Unbuilt Toronto

The top 10 unbuilt projects in Toronto

Toronto has a long history of ambitious urban planning projects that never got off the ground. From inner city expressways to new subway lines to massively tall towers, thinking big has never really been an issue. Getting such projects built, on the other hand, is something we've struggled with — for better or worse.

These are my picks for the top unbuilt projects that would have changed the face of Toronto. 

Spadina Expressway

Spadina ExpresswayProposed: 1949
Fizzled: 1971
Why it wasn't meant to be: Although a portion did get built between Wilson Heights and Eglinton Avenue (Allen Road), urban theorists and activists, including Jane Jacobs, fiercely opposed the plan. It initially appeared as though their efforts to kill the expressway were in vain, but with the election of Bill Davis as Ontario Premier in 1971, fate shifted. 

Ballet Opera

Toronto Ballet OperaProposed: 1984
Fizzled: 1990
Why it wasn't meant to be: Designed, if not built, by Moshe Safdie, the proposed building at Bay and Wellesley was would have been epic. But, despite securing both the land and a $65-millon building grant from the province in 1988, when Bob Rae and the New democrats took power in 1990, the funding was cut and the project died.

Eaton Centre Towers

Eaton Centre 1965Proposed: 1965
Fizzled: 1967
Why it wasn't meant to be: In 1966 city council had approved Eaton's plans to develop a massive retail centre around Queen and Bay that would see the demolition of all but the clock tower of Old City Hall, but the two parties could never come to terms on the cost/value of the site, which led the latter to pull the plug on the project rather unexpectedly.

Eglinton West Subway Line

Eglinton West Subway LineProposed: 1994
Fizzled: 1995
Why it wasn't meant to be: Although work began on Allen Station (which would have existed below Eglinton West) in 1994, when Mike Harris took over from Bob Rae as premier of Ontario in 1995, the project was terminated. This one has a bit of a happy ending with the rise of the Crosstown LRT, which could be complete by 2021.

Harbour City

Harbour City TorontoProposed: 1968
Fizzled: 1972
Why it wasn't meant to be: Harbour City would have been a canal-style city out in the harbour attached to the mainland by ring road with entrance/exits at Bathurst and Strachan. Although the project had its high-profile proponents (e.g. Jane Jacobs) ultimately concerns over the the environmental impact of the development led to its demise.

Project Toronto

Project TorontoProposed: 1968
Fizzled: 1968
Why it wasn't meant to be: Buckminster Fuller's plan to build a waterfront university that would feature a 20-storey pyramid and "Pro-To-Cities" built in the inner harbour, would have profoundly changed this city's downtown core. With plans for Metro Centre arising at the same time, however, Project Toronto never really went anywhere.

Metro Centre

Metro Centre TorontoProposed: 1968
Fizzled: 1975
Why it wasn't meant to be: Metro Centre remains the biggest project that never came to be in Toronto. Had it happened, Union Station would have been demolished, the CBC would have got a huge tower, and Line 1 would have been extended south. There are many reasons why Metro Centre never came to be, but the desire to save Union Station was key.

Queen Street Subway

Queen Street SubwayProposed: 1942
Fizzled: 1980 (but there's always the dream of a relief line)
Why it wasn't meant to be: The Queen Street Subway came very close to happening on more than one occasion, but was eventually killed when it became clear that passenger demand was greater along Bloor and the Danforth.

Cambrai Avenue and Vimy Circle

Cambrai Avenue Toronto

Proposed: 1911
Fizzled: 1930
Why it wasn't meant to be: Part of larger plans to ease traffic congestion and alter the street map of Toronto, both Vimy Circle and Cambrai (once set to called Federal) Avenue would have given Toronto two magnificent boulevards, but ultimately Toronto killed the projects, which were part of a question on the municipal ballot in 1930. 

John Maryon Tower

john maryon tower torontoProposed: 1971
Fizzled: Late 1970s
Why it wasn't meant to be: At the outset of the 70s, Eaton's wanted to build the tallest skyscraper in the world, one that would have stretched to a whopping 503 metres (the CN Tower is 553 metres). The plan was to redevelop the company's land at Yonge and College, but the ambitious project never got off the ground before financial troubles nixed it.

Lead photo by

Buckminster Fuller, Project Toronto


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