The plans to update the Queen Street edge of Kew Gardens were unveiled at an open house last week.
The project was instigated by the Beach Village BIA, which hopes to draw more traffic up to Queen Street from the beach. Creating a better interface between the street and the north portion of the park is seen as one way to do that.
Project architect Lisa Rapoport of PLANT Architect Inc. said her team had its work cut out for it. From the start there were many conflicting local opinions on what should – or should not – be changed. One participant went so far as to request no tables, as they didn’t want anyone having picnics in the park.
“There are different problems in different kinds of parks,” Rapoport said.
With Kew Gardens, the key was to accommodate the many uses of the park – from quiet contemplation to kids rolling down the berm to an overcrowded Remembrance Day ceremony – in a way “that doesn’t feel like a big open plaza.”
The most noticeable aspect of the plan is the paving. While there will be more hard surface at the top of the park, Rapoport said the existing trees will remain, while almost 30 new ones will be planted. The slate around the cenotaph will be replaced with granite at the base of the cenotaph, and a mix of surfaces around it.
Funding has also been allocated to add further engraving to the memorial, to recognize veterans and casualties of conflicts Canada’s armed forces have been involved with over the past half century.
The hard surface and a new pathway will also allow those with mobility issues easier access to the top of the park. The current plan, built from suggestions from community members at a March workshop and a working group of stakeholders, calls for two paths.
Rapoport said, however, that those plans may change, depending on feedback gathered at the open house.
“My gut feeling is we’re not going to have both in the end,” she said. “Now is the time to re-evaluate.”
While the formal gardens have been moved, their square footage has increased, said Rapoport, and they will be more visible from street level. Near the library plans call for a seating area and sculptural installation, paying tribute to Joseph Williams’ original vision of a place of “innocent amusements,” unlike the nearby commercial amusement parks.
Trevor Schmidt, senior project coordinator with parks, forestry and recreation’s capital projects division, said the plan is to have the work underway as soon as possible, though the tendering process can take time.
“We would like to get shovels in the ground this year,” he said.
The project is budgeted at $650,000. The Beach Village BIA has contributed $240,000, with another $80,000 expected next year. The city will cover the remainder of the cost.