Bents Around the City

10 August

The Bentway is a unique addition to Toronto’s built environment, integrating community engagement, cultural programming, and landscape architecture into the existing infrastructure of the Gardiner Expressway. In combining cultural and natural elements with its namesake—the concrete-encased steel bents that reinforce the highway above—The Bentway is a model for the reuse of forgotten areas of Toronto’s urban landscape. With this in mind, we’ve uncovered some of the other bents and repurposed trails hidden away across the city.

Bents Around the City

Glen Cedar Bridge

Stretching across Cedarvale and Rosedale, this footbridge is a meticulous restoration of a 1912 structure. Unique details, including tapering piers capped by a cornice, recall its original stone construction, which was intended for vehicular use. Now, passersby admire the heritage area as they commute on foot to work or enjoy the surrounding ravine landscape. Like The Bentway, this bridge connects community and nature with the urban architecture of a thriving city.

Kay Gardiner Beltline

The Beltline Railway was developed by Toronto businessmen in the late 19th century. Inspired by a booming real estate market, they wanted to create a railway that would connect areas of their rapidly-expanding city. Though rising debts quickly put an end to their planning, their dream of using the land to connect commercial and residential hubs has been realized in the Kay Gardiner Beltline Park and trail network. Hidden green spaces and expansive pathways for pedestrians and cyclists give way to parts of the abandoned railway, showcasing vine-covered bents that support the road above.

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Don Valley Brickworks

A quintessential example of urban reuse, this former brick factory has been transformed into a hub for sustainability, wildlife preservation, and environmental activities and education. When wandering through the trails that surround the site it’s easy to forget that you’re in the heart of Canada’s busiest city. Lush wetlands, robust hiking trails, and hidden structures make the area a centre for urban explorers. The Eastern Ave. bridge, accessible only through a hole in a chain link fence, is an entirely marooned vestige of mid-20th century infrastructure.

Adelaide Underpass

The Adelaide Underpass received a bold facelift in 2015 when street artists Essencia Art Collective were commissioned by StART to create colourful murals depicting aspects of Corktown’s equally colourful history. Additional world-renowned artists were subsequently invited to contribute to the project, resulting in a series of dynamic pillars, which showcase Toronto’s diverse past, present, and future. This park connects to Underpass Park and other trails around the eastern waterfront.