SLA and Arcadis unveil David Crombie Park redesign

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

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

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 revitalize the park located along The Esplanade.

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.

Construction for the park and cycle track is slated to begin in Spring 2025 and be completed in 2026.

The linear David Crombie Park spans nearly two hectares across seven blocks, making the revitalization one of the city’s largest open space projects over the last decade.

“Taking cues from the original master plan 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,” said Rasmus Astrup, senior partner and design principal at SLA and the project’s design lead.

The design preserves the park’s historical character by maintaining existing structures and materials—such as retaining concrete walls, healthy trees, and sports courts. The project will also add new cycling infrastructure and streetscape elements to better connect The Esplanade with Mill Street and, thus, support surrounding social infrastructure and entertainment areas, including the Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market.

The plan will 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.”

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.

“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,” Astrup said.

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