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MAY 27, 2024 | News

SLA and Arcadis unveil David Crombie Park redesign

Following extensive public consultation, the newly revealed design for the historic David Crombie Park in downtown Toronto will preserve the iconic park’s historical character, uniting nature, people, and community.

May 27, 2024 — For 40 years, David Crombie Park has been a much-loved community park in downtown Toronto and a significant landmark for the city’s historic St. Lawrence Market neighborhood. However, with the park showing its age and in dire need of an upgrade, the City of Toronto selected a pair of internationally renowned landscape architecture and urban design firms to create a new vision for the revitalization of David Crombie Park.

In an exciting collaboration, Arcadis, a leading global design and consultancy firm with a legacy of major planning and architectural projects across Canada, and the esteemed Copenhagen-based landscape architecture and design firm SLA, joined forces on the vital redesign of David Crombie Park. Building on extensive public consultation completed during the planning stage of the project, SLA and Arcadis responded with a sensitive design that integrates Indigenous placekeeping and enhances the historic and culturally significant green space in the heart of Old Toronto.

The linear David Crombie Park spans nearly two hectares across six blocks, making the revitalization one of the largest open space projects in the City of Toronto over the last decade.

David Crombie Park redesign

Preserve, revitalize, and unite

“Taking cues from the original masterplan of the park, we opted for a quite humble and considerate approach. By studying the park’s history, usage, values, and importance to the local community, we proposed a three-stringed design strategy: To preserve, revitalize, and unite,” says Rasmus Astrup, senior partner and design principal at SLA and the project’s design lead.

Recognizing the importance of preserving the park’s heritage while meeting the evolving needs of the community, the City of Toronto sought a visionary approach to its redesign. SLA and Arcadis’ design preserves the park’s historical character by maintaining as much of the existing structures and materials—such as retaining concrete walls, healthy trees, and sports courts—as possible.

David Crombie Park redesign

A core component of the intent to revitalize the park was the decision to minimize the park’s embodied carbon by retaining existing elements that created a sense of place and community. This approach was met with the addition of new elements—such as wooden seats, benches and platforms—to the existing structures and by adding natural planting and landscape zones that will create a series of new, biodiverse habitats for local species.

“The use of Dynamic Carbon Modelling to quantify embodied carbon for the proposed development scheme of the iconic David Crombie Park is an essential component of the project’s design, ensuring we offset the project’s carbon footprint through carbon sequestration,” says Neno Kovacevic, Principal of Placemaking and Landscape Architecture at Arcadis. “Ultimately, the project aims to reach carbon neutrality 15 years after its completion and climate positivity every year after.”

David Crombie Park redesign

Finally, SLA’s and Arcadis’ design unites the community by strengthening the park’s main promenade, supporting active mobility, introducing a new adventurous route through the park’s many new social programs, and connecting the park to the wider neighborhood.

The park’s design also integrates Indigenous placemaking elements with designs by Indigenous-owned Taw Architects, including a safe, designated space for Indigenous community members to have a sacred fire, Seven Sacred Teachings boulders in the children’s playground, and opportunities to learn the Anishinaabe language.

Significant social infrastructure

The project also includes an upgrade to the existing bikeways and streetscape along The Esplanade and key side streets to further improve The Esplanade’s connection with Mill Street and, thus, connections to surrounding social infrastructure and entertainment areas, including the Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market.

“With our design for the David Crombie Park Revitalization Project, we have aimed for a loving renovation of a very beloved park. Being from Copenhagen, I cannot wait to bike along the renovated park in the soundscape of birds singing and people socializing in City Nature,” says Astrup.

“David Crombie Park's revitalization is a critical investment in this well-loved, well-used downtown park,” said Deputy Mayor and local Councillor, Ausma Malik. “By weaving Indigenous placekeeping principles, environmental responsibility, and dedicated spaces for community connection, the park will continue to serve our community as a haven for relaxation, recreation, and reflection. ”

SLA’s and Arcadis’ detailed design for David Crombie Park has been approved by the City of Toronto. Construction for the park, cycle track and streetscape is slated to begin in Spring 2025 and be completed in 2027.

Shannon Edwards

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Shannon Edwards, External Communications Manager

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