Cabbagetown has turned a parking spot into a parkette to support local businesses

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It’s not a movie set, it’s the new Cabbagetown Parkscape.

For 10 weeks, from July 4th to September 11th, Parliament Street in Cabbagetown will look a little greener as a new park landscaping facility has been erected to the delight of merchants, businesses and the local community .

The park’s landscape, including trees, green spaces, naturalized seats on logs and other elements of nature, was erected in just 72 hours with reused municipal wood. It was produced by Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds as a collaborative effort between the Cabbagetown BIA and other partners, including Bienstock and Central Toronto MPP Kristyn Wong-Tam.

“This is a place-making initiative designed to support local merchants and businesses that have been impacted over the past two and a half years,” Wong-Tam said.

The $100,000 cost is being funded by major partners, she added, with no money from taxpayers or the BIA. The installation improves the street-side experience and feedback has been positive, Wong-Tam said.

“We’ve heard from traders that they’re seeing new people coming in, staying longer, choosing to dine in or take out, and sitting in those naturalized seats,” she said.

MPP for Toronto Center Kristyn Wong-Tam worked with the Cabbagetown BIA and other partners to install the landscape for the park. She hopes the idea will spread throughout Toronto. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

What was once a parking space and patio has been recreated into a shaded natural green space. An official inauguration of the installation takes place on Monday.

Parliament Street near the facility had its speed reduced from 50 km/h to 30 km/h. This creates a natural traffic-calming effect, Wong-Tam said. The landscape of the park occupies two blocks.

“People want to keep it,” she said. “We want it to be an infectious idea, exported outside of the center of Toronto.”

“This is what streets can look like when you design spaces for people,” Wong-Tam added.

The park also offers patio seating for adjacent restaurants in a natural setting. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Lucas Schaffer-Wood, owner of Salt & Tobacco Pizzeria, says the park’s scenery has drawn more customers to the restaurant.

“Having the patio space, the natural scenery present, it made more seating available,” he said. “It’s good to bring people to the neighborhood.”

Schaffer-Wood was involved in the planning of the Cabbagetown ZAC, and while he balked at potentially losing his patio seats, it actually got better.

“Turns out we can have seating, and now it’s much nicer than our original patio,” he said.

The park landscape reuses municipal timber and provides shade for pedestrians. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Park visitors fell in love.

“Every street in Toronto should have something like this,” Chenny Xia said. “It brings a sense of community.”

“It would be so nice to have a park like this on every corner. It’s so quiet and much cooler,” Meghan Hellstern said.

A local resident, Leo Lapiano, took advantage of the new green space by sitting on a log and playing his guitar.

“At first I thought it was a movie set, because things don’t usually happen that fast in Toronto,” he said. “This space opened up a whole bunch of conversations.”

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