Under The Gardiner: Retail Pavilions

New Public: In-Between and Underneath

Located underneath the Gardiner Expressway, Under the Gardiner: Retail Pavilions creates a new urban connection from the Fort York neighbourhood to the Waterfront’s West Block while reclaiming the undefined and underutilized space for animated public use. The design aims to creatively tie itself into the greater plans for the pedestrianized ‘Bentway’ corridor below the elevated arterial road and in so doing creates a new retail model for the intensification of urban streets.

‘Under the Gardiner,’ an initiative launched by the City of Toronto, transforms the areas beneath the expressway into vibrant community and retail spaces that play host to a range of cultural and retail programming – creating a new public space for the use of the 70, 000 residents in nearby neighborhoods and for visitors who use the many amenities and attractions in the area.

Durable outdoor materials are rendered like interior finishes.

This project draws out retail spaces usually incorporated in the base of new mixed-use buildings throughout the rapid intensification of the city and reimagines them as free-standing animators of a newly conceived public space at the street, sidewalk, and community plaza. The project includes four pavilions that together define a public pedestrian square bounded by Bathurst Street to the west, Housey Street to the north, and West Block to the south. Elements for urban connection thread between the pavilions to accommodate slower space both perpendicular to the city streets, and parallel to the Bentway opening up a series of public spaces for the local community.

The design takes advantage of the road bridge overhead structure as a protective element, sheltering the site from inclement weather and creating a kind of ‘public interior’, complete with wood soffits and lighting elements incorporated into a public art installation. As is prioritized in the City of Toronto’s Retail Design Manual, Under the Gardiner: Retail Pavilions develops a unique model for the critical and productive interface between retail frontage and the architecture of newly defined public spaces. Discrete canopies and overhangs define the storefronts of each pavilion and rescales the space under the mammoth steel structure for a human, pedestrian realm.

Project Facts

  • Client

    Choice Properties REIT, Capital Developments, Wittington Properties Ltd.

  • Location

    Toronto, Ontario

  • Status


  • Affiliate Architect

    Architects Alliance — Architect of Record

  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Structural — RJC Engineers

    Landscape — NAK Design Strategies

  • General Contractor

    EllisDon, Rochan Building Corporation

  • Photography

    Ava Downey

  • Artist / Graphics

    Sean Verhoeven