As neighbourhood kids flocked this morning to Toronto’s first park located beneath an underpass, the mayor joined in on the jungle-gym fun.
As Rob Ford toured Underpass Park‘s jungle gym after this morning’s ribbon cutting, he looked quizzically at the spiderweb of rope before he made a decision: He was going to climb this damn thing. The mayor ascended the abstract structure—located underneath the overpass where Adelaide crosses Eastern—and a dozen kids encouraged him in a spontaneous grade-school chant of “Go may-or! Go may-or!”
The mayor grinned as he reached the top of the structure, from which he could see all of Underpass Park’s just-completed phase one. Completed for a cost of $6.1 million, this portion of the park—the first to be built beneath an overpass in Toronto—features coloured LED lights that illuminate the supporting columns at night, basketball courts, and a skate park east of River Street, while to the west you’ll find swing sets, areas for hop scotch and foursquare, Ford’s conquered jungle gym, and public art.
The latter consists of a 57-panel stainless-steel structure called “Mirage” that is suspended from Adelaide Street East. The piece was created by artist and architect Paul Raff, who hopes that its “reflectivity can alter your experience” by transforming expectations and limits.
Raff’s work is consistent with the aim of Waterfront Toronto—the tripartite agency responsible for stewarding waterfront development—to reimagine and optimize underused spaces. A bevy of construction is underway, including the River City complex and TCHC housing to the north along King. Public space has been a priority in developing new neighbourhoods like the West Donlands (where Underpass Park is located); Waterfront Toronto’s achievements to date include Sugar Beach and Sherbourne Common.
While the park space is a work in progress—phase two, to be located west of St. Lawrence, will be completed in 2013—it’s already been embraced by kids and skateboarders. The group of day-campers from the Wellseley Community Centre who watched Ford climb the jungle gym called the park “exciting” and “amazing,” and especially liked its unique look.
They were also thrilled by the mayor’s enthusiasm as he climbed up to join them. Said Kian, age 12, “You’re never too old to be a kid.”