$35 mil Rosehill reservoir rehab will feature a $4 mil park

A group of notable architects contributed their own plan for the community green space


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L-R: Councillors Matlow and Wong-Tam at the Rosehill Reservoir in 2016

In December, Toronto City Council voted to award the Rosehill Reservoir rehabilitation contract to Bennett Mechanical Installations for approximately $35 million, $3.9 million of which will go toward park enhancements overtop of the reservoir. 

Built in the 1800s, the facility is the city’s oldest and largest reservoir, serving a population of 600,000. It was last upgraded in 1966 and is in dire need of repair. The project will ensure its service life for the next 70 years.  

The Rosehill Vision Committee (RVC) — a volunteer group made up of some of the city’s most well-known architects, including Siamak Hariri, Jack Diamond, John van Nostrand and landscape architect Paul Rookwood — came up with their own conceptual design for the green space, which city staff took into consideration before finalizing the budget. 

“It’s just neighbourhood people, but we’re all pretty well versed in this kind of work,” said van Nostrand. “So we came together and contributed our own plans.” 

The project will necessitate the removal of 35 trees, to be replaced by 78, and the final design for the park will include new washrooms, benches, gardens, several multi-use pathways and an open field for recreation. The H20 molecule sculpture will be relocated to the northwest end of the site beside a new water feature, and the Rosehill Garden will remain on the southeast portion of the park. 

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, of Ward 27, Toronto Centre–Rosedale, said the community found the city’s initial plan for the green space underwhelming, so she and councillor Josh Matlow, of Ward 22, St. Paul’s, encouraged residents to form the working group.

Although the final design was generally well-received by the public, it still has its critics. Local resident Ila Bossons argued some of the elements, such as the proposed water feature, are too “extravagant” and will require costly maintenance. However Wong-Tam said funding was a non-issue. 

“We were not bound by budget,” said Wong-Tam. “I had said to the community be as aspirational as possible. If we can technically do it, then I don’t see any reason why it can’t happen.”

The park part of the project will be paid for using funding from Section 42 of the Ontario Planning Act, made up of monies negotiated from developers in lieu of parkland dedication when new condos are built in Ward 27. As of Sept. 30 last year, the ward had approximately $40 million in reserve to be used for parkland acquisition and improvements. 

The final plan for the park will be presented to city council in February. 

“For us, the devil is in the details,” said van Nostrand. “So we’ll be sitting on the design review panel throughout the construction period … to make sure it’s built the way it should be.” 

Construction on the reservoir is slated to last until 2021.

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