Waterfront Reconnect projects open at York St and Simcoe St

June 1, 2023

Temporary street-level interventions add light, colour and enhanced waterfront connectivity at York and Simcoe Streets.

Following a national design competition completed in early 2022, today The Bentway announced the opening of two projects that explore new strategies for improved intersections under the Gardiner Expressway.

Waterfront ReConnect continues the organization’s creative work to re-imagine the Gardiner at street-level, demonstrating how this pedestrian obstacle can be transformed into a vital gateway between Toronto’s downtown core and Lake Ontario. The projects have shaped and now test out some emerging recommendations from the Under Gardiner Public Realm Plan, a joint effort between The Bentway and the City of Toronto to chart a new future for the public realm below the Expressway.The pilot projects will remain up until the City’s Gardiner Expressway Rehabilitation work commences in the area (currently scheduled for late 2025).

“These projects represent an exciting expansion of The Bentway’s work along the Gardiner, and highlight the creative opportunities available to be explored from end to end. Each intersection is so unique, but together the creative design teams have demonstrated how colour, pattern, environmental lighting, and storytelling can transform a space built for cars into a more welcoming and accessible place for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Ilana Altman, Co-Executive Director of The Bentway

The program is co-presented by The Bentway, local business associations (the Waterfront BIA and the Toronto Downtown West BIA), and the City of Toronto.

“We’ve very excited to see these designs tested at underpass connections to the waterfront,” says Tim Kocur, Executive Director of the Waterfront BIA. “Our hope is that we’ll learn what will work best in making these intersections feel safer for pedestrians living, working and visiting the many growing offerings along Queens Quay. These projects are the first step in a long-term transformation that will ensure that connections under the Gardiner can offer better gateways that invite people to explore the waterfront.”

“This collaboration between the Bentway, the Waterfront and Downtown West BIAs, and the City of Toronto showcases how meaningful partnerships can create safer, more welcoming and beautiful neighbourhoods,” says local City Councillor Ausma Malik. “Through creative design, Waterfront ReConnect re-prioritizes people’s experience crossing under the Gardiner, and strengthens the connections between our downtown and waterfront.”

Boom Town
by 5468796 Architecture and Office In Search Of

(located under the Gardiner @ York Street, south of Raptors Way)

Winnipeg-based firm 5468796 Architecture and Toronto’s Office In Search Of employ vibrant colour and environmental lighting to enliven the York Street intersection, improving safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.

For Boom Town, the design team drew inspiration from the ongoing transformation of the Gardiner Expressway and the familiar presence of equipment deployed to inspect and maintain the structure. The project positions a fleet of boom lifts as “street theatre”, with a rotating cast of characters that will animate the space and help the city celebrate the changing seasons.

Pixel Story
by O2 Planning & Design and ENTUITIVE

(located under the Gardiner @ Simcoe Street, south of Roundhouse Park)

Led by O2 Planning & Design, and ENTUITIVE, Pixel Story addresses the many vantages, scales, and speeds from which we experience the Gardiner, breaking down the structure’s monumental quality through the application of a graphic gradient. The project uses colour and iconography to draw attention to the Simcoe Street intersection, and the entire under-Gardiner corridor, as a cultural connector.

An accompanying series of sculptural pixel walls invites passersby to pause and explore the stories of visitors and residents accessing Toronto’s waterfront (collected from 300+ community submissions over the past year).

Contextual Map


 Waterfront ReConnect is co-presented by:

  • The Bentway
  • City of Toronto
  • Waterfront Business Improvement Area
  • Toronto Downtown West Business Improvement Area

With additional support from:

  • Government of Canada
  • Manulife
  • Anonymous (2)
  • DiamondCorp
  • Lifetime Developments

and The Bentway’s growing family of donors and supporters.