Waterfront ReConnect

Waterfront ReConnect re-imagines the street-level experience of two under-Gardiner intersections through innovative approaches to lighting, color, and storytelling. The projects (located at York Street and Simcoe Street) showcase how the Expressway can better serve our city as a thriving civic asset – both above and below the deck.

The Gardiner Expressway represents an essential connection between the sprawling communities of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area and the core of the city itself. However, locally the Gardiner has cut a physical and psychological barrier between the fabric of the city and arguably Toronto’s single greatest natural asset, Lake Ontario. How do we reconcile the Gardiner’s functional role as a corridor for movement with its legacy as a barrier?

Waterfront ReConnect is a collaboration between The Bentway, the City of Toronto, the Waterfront Business Improvement Area, and the Toronto Downtown West Business Improvement Area.

on view now:

Pixel Story

Viewable now @ Simcoe Street

O2 and ENTUITIVE address the many vantages, scales, and speeds from which we experience the Gardiner, using colour, iconography, and storytelling to draw attention to the Simcoe Street intersection, and the entire under-Gardiner corridor, as a cultural connector.

Boom Town

Viewable now @ York Street

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.

2021/22 National Design Competition 

In August 2021, The Bentway put out a call for professional Canadian artists and designers to develop creative interventions that re-imagine the experience of two key under-Gardiner intersections for pedestrians and cyclists – York Street and Simcoe Street. 

Drawing on The Bentway’s spirit of adaptation and innovation, six design teams from across the country were selected to participate in the competition. Each team completed an eight-week design exercise to bring their ideas to life in their final proposals. The resulting proposals showcase how the Gardiner Expressway can be reimagined, and how it can serve as a thriving civic asset both above and below the deck. 

In early 2022, a public presentation and public feedback survey collected impressions from the public on the six final design proposals. This feedback helped inform the further development of the Waterfront ReConnect projects, as well as future Bentway programming and design initiatives that advance the continued transformation of the under-Gardiner corridor. 

Links in a larger transformation

In partnership with the City of Toronto, The Bentway is currently developing an Under-Gardiner Public Realm Plan, which extends a systemic approach to the planning and design of Under Gardiner spaces along the elevated expressway.

A strategic component of the larger vision for the downtown core, the Under-Gardiner Public Realm Plan is part of a larger effort by the City of Toronto to create a network of public spaces along the water’s edge, develop a cohesive vision for wayfinding and reconnect the waterfront to the downtown core.

By highlighting keystone projects and initiatives along the corridor, such as Waterfront Reconnect, the principles of the Public Realm Plan will be informed by a series of creative demonstration projects and dialogue with our neighbours, stakeholders, and broader community members.

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