Change coming to Kew Gardens

The north face of Kew Gardens is getting a makeover.

Landscape architects had until Monday to bid on a $400,000 to $500,000 project that aims to improve the first 25 metres of land south of Queen Street East.

In their request for proposals, city staff noted that Kew Gardens is a well-established and popular park that features mature trees, sports facilities, historic buildings, open lawns and playgrounds within its 20 acres.

But right along Queen, staff said, the park is a bit of a let-down.

“The north edge of the park is underwhelming with a casual assembly of elements including floral displays, an ageing entry plaza and war memorial, and some seating,” said the request document.

With a history that stretches back some 134 years, staff wrote that Kew Gardens is also significant because it provides the only break along the Beach strip of Queen Street, and a path that leads straight from busy Queen to the lakeshore.

Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said the idea was sparked during last summer’s Visioning Study for Queen Street East – a round of meetings that was tasked with revising the Beach’s urban design guidelines.

At the meetings, McMahon said Beach business owners asked city staff if Queen Street might be due for the kind of major reconstruction done from 2009 to 2011 along Roncesvalles Avenue: wider sidewalks as well as new crosswalks, trees, planters and bicycle lanes.

But city staff said Queen Street East does not need the extensive streetcar track work that was ‘piggy-backed’ on the Roncesvalles project – work that made the years of traffic and transit rerouting more worthwhile.

Instead, McMahon said the city’s BIA office suggested better interfacing between Queen Street, Ivan Forrest Gardens and Kew Gardens.

Businesses are especially keen to see more visitors who are out for a stroll on the boardwalk come up through Kew Gardens to the shops on Queen, she said.

Once a landscape architect is hired, the plan is to hold two meetings with city staff, one with the Beach BIA and one with community groups to come up with an idea of how the north side of Kew Gardens should look.

“It’s kind of ‘sky is the limit’ right now, within our funding capacity,” said McMahon.

“People are talking about maybe more benches, more greenery, maybe opening it up a bit by the cenotaph.”

The request for proposals sets out some 20 goals for the project, including new permanent and temporary seating, an expanded sidewalk and entry plaza, a small performance space, lighting and a design that works with all seasons and the history and culture of the neighbourhood.

“We’re also looking for the landscape architect to give us an idea of what else has been done across the city, and give the community some ideas,” McMahon said.

An architect is expected to be chosen by December, she said, and community consultations will be scheduled shortly after.

The project is expected to break ground next June or July, and finish by August or September.

Funding for the project will come from the Beach BIA, with matching funds from the city as well as funding from Section 37 park levies from local development projects and additional funding from the city’s parks department.


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7 comments

I find Kew Gardens along Queen to be more than satisfactory. Is this the highest and best use in the Beach for $400k of public funds?

So city staff feel Queen along the park is a bit of a let down. Our War Memorial is ” underwhelming”? A large plaza along this stretch may very well block the wonderful sloping view of the park. Seems to me this is a bit of a distraction from the real issues facing us Beachers; condos, parking, flooding etc.

The War Memorial needs to include veterans after the Korean War. It currently excludes Canadians who served in places like, and to name a few -(my spelling might get really bad) Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and so on.

Other than that I am not convinced any more upgrades are really necessary. I presume a bunch of people support upgrading, otherwise a half a million dollars wouldn’t be available.

Also when you are speaking about the City doing the work or contracting it out, you don’t get much for a mere $400,000 or so. You’ll be lucky to get new planters and maybe more benches.

Why not use this money to clean up some grafitti, to fix the potholes in the roads?

I like the war memorial and come on, there are only so many tributes to Jack Layton and David Miller that the lefties can ram down our throats?!

I have heard a great deal of noise regarding the potential landscape options, most of which seem to include paving over the stretch of park between the library and the cenotaph area to include “meeting space”, as well as potentially taking over some of the parking on that stretch.

I am in complete opposition to spending this much money on what has been proposed so far. The way to increase foot traffic in the Beach is not to turn it into a less naturalized landscape – for the love of Pete, that is why people COME TO THE BEACH.

Let’s read between the lines:

“At the meetings, McMahon said Beach business owners asked city staff if Queen Street might be due for the kind of major reconstruction done from 2009 to 2011 along Roncesvalles Avenue: wider sidewalks as well as new crosswalks, trees, planters and bicycle lanes.”

“But city staff said Queen Street East does not need the extensive streetcar track work that was ‘piggy-backed’ on the Roncesvalles project – work that made the years of traffic and transit rerouting more worthwhile.”

SO DON’T SPEND MONEY THAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE SPENT.

Of course business owners would like to increase foot traffic – and I support that!! But turning the beach into a MORE urban landscape is not the solution.

It seems that this entire project is because there is money to be spent – with little attention paid to the wishes of the community (again). There are so many places (potholes, parking, graffitti, etc.) that this money could be put to better use.

Im all for renewal at the top of the park. Any project that will brighten up the area and make it more of a pedestrian plaza is welcome.

I for one am going to ignore certain contrarian and whiny beachers. They will put up a sign to oppose anything. Let the zealots have their signs and let the restof us have a renewed public space. The beach stretch of queen street is becoming shabby when compared with leslieville and kingston rd. Renewal is good!

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