The Downsview Lands consist of 260.6 hectares (644 acres) of land in the northwest portion of the City of Toronto and the geographic centre of the Greater Toronto Area. These lands were previously used as the air force base CFB Downsview until 1994 when the federal government announced the closure of the base. It was also announced that the lands were to be held in perpetuity and in trust as a unique urban recreational green space for the enjoyment of future generations. The mandate to create the urban recreational green space was given to Parc Downsview Park Inc. (PDP) in 1996 and the title to 231.5 hectares (572 acres) of the Downsview Lands was transferred to PDP in 2006 in order to facilitate the development of Downsview Park. The Department of National Defence (DND) retained 29 hectares (72 acres) of the land to accommodate ongoing military needs. Approximately 150 hectares (370 acres) of the land adjacent to the Downsview Lands (including Toronto’s oldest operational airport) is under the jurisdiction of Bombardier Aerospace.
Downsview Park consists of 231.5 hectares (572 acres) to which PDP has title. Of this total, more than 130 hectares (320 acres) are earmarked for traditional parkland, recreational and cultural amenities. As the mandate requires that the park be developed on a self-financing basis, approximately 102 hectares (212 acres) are dedicated to opportunities that provide a revenue stream to finance the construction, development and management of Downsview Park as an integrated 231.5-hectare (572 acre) sustainable community.
The property has been the site of several high-profile events, including two Papal Visits by Pope John Paul II, in 1984 (while still an active military base) and 2002 (World Youth Day), as well as the Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto concert in 2003 featuring The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and many others. The park is also scheduled to host the 2008 instalment of Edgefest featuring the Stone Temple Pilots , Sam Roberts, and Linkin Park. The park is also scheduled to host the 2008 installment of The Mayhem festival featuring Slipknot, Disturbed, Dragonforce, and Mastodon
In 1999, the Parc Downsview Park announced an International Design Competition in which Bruce Mau Design, Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Oleson Worland, and Petra Blaisse submitted the winning design scheme, known as "Tree City."
The initial phase of the construction of Downsview Park began in 2005. The first step was to regenerate the soil, which had been compacted by more than 50 years of military base use, so that it will again support the lush vegetation that is planned for a very significant portion of the site. A major feature of this initial work is the development of the Canada Forest, which was started with a partnership with Natural Resources Canada and its 2020 Fast Forest initiative. The planting of a forest within an urban setting actualizes one of the compelling images embodied in the Tree City design.
In addition to accommodating large-scale concerts and festivals hosted by community partners, PDP currently hosts four flagship seasonal festivals- Springfest, Canada Day, Fall Fair and the 3-on-3 street hockey tournament in celebration of Hockey Day in Canada - as well as a year-round roster of school and community programs.
Downsview Park's most regular attraction is The Hangar, an indoor recreational facility within the Downsview Park Sports Centre, which accommodates approximately 400,000 visitors per year to its soccer and volleyball facilities alone. The Downsview Park Sports Centre also accommodates Area 51 Paintball, Downsview Park’s Grand Prix Kartways electric go-karting (aka green-karting), Downsview Park’s Hoopdome basketball facility, Downsview Park’s The Rail Skate Park skateboard destination and Downsview Park’s Premier Elite Athlete’s Collegiate (PEAC) school for elite athletes.
Downsview Park is also home to the Toronto Aerospace Museum, the Toronto Wildlife Centre, the Downsview Park Film and Television Studios and the Downsview Park Arts Alliance, all of which not only pay rent to assist PDP in meeting its self-financing requirements, but also help to animate the site with a variety of programs and activities, many of which are run in partnership with PDP.
As part of the self-financing aspect of the mandate, PDP leases space to a wide variety of other enterprises that support the mandate of the organization and are helping to build a truly sustainable community. Downsview Park’s many Business Partners play an integral role in the effort to realize the park’s vision and values.
PDP vision and mission statements aim to ensure that commercial development does not overwhelm the green space and the promised legacy of Downsview Park for future generations. Sustainable Community Development Guidelines have been developed and provide an explicit framework for the development of the entire site consistent with the vision and the values of the Park Design. The aim is to make the entire site (the green space, the cultural and recreational lands, the residential lands, and the business/commercial elements) one seamless and integrated community and a showcase of urban sustainability.