The Bentway was the result of a bold partnership between The City of Toronto and the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation. Wil and Judy recognized the unusual beauty underneath the expressway and the potential of this space to connect the city to the waterfront, stitch together newly developing neighbourhoods and become a new cultural attraction. They made a significant donation to help make this happen.
This new and innovative philanthropic partnership will create a new kind of space for the benefit of residents and visitors.
Renowned city builder and urban designer Ken Greenberg is working in collaboration with PUBLIC WORK, one of Canada’s key leading urban design and landscape architecture firms, to develop the design for this project.
As the area lies within the designated waterfront area, Waterfront Toronto, with its track record of managing complex public realm projects with high-quality design, manages the construction of the project in cooperation with the City.
Toronto’s City Council has already committed to a complete rehabilitation of the elevated structure in this area—and that work is now underway—which means that this section of the Gardiner is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. The Bentway takes this as an opportunity to rethink how and where we can create new public spaces. The Gardiner is a grand structure. In this section it is nearly five storeys high—making it quite light-filled and quietly majestic during the day. Take a look at this photo, to see for yourself.
Furthermore, the space connects newly developing neighbourhoods in exciting ways, as it lies at the intersection of planned and proposed projects that include: the Fort York Visitor Centre, the Fort York Library, a new community centre and schools at CityPlace, the William G. Davis Park and Trail, Fort York Pedestrian Bridge and the Lower Garrison Creek Park & Trail. This project will give tens of thousands of people new ways to move through the city and down to the waterfront.
The Bentway aims to reclaim the wasted space below the expressway and transform it into a people place.
In 2015, Waterfront Toronto and Bespoke Collective initiated a public campaign to name what was then called Project: Under Gardiner. The public suggested 884 different options and a shortlist of four names were chosen by a jury of Torontonians and put to a public vote. After three months, 5000 votes and a four day runoff vote, The Bentway beat out its closest competitor “The Artery” by almost double the amount of votes.
The winning name celebrates “the bents”, the column-and-beam structures that frame the space under the Gardiner Expressway. Learn more about bents.
The design has advanced in preparation for a phased series of openings in 2017 and 2018. The first area to be completed will include: preliminary connecting trails and landscaping; a platform in front of the Fort York Visitor Centre; the initial stages of the large performance space adjacent to Strachan Avenue. A second stage to be completed will include: the skating trail and building, and a third will finalize the last pieces and complete the full vision for the space including; the final trail connections and landscaping; and the full development of the performance space adjacent to Strachan Avenue.
The Bentway sits on public land and will be open and accessible to the public year-round. It will be run by our not-for-profit organization, The Bentway Conservancy, which will provide administrative and operational leadership, ensuring that the space engages the surrounding community and city as a whole, offers a broad spectrum of innovative events and programming, is safe and accessible, and is financially sustainable. We will work very closely with the City Toronto and the surrounding community, including Fort York National Historic Site, to be a respectful steward of this public space.
The Bentway’s 1.75km of trails and activity spaces will run from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue. The Bentway will provide cultural and community programming and events that celebrate Toronto’s unique creative energy: music, food, theatre, art, education, civic events, dance, sports and recreation. When you come visit you will be able to do everything from walk your dog, join a running group, participate in an immersive dance performance, listen to a concert, learn to skate, shop at a farmer’s market and so much more.
Yes, accessibility to all Torontonians is one of our key goals.
We would love to hear from you! The Bentway was created through collaboration and your feedback is very important to us. If you have an idea for programming please take a look at our open call to express interest in being one of our programming partners. Our community of programming partners will help to make this place truly unique.
If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to sign up for more information here or in the footer below.
We have lots of ways for everyone to be a part of The Bentway.
If you are an artist, community organization, promoter, recreational group, farmers market, and more and want to be involved in programming you can submit an idea here. We’d love to hear from you.