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Every Torontonian knows that gloomy feeling they get when they approach the underside of the Gardiner Expressway. It’s easily one of the darkest and dingiest parts of the city, but most people can’t access the waterfront without crossing it.

Well guess what, Toronto? Someone finally came up with a plan to transform that concrete grotto into something beautiful.

Urban planner Ken Greenberg unveiled an idea to turn what used to be an eyesore into a giant, winding cultural hub. Called Under Gardiner, the project would see the creation of 55 “civic rooms” under the elevated highway, which would house things like farmer’s markets, children’s gardens, community gatherings, performances and exhibition halls, according to the project’s website. A multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists would connect all of the rooms, as the space stretches 1.75 km and runs through seven different neighbourhoods.

Gardiner

“This dynamic civic space will knit together a vibrant intersection of Toronto’s newest communities,” it says on the project’s website. “The Gardiner’s location is rich with history; it follows indigenous settlements, the original shoreline of the city and runs along the former Grand Trunk rail line.”

The project will also utilize the Gardiner itself. Parks will be built upwards instead of out, to capitalize on the five stories of space beneath the highway. Alternatively, the roadway will also act as a giant roof, allowing the hub to operate all year long. Concept art shows the space loaded with street performers and open benches in the summer, while a giant ice rink replaces it all come winter.

Gardiner

The project is being built both with public and private funds, but organizers are hoping even more donations pour in as construction continues. Under Gardiner is set to open in 2017.

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