This speculative project was commissioned for a series of articles by the Globe and Mail Newspaper called Fixing Toronto. We chose parking lots as our target.
The City of Toronto’s Parking Authority is in possession of a great (and as-yet untapped) resource in the fabric of the city – a network of more than 150 surface parking lots – that are presently little more than gaps between buildings, and not beautiful ones at that. These lots are often the result of the removal of buildings in anticipation of future development. While increasing density is ultimately a positive thing for the city, the removal of perfectly good building stock to make room for more cars is not exactly a “highest and best use”, even in the short term. These lots present an opportunity to improve the quality of the city’s open spaces through a systematized greening effort that will demonstrate the City’s commitment to sustainability.
We propose transforming these asphalt rectangles into a system of at-grade and elevated “pocket” parks that will preserve the Parking Authority’s important revenue generation role for the City (±$26 million per annum) while transforming a huge set of heat island-inducing lots into cool, green, spaces while ameliorating storm water loads, turning CO₂ into O₂, and generally making the city a better place. If the City were to designate just 5% of the revenues from the TPA, it would mean about 2.5 million dollars per year could be dedicated to greening these lots.
We have analyzed and broken down the different types of lot and developed a series of potential interventions, ranging from improvements at grade to the construction of elevated platforms with parks on top. One specific lot has been developed to give a more detailed explanation of how these parks would work to provide a new sequence of green space in the city, akin to the parks dotted throughout the city where old streams run underground.
This project is not splashy (or flashy), and given the location of many of these sites, they will be out of the public eye, but given the scale of the TPA’s operations, it has the potential to make significant changes throughout the city. The impact will not be restricted to the visual environment, but will mean a significant reduction of stress on the city’s overtaxed infrastructure, while setting a standard for private development.