After work last week (or was it the week before? Summer goes by so fast!) Jed and I went for a bike ride down Queen's Quay (continuous construction chaos...) for a jaunt towards the new Corktown Common being completed in the Donlands Park area. On our way, we passed Claude Cormier's Sugar Beach.
I was familiar with the project since 2 or 3 years, but until I biked by it was totally lost on me why exactly it was called Sugar beach. It's because it's next to the Redpath Sugar Factory and it smells like goddamned cotton candy ALL THE TIME. Happy!
I think the best part of the beach is not even the Muskoka chairs or pink umbrellas, but the willow trees that cascade down along the edge - providing a perfectly private shady spot.
We walked along the new George Brown waterfront campus - passing a patio that looked as if it had some very tasty nachos - and came up to another small gem (if somewhat hidden from view at this point) Sherbourne Common.
Here is what is cool about Sherbourne Common: it is the first park in Toronto that purifies stormwater, which is then used for fountains and wading canal before being released into Lake Ontario.
After getting on the Lakeshore bike path we made our way towards the Don Valley and finally... to Corktown Common by Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates.
The existence of this park makes me so happy. The Don river area has a lot of potential as a beautiful naturalized urban river valley, but the river itself is still really polluted and this project - the naturalization of the mouth of the river - is a big start to bring attention and funding for the length of the waterway. It helps that there is a world-class landscape architect working on it!
This park also makes a statement about urban development in general. Toronto has been known for the last 10 years as condo-crazy. Everywhere you turn a historic building is being demolished to make way for a 40 storey "mixed-use" condo. On that note, I can't believe how many people actually want Frank Gehry's "design" (and I use the term VERY loosely) to get built TODAY.
*bitch-slaps people of Toronto*
SMARTEN UP AND SAVE SOME OF YOUR HISTORIC STREETSCAPE!
Never mind that condo units themselves are soulless shoeboxes, most of which aren't even owner-occupied but rather purchased for 'income property'... it's that the condo developers take no responsibility for making the surrounding neighbourhood one where people would actually want to live. They make a mess of the city and add nothing. You wouldn't believe how few grocery stores, schools, and other pretty vital amenities are missing from condo-saturated areas.
So in this new area, they developed the opposite way. The public amenities are going in first and the residential condos come later. Which makes a lot of sense because people can see a worldclass park and think 'yeah, I could live there.' And I would much rather a real park than seeing a dusty construction site with pixellated renderings of shiny buildings on billboards. Developers & realtors who try to get people to live in condos: are you brain damaged? Just wondering.
Anyways. The commons. It consists of a rare natural playground, outdoor community kitchen with a really nice shelter pavilion; open fields for sports, flood-prevention landforms with local species; and best yet, a wetland ecosystem.