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Globe and Mail: Bentway Brings Skating to Fort York
Alex Bozikovic | January 9, 2018

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The Bentway's surprising success shows Torontonians are hungry for unconventional public spaces

From Issue No. 265 | January 11, 2018

Lots of Torontonians, apparently. The new public space known as the Bentway opened to the public this weekend, under the Gardiner, west of Bathurst Street. And despite the clawing cold, the figure-eight skating rink was packed; the warming stations, in converted shipping containers, were overflowing; the cider was flowing, the DJs even got some people moving their hips.

It was an amazing beginning for a place that is, in many ways, kind of strange: a hybrid of path, recreation area and open-air performance space. Yet according to the Bentway Conservancy, the non-profit that operates the space, roughly 20,000 people came out during the first two days. 

There's a lesson here for Toronto: People are hungry for different kinds of public space, and the best way to respond is to get on with building it, fast.

So far, the Bentway is still "a work in progress," as the philanthropist Judy Matthews – who, with her husband, Wilmot Mathews, catalyzed the project with a $25-million donation – told media on Friday. Put more frankly, it's a construction site. A new warming pavilion isn't quite complete; the landscape is only partially finished; the temporary shipping-crate warming stations were just coming off trucks on Friday afternoon. The design, conceived by landscape architects Public Work and urban designer Ken Greenberg, is nowhere near done. One day, it'll be a mix of rough and polished design elements; for now, it's all rough.

Editors Notes: Skating where the former shore of Lake Ontario was doesn't get mentioned, but that idea has been kicked around for decades, lovely to see it materialize.
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