CityPlace is a weird part of Toronto.
Despite being right downtown, it was a pretty barren landscape for decades; former railway lands that were used for…nothing much, really. Then, in the late 1990s, it was bought by a developer, became one of the city’s most densely populated areas, and was in some ways the “patient zero” neighbourhood in Toronto’s condo boom.
I walked through CityPlace about ten years ago and was immediately turned off; the towers were impressive, but there seemed to be no sense of community; corner stores, schools, cafes. It felt like a movie set, or a university residence during summer break. Just completely devoid of life.
I wasn’t the only one who complained, either. As early as 2008, articles like this one were popping up with warnings about absentee landlords, poor build quality, not enough units big enough for families, and how runaway development was creating Toronto’s next “ghetto.”
As someone who’s never lived there, you’ll have to take my opinion with many grains of salt, but having just visited again for the first time in ten years, I have to say it feels much more like a neighbourhood. Every now and then you’ll hear more horror stories about poor build quality and window panels falling out, but lots has happened to make this feel more like a real, living neighbourhood.
Pedestrian bridges have been added to connect CityPlace to downtown, just across the train tracks. Fort York Boulevard is a wide but friendly-feeling street that cuts through the neighbourhood. Public art has been added. Residents have organized themselves via Facebook. A public school has recently opened.
On our visit, we wandered across Canoe Landing Park and saw all kinds of activity: outdoor fitness classes, a dance class, boxers training, dogs running. And, from quite a way off, we could see the wonderful twisting structure that is the main (and just about only) piece of equipment at the playground.
It’s a decent playground, if a bit small. That one big climber, built by Dynamo and called "Shoot the Curl," is a beauty, and as it's the only one I've seen yet in Toronto. There’s a smaller toddler structure next to it. A couple of Kompan spinners and a little rubber balance thing just about wraps it up.
I’m not sure why the playground is so small. It seems like there is enough room that it could have been made larger…maybe the idea was to mimic the dimensions of a typical condo unit in one of CityPlace’s towers.
The splash pad is just outside the fenced playground, and it interesting because it’s built into a piece of public art that kind of looks like a bunch of floating fishing lures. It’s not a very exciting splash pad – nothing interactive or inventive – but it will do the job on a hot day.
At the east end of the park you might be able to get in some more climbing at Jean Lumb Public School, but when we went the larger playground there was gated and locked.
Watching my kids play here, I wondered what CityPlace will look like in another ten years. Will it fall to pieces? Will it grow into itself? If you live here (and especially if you’re raising a family here) I’d love to hear your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: the artificial turf field where that was a hub of activity when we visited was scheduled to be closed for maintenance from July 19 to the end of August 2021.