Manager’s Report (fall 2016)
by David O’Hara, Site Manager
Much of the construction that has made it more difficult than normal to access Fort York was completed at the end of October. Although the reconstruction of the Gardiner Expressway deck has been completed, we will now move on to landscape improvements that will be implemented as part of The Bentway (visit www.thebentway.ca).
The Bentway, formerly known as Project: Under Gardiner, is a unique and innovative public space that will transform the area underneath the Gardiner Expressway into a new gathering place for our city’s growing population. While the project stretches1.75 km from Strachan Avenue to Spadina Avenue, the main section of the first phase of the project extends directly through Fort York from Strachan Avenue to where the Gardiner Expressway crosses Fort York Boulevard.Fort York staff have been working closely with the team responsible for moving this initiative forward, knowing that the overall strategy for The Bentway goes a long way towards realizing the vision for Fort York's 43 acres.
The Bentway provides an opportunity to properly landscape the area immediately adjacent to Strachan Avenue ('The Strachan Gate') and the area in front of the Visitor Centre (The 'Liquid Landscape'). It also brings a new dimension to programming at Fort York with the planned skating rink at the east of the Visitor Centre. While the idea of winter uses, and skating in particular, is not new for the fort, this skating trail is unique in that it opens an opportunity to trace the original Lake Ontario shoreline, playing a role itself in interpreting the site.
This initiative also offers us a unique opportunity to partner with the recently formed Bentway Conservancy to develop a strategy for programming, operations, and maintenance of these newly developed areas of the National Historic Site. Opportunities exist to activate the variety of spaces along The Bentway with events, public markets, public art, special exhibitions, festivals, theatre and musical performances, and more.
Further details will be available in the coming months, with the first phase of construction expected to be complete for July 1st 2017.
Construction is also underway on the Fort York pedestrian and bicycle bridges, with the goal of opening the bridges at some point in late 2017. Planning for 2017 events and programs, involving several significant Canada 150 initiatives, continues. This includes marking the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge with a two-day commemorative event at Fort York on 8-9 April 2017. National Aboriginal Day, our Indigenous Arts Festival, and opening events related to The Bentway are also identified as key signature events. In addition to our own Canada Day programming, a large citizenship and reaffirmation ceremony is being scheduled during the summer in partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) and Fort York's Volunteer ICC Committee. Many other events, programs, and exhibits are being developed throughout the city's museums. Details to follow in the coming months.