Sometimes when I walk I find a view or a photo that suggests a theme for the day; something that summarizes the area that I’ve been walking through. On Saturday, this was the photo, a construction site on Wellesley Street -a massive hole in the ground amongst a growing number of high rise buildings.
This piece of property, between Wellesley and Breadalbane streets, had been vacant for a number of years. It was once owned by the province; back in the 1980s there were plans to build a ballet and opera house there. Those plans fell through and the land remained vacant while community groups lobbied for a park to be developed there.
When I first walked the area in April 2013, there was a blue fence around the site.
The blue fence is gone. According to the development proposal sign, two towers are being built here with a combined height of 99 floors. A nine or ten storey L-shaped podium will run along St. Luke Lane and Wellesley Street to join the towers. The plan also allows for park land on Breadalbane. When I checked the website for the development, 11 Wellesley aka Wellesley on the Park, there is only one tower pictured and it doesn’t look like the description on the sign.
Ah, a little light bulb goes on. The sign describes the developers’ original plan. A change in the plan doesn’t mean a change in the sign. So… this seems to be the future home of one 60 storey condo tower on one third of the land and a 1.6 acre park on the remainder.
My Saturday walk had actually started close to Yonge and College. I was drawn to the nondescript block of stores that are now boarded up in preparation to be demolished.
I’m wishing that I had taken pictures previously of these stores just to document the history of that part of Yonge Street. I had many chances to do so, but the building never seemed interesting enough.
Whether or not you think that two 58 storey towers with a shared 7 storey podium is an improvement is an entirely different question. It will contain 960 condo units and 5 storeys of above grade parking (because the subway runs underneath) with 320 parking spots. Lobby access for the buildings will be from Maitland and Alexander Streets on the north and south sides of the property. Or at least that’s what’s on the sign. But fool me once, so I checked the website for the condo (TeaHouse Condos in this case) and once again the information doesn’t match. According to the website there will be two towers but the north one will be 25 storeys and the south one will be 53 storeys. Whatever the end result, it will be different from what’s there now!
At least one person had an objection.
A walk around the back of the building shows that we aren’t losing much there either.
The next site that I explored is just to the south where a hole is already in progress on the SW corner of Yonge and Grenville.
below: This hole has exposed the north wall of the brown brick Oddfellows’ Hall as this view shows. This is looking south, with College Park in the background (built by the T. Eaton Co. and opened as a 6 storey Eatons store on 30 October 1930). Behind the chain link fence is St. Luke Lane.
Now you see it… soon you won’t. The condo tower here will be 66 storeys high.
Oddfellow’s Hall was built in 1891 and 1892 by architects Norman B. Dick and Frank W. Wickson for the Independent Order of Oddfellows. It has two octagonal turrets and is a playful mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The building had a 20’ x 46’ long grand hall for IOOF private meetings as well as offices and storefronts.
below: Looking north up Yonge Street at College Street, about 1970. The Bank of Commerce (later Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and now CIBC) was an early tenant of the building. Also in the picture is the old fire hall tower but more about that later.
below: Most people will recognize the building as Starbucks.
Back to Grenville Street where there is yet another development. On the west side of St. Luke Lane is a partially completed condo that has incorporated the facade of what is known as the John Irwin house. It is one of the oldest surviving residential buildings in the area; in 1873 it was recorded as being owned by a John Irwin.
This house wasn’t always in this location though. It was moved a few metres east along Grenville, from one side of the condo development to the other. I found a photo that I took in April 2013, just after the house had been moved. Here you can see the back of the house as well as St. Luke Lane to the right.
Does your head hurt yet? Because there is more…..
But first, a break. A few other pictures from the area.
below: No Parking in St. Luke Lane, twice.
below: Also in St. Luke Lane, a mural commemorating the Highway of Heroes.
And back to the program….
So far we have two holes in the ground, a partially finished condo, and a block that has just begun to be demolished. The last development that I saw in the area was one that is still in the planning stages. The development proposal sign posted beside Currys Art Supplies (the blue awning) is a clue that changes are imminent at 480-494 Yonge Street. This building is on the SW corner of Yonge and Grosvenor. The sign says one 45 storey tower but by now I don’t believe the signs!
480 Yonge Street is a heritage building as is the old fire hall (1872). The top corner of 480 Yonge is just visible in the bottom left of this picture. It is to be incorporated into the new development if it goes ahead. The fire hall tower is going to be preserved but the building in front of it will be removed. The sidewalk will also be widened as a result. That’s the opening act of this story; there may be changes before the final curtain. The developers applied for a zoning amendment (increased height and density) earlier this year but I do not know the results of that.
below: On the NW corner of Yonge and Grosvenor is this building. I don’t know if there are any plans in the works to redo this stretch of Yonge Street but after seeing all the new developments, I’m starting to get a bit sentimental about the old buildings. So here is documentation of what remains, starting with A & W Home of the Burger Family at 496 Yonge.
below: between Grosvenor and Breadalbane – Cuban cigars and Persian food
below: SW corner of Yonge & Breadalbane – old and new, short and tall
below: SW corner of Yonge & Wellesley – tattoos, massages, and payday loans.
below: NW corner of Yonge & Wellesley – Not just noodles