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Two competing visions for Rail Deck Park

Last Updated Sep 12, 2017 at 5:52 pm EST

It’s Mayor John Tory’s “field of dreams” – a large, 21-acre park built over the GO Transit and Via Rail tracks from Blue Jays Way to Bathurst Street.

The price tag for the Central Park-style project is expected to be in the billions.

But one Toronto-based developer has a different vision.

Craft Development Corp. said their design would include nine buildings, seven of which would be residential, one commercial and one retail; and 12 of 21 acres would be green space.

Craft chief executive officer Peter Griffis said the City of Toronto would still need to invest some money for the smaller park but it would be at a fraction of the cost.

“We’ve taken care of a bunch of the infrastructure and make it economically viable for the city for the rest of the park. It’s not going to be all put on their backs or the tax payers back or my grandchildren’s grandchildren’s backs,” he said.

Craft Development legally owns the air rights over the tracks and has been working with Metrolinx, government officials and city staff dating back to 2012. Though city councillor Joe Cressy said their plan is never going to happen.

“The proposal is dead on arrival. The city has already said the air above the rail corridor is park land. In fact, formal city policy is forthcoming declaring it as such. So this is a ridiculous proposal which is going nowhere,” Cressy said.

When asked how the city plans to foot the bill for the grand Rail Deck Park, Cressy said it will become clear in November when staff come forward with their full report.

“The principal here is simple. Growth pays for growth. The developments that are occurring downtown will contribute the funds to pay for the parklands downtown,” Cressy added.

Craft Developments said they brought their plan to Cressy a little over a year ago. They claim they were then blind sided when Mayor John Tory announced is plans for a Rail Deck Park, which doesn’t include any residential or commercial buildings.

Mayor candidate Doug Ford called Tory’s plan a “legacy park” for Tory that’s going to cost tax payers $2,000 per household.

“John Tory blindsided the developer, went in there and thought he controlled everything. He controlled the air rights. I’m sorry that’s not the way it works,” Ford said.

“Let’s look here at what the developer is proposing. Work with them and save the tax payers a couple billion dollars.”

Back in 2016 when the mayor announced his lofty Rail Deck Park plan, Tory took a shot at any vision which included more high rises.

“You can have the last remaining opportunity to create a great open public space or you can just fill it up with more of the same. More condos and office towers and so forth,” he said.

The public has their opportunity to weigh in at two public consultations, one Tuesday night at the Renaissance Hotel at Rogers Centre and the second Sept. 25 at Toronto City Hall.