“Here we go”, says Harry Jongerden, as he outlines the first of many exciting developments for Toronto’s botanical garden.
We woke up on April 26 and asked ourselves, what next? City Council had just given their approval to our expansion plans the day before, and they placed the ball firmly in our court.
What next, indeed! The TBG Board, City staff and master planning consultants agree that the expansion project should unfold in three phases. Phase I will encompass the area immediately west of our garden and our facility. We are already using this ‘Barn Courtyard’ for the Edwards Summer Music series. It’s a glorious space that is
crying out for enhancement. The buildings and gardens that surround it will undergo the first phase of transformation.
At the first meeting with our master planning consultants, the TBG and City staff considered the problem that the barn area happens to be the service yard for parks operations in Edwards Gardens. Very few visitors come into Edwards Gardens without passing through a busy service yard, with staff and equipment often milling about. Some of you may remember when there were two service yards in Edwards Gardens—the present one as well as a significant nursery operation in the southwest corner of the park accessed from the Bridle Path. Phase I will therefore include building a new service yard in that former location and moving the operational maintenance hub for our expanded botanical garden there, too. This will free up buildings and landscapes for education, food services and events. It’s a perfect opportunity for the TBG to grow organically into the park.
We have a wonderful master plan, but it gives big picture opportunities. Therefore the planning process will begin with detailed design to explore and finalize the plan before we can build. The TBG takes the lead role in detailed design, so it will progress at a pace set by us. And, of course, we get to build when our fundraising efforts allow us to proceed. Is there any element of doubt or hesitancy in our undertaking? We know that we have your support and the support of a wider community and of our City. Elsewhere in North America, cities big and small are undertaking similar botanical garden expansion projects: Sarasota ($67 million) and Houston ($50 million) are current examples.
There’s a benefit from having waited four and a half years for City permission. We’ve had a long time to work on our plans from all angles. The TBG is ready for this and Toronto is ready for this, too. We’ll have many, many more opportunities to connect with you and keep you abreast of the planning. Your input will be sought, and I encourage you to contact me with questions and suggestions. I’m very confident of our success and of the pride you’ll take in being part of it.
Harry Jongerden, Garden Director