesthetic. If it turns into that, then I’d be completely against it and it wouldn’t be worth the dollars to build. We need this type of good design (in the renderings) and beauty in our communities, so nothing less than excellent will do.”

Hofley added another concern is the fact the cost of the bridge is undetermined. He also doesn’t want to help sell the community on a “Trojan horse” and that community consultation is extremely important.

“This design needs to be something that’s nailed down. What you see is what you get. If the plans or design change, then I think it’s only fair to go back to the community and ask again,” Hofley said.

“It’s got to deliver on all the promises it’s making, otherwise it should be scrapped. I believe First Capital and Urbancorp have the absolute best of intentions so I’m very, very hopeful.”

Hofley and Sysak aren’t the only ones to get wind of the idea. Both First Capital and Urbancorp have already approached Gord Perks, councillor for Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park, who had some initial reservations of his own.

“My first thought was to make sure it wasn’t tied to some density bonus scheme and they said no, so to me that was the most important thing to clear up,” explained Perks.

The idea is still in its infancy stage, there’s no timeline on when construction would begin, the cost is still undetermined and there’s been no formal proposal to the city. According to Trocmé they’re looking to get help from all levels of government to help fund the project, an option that is entirely possible, said Perks, if the concept is developed further.

“They need to bring forward a decent business case and then you can evaluate what’s the benefit, what’s the cost,” the councillor said.

“This looks interesting enough that it’s worth taking the next step, doing the business case and then we can put it in front of Toronto and in front of council and decide what to do. I won’t know if I’ll support it until I see it. I’m just excited to see if the work is technically possible and can be put together.”

For more information on the King High Line, visit www.kinghighline.com

Originally posted on Inside Toronto by Hilary Caton.
— Published October 23rd, 2014 —