City buying property to expand midtown park following push from community

The Oakwood-St. Clair community in Toronto is one of the most park-deficient neighbourhoods the city, and with a slew of new condominium developments on the way, it is only getting worse. That’s why a coalition of residents associations and community groups in the area got together and put together a plan to expand and enhance Roseneath Park.

Although the coalition of neighbourhood groups worked with Brown and Storey Architects to design a stunning linear park in the midtown area, it keyed on the city acquiring a grocery store parking lot at St. Clair West and Alberta Avenue to complete the vision. And, according to city councillor Alejandro Bravo, who represents the neighbourhood, that just isn’t happening.

“I am grateful for the diligent efforts and enthusiasm for new and expanded parks in the Oakwood-St. Clair area. This is the community where I raised three children and have experienced the historic lack of parkland. Securing more parkland is a top priority for my office,” said Bravo, in a prepared statement.

“At my request, City staff have investigated the potential acquisition of parking lot lands behind 243 Alberta Ave. and advised that it is not possible to acquire at this point in time,” she continued. “The landowner is not interested in selling and the cost to purchase would far exceed funds obtained through development as parkland dedication funds.”

midtown park expansion
Rendering of community-led Roseneath Park expansion (Brown and Storey Architects)

The coalition responded by questioning Bravo’s commitment to the parkland issue.

“We’re very frustrated and baffled by Councillor Bravo’s rejection of the community plan to expand Roseneath Park. We are left with the impression that Councillor Bravo doesn’t have the will or vision to help her constituents acquire necessary green space or find viable solutions,” read a statement by Shirley Moore and Duarte Esteireiro co-chairs of the Northcliffe Village Residents’ Association, park expansion team.

“She hasn’t offered next steps or additional avenues to explore to build this destination park, and she requested no follow-up meetings with our community team.”

Several community groups, including the Northcliffe Village Residents’ Association, Regal Heights Residents’ Association, Regal Heights Village BIA, and St. Chad’s Anglican Church worked on the plan.

“Around 2021, we started receiving some texts asking for input regarding a park plan that the city was working on and that kind of got my attention,” said Duarte Esteireiro. “And so the more I got to know about it was that our area Oakwood-St. Clair was a severely deficient area for parks. And that got the ball rolling with me and our association.”

According to spokespeople for the coalition, Esteireiro and Shirley Moore,  the existing conditions of Roseneath Park reveal a parking lot that dominates the landscape, consuming the former Alberta Ave right-of-way. This vast parking area creates an unwelcoming division within the park, making it less accessible and enjoyable for the community. Additionally, the presence of two new condominiums on Alberta Avenue further emphasizes the need for more green space and amenities in the area.

The proposal for Roseneath Park includes significant improvements such as a new park pavilion, public washrooms, and recreational spaces. One of the standout features of the proposal was the smart shade pergola, a structure that spans the distance between St. Clair and Glenhurst Avenue that not only offers shade but also establishes a significant organizational order over the site, linking the new condominium buildings and creating a shared public space.

No Frills parking lot site

“As of July of 2021, we submitted that study to the city which included the Parks People and at that time city councillor Ana Bailão. Everyone was very excited about it, so the discussion went on.”

That is, until it didn’t.

Bailão stepped down as councillor before the last municipal election, and the project lost steam, although the group has continued to push to make the project a reality.

Although Bravo said that particular vision of the park expansion wasn’t in the cards, she also announced that the City of Toronto acquired properties at 256 & 258 Winona Drive for the purpose of expanding Roseneath Park. And that there will be a community consultation in the future to inform the plans for park expansion and setting a community-led vision for an expanded Roseneath Park.

“City Council also supported my request for the sale proceeds of a small parcel of city-owned land to be dedicated to parkland acquisition in this area,” she explained. “It will take more to secure the funds needed to expand parkland in the community, but my office is making every effort to get there.”

Although it isn’t what the community was hoping for, it is the beginning of a move to address the lack of green space by expanding parkland in the neighbourhood. So perhaps all that advocacy for parks in the community has paid off after all.