Otter Loop turned into green space

The former transit loop is in construction with plans of turning it into a heart-shaped park

After years of planning, the first steps have been taken in the construction of Heart Park at Avenue Road and Glenview Avenue, including the demolition of an old bus shelter.

The Heart Park plan calls for an out-of-use transit loop at 1400 Avenue Road to be converted into a heart-shaped parkette. The intention is to provide the area with some much-needed green space.

The former bus turnaround, known as Otter Loop, was last used by the TTC during the 1970s. In 2006, the City of Toronto purchased the site from the TTC for one dollar.

A local publication announced a contest in which participants could enter their design proposals for Heart Park with the winner receiving $1,000.

The site included a 63-year-old bus shelter that has been the subject of some debate, especially in 2006 when the plan was being proposed. Preservationists had hoped that it would be retained and incorporated into the new park.

“I reported on the condition and what our recommendation was, which was very simple,” said Edith Geduld, former chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. “It was to keep the shelter and to adapt it as a park shelter for this new park.”

The bus shelter was recently demolished to make way for the Heart Park project. Local councillor Karen Stintz was on hand for the dismantling of the structure and received a brick from a local publisher who helped fund the initiative.

“What this marks is the beginning of the transformation of this bus loop into a park,” Stintz said.

According to Stintz, the preservation panel had the opportunity to designate the bus shelter as a protected heritage structure, but did not vote to do so.

“They didn’t go so far as to declare it a heritage structure and it was before their committee,” Stintz said.

Adam Sobolak, the Toronto Architectural Conservancy executive who brought the Otter Loop bus shelter issue before the preservation panel, said it was due to pressure from Stintz that “said action was reduced to a request for consideration — one which was, unfortunately, non-binding and conveniently disregarded by the parties involved.”

Stintz said the preservation panel’s recommendation to include the shelter in the Heart Park scheme was followed by asking contest participants to incorporate the shelter in their designs.

“When we did the design competition we asked people to consider the shelter as part of the design,” Stintz said, later adding, “There was a submission that did include it, but it wasn’t the winning design.”

However, the winner of the contest, local resident Karen Aiken, said that she was not asked to include the shelter in her design. She, however, was fine with its demolition.

Stintz insisted area residents by and large didn’t feel the shelter had any historical significance.

Aiken’s winning design calls for benches where the shelter once stood. It also includes a Cupid statue and a plastic bag dispenser for dog-walkers. The design’s layout is intended to mimic the four valves of the human heart.

“It’s divided into four sections and one of the sections will have plants that have ‘heart’ in their name or heart-shaped leaves,” Aiken said.

“We just need to get a landscape architect to develop it such that it can actually be implemented,” Stintz said.

“That process is going to happen over the next couple of months and we hope that by May we’ll be able to transform this area into the beautiful Heart Park that we envisioned.”

About this article:

By: Tristan Carter
Posted: Dec 23 2010 4:44 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto