Urban Toronto: A New Park at 11 Wellesley?
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Urban Toronto: A New Park at 11 Wellesley?

Kristyn Wong-Tam hopes the City will buy a plot of land between Bay and Yonge, and create a new downtown park.

The history, design, and evolution of Toronto’s development projects, brought to you by Urban Toronto.

Aerial photo of 11 Wellesley Street West looking south. Photo by Craig White/UrbanToronto.

Amidst the clamor of construction along Bay Street, there’s one site that has been eerily quiet for all too long: 11 Wellesley Street West, located between Bay and Yonge on the south side of the street, has been a relative eyesore for two decades. Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) is hoping to change that, with a motion being put forward at today’s council meeting.

The land has some history, of course. Once covered with a mix of low-rise buildings, the provincial government donated the 2.1-acre site in the 1980s for the construction of a new ballet and opera house, a grand post-modern plan designed by Moshe Safdie. That project was cancelled during the recession of 1991, and a large portion of the land has remained undeveloped since, other than serving for a brief stint as a skateboard park. Most recently, the site was owned by developer Morguard, which had approvals to construct mid-rise buildings; those were never built. Subsequently, the site passed into provincial hands.

The valuable plot of land has now been listed for sale by real estate services firm CBRE on behalf of the province, and is meant to appeal to developers as a site for a commercial/residential tower complex. Sales materials speak of 319,210 buildable square feet spread among multiple potential towers.

Wong-Tam has another option in mind: her motion asks for the opportunity to negotiate the City’s acquisition of the land from the province. She has been working closely with MPP Glen Murray (Liberal, Toronto Centre); both would ideally like to see the site transformed into a park. Wong-Tam points out that Ward 27, in which the park is located, includes the tallest buildings in Canada and has seen the heaviest recent residential development within the city, while it continues to contain the lowest percentage of public space.

We’ll have updates from City Hall when councillors vote on the motion regarding 11 Wellesley; in the meantime, for more details on Wong-Tam’s proposal head on over to UrbanToronto.

UPDATE, JULY 14: At the end of this week’s three day marathon council meeting, councillors agreed to enter into negotiations with the province for purchase of the plot of land at 11 Wellesley.