Disputed grass: Cabbagetown businesses unsure about Parkscape installation

By Nelianne Bateman

Toronto hardly lacks green spaces, with High Park, Queen’s Park and numerous other parks, creeks, rivers and ponds scattered throughout the city. Yet few have the whimsy and magic of the Cabbagetown Parkscape. With faux fallen logs decorating green turf, the installation provides a splash of greenery amid Toronto hustle and bustle.

An urban greening project sponsored by high-rise developer CentreCourt and urban asset management organization Fitzrovia, the Parkscape lines a small section of Parliament Street at Carlton Street until September 11. The Cabbagetown Business Improvement Area commissioned the park, which former Ward 13city councillor (now MPP for the same area) Kristyn Wong-Tam endorsed.

With a price tag of $100,000 according to the CBC, the Parkscape features grass and trees rising out of concrete, with benches and stumps for visitors to sit on. The idea was to attract more foot traffic with a green park, and for the BIA, to encourage customers to linger. The greenery is slightly overgrown, with patches of brown.

But Amar, co-owner of Cabbagetown Organics, is skeptical. Nudging the grass of the installment outside his shop, he muses, “I don’t know how they’re going to maintain it for two months.” A memo released to businesses before the Parkscape installation stated that a two-person team would be available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to receive complaints about maintenance.

“It’s pretty,” says Sam Muthreja, Cabbagetown Organics’ other co-owner, looking at the patch of greenery through his shop window. But he and Amar agree that business “is definitely slower. Even the locals don’t come.”

The two also say conflict has arisen between pedestrians and homeless people. A patrol on the grounds is supposed to prevent such conflicts, especially at night, but Muthreja doubts the effectiveness of the security guard.

Across the street at a local staple, the Johnny G’s diner, owner Dinesh (who declined to supply his last name) has a different perspective on the Parkscape. “I see parents with their kids playing, even though there are [other] parks around, and they come in and order food.”

The restauranteur is satisfied with the BIA’s efforts to advertise the installation and encourage consumers to visit the neighbourhood. Dinesh reports an increase in in-person dining since he took over in November, perhaps due to easing of pandemic restrictions and anxiety or his efforts to improve the restaurant’s reputation as well as to the Parkscape. Corner Convenience, a convenience store further south on Parliament, declined to comment on the Parkscape’s impact.