Here are five eco-friendly green spaces that are way up high
By Sarah Steinberg
Green roofs are so much more than just a pretty place to sit: they have very real environmental benefits, like improving air quality and reducing storm water run-off. But, let’s face it—sometimes all you really need is a quiet place to enjoy the view.
Luckily, Toronto is the place to be for green-roof hopping. Thanks to a 2010 bylaw mandating that new commercial and residential buildings in Toronto reserve at least 20 percent of their roof space for vegetation, Toronto was recently recognized for having installed the most green-roof area in North America. In fact, we’re up to about 500 living roofs. Many of the most impressive are on private property, but we’ve rounded up five stellar and accessible aboveground green spaces where you’re bound to feel like you’re on top of the world.
Once a space where Toronto’s mayors welcomed visiting dignitaries, City Hall’s podium roof was abandoned and inaccessible for years—until 2007, when Nathan Phillips Square was revitalized. Even then, architects almost turned it into a parking lot for the mayor and city staff. Luckily, they went in a different direction, opting instead to transform the 3,250-square-meter space into Canada’s largest green roof. Lush gardens, park benches and paved pathways mean visitors can pop in on their lunch hours for some quiet contemplation—or to appease their Fitbits by getting a few extra steps in.
Photo Courtesy of Dave Owen
3THE CARROT COMMON
In Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood, the Carrot Common isn’t your average neighbourhood shopping mall—it’s a joint venture between retail stores, co-ops, not-for-profit groups and citizen groups that support community causes. With all that friendly collaboration, it’s no wonder that they’re only too happy to share their lush green roof with the public as a meeting place and event space. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., anyone can pop by to spend some quality time communing with nature.
Photo Courtesy of YMCA-GTA
4CENTRAL TORONTO YMCA
Smack dab in the heart of the city, near the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley, you’ll find the Central YMCA’s green roof. Open all summer long, this green space is the very definition of multi-use: there’s a raised platform in the middle for exercise classes (yoga is a popular one), a running track, a fountained water feature, plus benches for lounging—it’s a great place for an outdoor workout, or to take the kids for an impromptu picnic. Want to get your hands dirty? Online volunteer applications are available year-round.
Photo Courtesy of Mark Blinch
5RYERSON URBAN FARM
Years before Toronto enacted a city bylaw that compelled most new commercial and residential buildings to include a green roof in their plans, the Andrew and Valerie Pringle Environmental Green Roof at Ryerson University was farming this quarter-acre rooftop. By 2013 it was redeveloped into a garden producing organic produce, and now students and volunteers associated with the Ryerson Urban Farm say the garden yields nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh food a year. Access is limited, but you can gain entry via regularly scheduled tours.