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Whatever happened to the Osgoode and St. Patrick station refits?

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 27, 2013

toronto st patrickMuseum station isn't like all the others. Thanks to a 2006 injection of community and donor cash, the TTC was able to give the stop beneath Queen's Park a major overhaul, replacing the original austere tile job with a series of visually-engaging Greek, Chinese, Egyptian, and First Nations columns.

The design and construction was funded in part by the Toronto Community Foundation - a charitable group with assets of more than $225 million - and was intended to be the first in a series of station revitalization projects on the University line.

To reflect its Dundas Street location, St. Patrick was slated to receive a makeover inspired by works at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Osgoode would have been tweaked to match the Four Seasons Centre a short time later as shown in the preliminary designs above and below. So, what happened? The answer, of course, is money.

museum stationThe $5 million cost of the Museum station work was split between the Toronto Community Foundation and the province, with the Toronto Transit Commission chipping in the final million. The TTC and TCF joined forces with a pool of donors, stakeholders and community leaders to create the "Arts on Track" program to oversee the initiative.

When construction wrapped up on the graffiti-proof columns and new station sign in 2008, internal TTC documents estimated work would begin on St. Patrick in 2010 and Osgoode a year later. Long-awaited improvements to Pape and Victoria Park stations on the Bloor-Danforth line would also start around the same time.

(Pape was actually supposed to be the first to get a new look but construction delays have meant the project is still incomplete. A new exterior and set of windows for the previously bunker-like Victoria Park station finished in 2011. The TTC's plan at the time was to modernize one station a year - excluding Coxwell, Woodbine, High Park, and Keele - at $6 million each.)toronto osgoodeNot everyone was enthusiastic about the new look. Local transit advocate Steve Munro told the Toronto Star at the time that the project was "a nice show-off piece."

"The station was in good shape; the tiles were in good shape. It would have been way down the list for renovation ... This is the same system that can't find two pennies to rub together to run the buses."

Unfortunately for those supportive of the Museum refit, funding for the University line's renaissance dried up quickly in the wake of its initial success, a development that forced Arts on Track to put the St. Patrick and Osgoode projects on the back-burner, says the TTC's Brad Ross.

Simone Dalton, from the Toronto Community Foundation, says discussions are "ongoing" but confirms that there are "no specific plans at this point" to resume. It's not clear why the money vanished.

Would you like to see the project restarted? Were these preliminary designs good enough? Should the TTC use a similar model - i.e. a mix of charitable and provincial money - to fund other aesthetic improvement projects?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: TTC and "Museum Station" by tomms, "365 - 322" by yedman/blogTO Flickr pool.



Me / February 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm
That is really UGLY!! Hope they caught the graffiti vandal who did it.
John / February 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm
Was not having a wait times/news screen at track level at Museum part of this? It's the only station I'm aware of that doesn't let you know wait times.
Philamania / February 27, 2013 at 12:53 pm
Didn't know this! Great article.

PS - You wrote "...why the money why the money vanished."
Dylan replying to a comment from John / February 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Lawrence Station is also one of the only stations without a wait time television screen.
Hyphen / February 27, 2013 at 01:01 pm
When it comes to Toronto subway stations given the current economy, quantity should be more important than quality. I love art and creativity, but I have to wonder how many more stations Toronto could afford if they were all built a little more like Dundas--underground and utilitarian.

The station plans for the YUS extension just make me laugh; in a bad way.
Spadina / February 27, 2013 at 01:10 pm
The Museum refit was a joke. Museum was one of the better-preserved stations on the line (due, no doubt, to how little traffic it gets, relatively), so redoing it was hardly the best use of money. The idea was banal, and the execution was slapdash. And it did nothing to address any of the actual problems with the station: as noted, there's still no OneStop screen. It's not accessible, and there are no pass/token vending machines.

Going by the renderings, the proposals for St. Andrew & Osgoode are no better, and there are stations in more urgent need of a re-fit. I hope this project stays dead.
iSkyscraper / February 27, 2013 at 01:25 pm
What takes time for people to realize is that ultimately the DNA of a subway system cannot be easily altered and it is always best to simply respect, polish up and celebrate that original DNA, whatever it is.

Many stations on the New York subway were horribly neglected for decades. Others were given renovations of whatever was thought to be in fashion in the 60s, 70s and 80s. In the end, the powers that be finally realized that the best look for a 2004 NYC subway station was the look of a 1904 NYC subway station. Modernized for accessibility, lighting, materials, etc. of course but in the end all station renovations here now strip off all previous renovation attempts and look to their origins. A non-sophisticated tourist would have trouble knowing if the finished station was the original. And it looks great.

The same will eventually come to pass in Toronto, when everyone realizes that there is no point fighting it, the TTC is not the Metro nor the Underground nor the MTA - it is the TTC, and it should be restored to its original look. All of the 1950s and 1960s renderings, photos and drawings will be dusted off and recreated in modern equivalents. (Porcelain tile is so versatile these days that you can easily recreate the look of the original glass Vitrolite).

I look forward to a time when all TTC stations are restored, rather than "renovated".
dr.fever / February 27, 2013 at 01:26 pm
The new art up at Pape looks terrible- like somebody's first attempts at Photoshop.
Khristopher / February 27, 2013 at 01:37 pm
We definitely need more station renos! Our system is hideous and does not match our nice new trains.
Jack / February 27, 2013 at 01:37 pm
A while back there were photos on BlogTO of the nice clean, utilitarian, austere look of the stations when they first opened. Nothing wrong with that at all. No need need for fancy stations (cough, new Steeles West station, cough), subways are people movers. That's it.
Rob replying to a comment from John / February 27, 2013 at 01:49 pm
They couldn't even bother putting one at Sheppard/Yonge when they built the new line. Hell, the ramps from the main fare entrance don't even go to the right platform.
Ben / February 27, 2013 at 02:00 pm
These mock-ups look lame and money for the TTC is definitely better spent elsewhere, but Museum station is clearly awesome. It's unique and interesting.
tnt / February 27, 2013 at 02:22 pm
Never mind pretty little station refits...get them union boys to clean the bitches..
Al / February 27, 2013 at 02:41 pm
If they were done like the renders, it would take away the advertising space (or the ads would cover them up). That didn't happen with Museum. I hate ads as much as the next guy, but the TTC isn't giving that source of revenue up.
jen / February 27, 2013 at 03:04 pm
The tiles at Museum were wonderful...they were a bright and cheery yellow colour. The new design is darker and much more dull and depressing to look at. I use the station often coming off the Avenue bus and I really wish the powers that be had left it alone. If they absolutely HAD to renovate one of the University line stations they could have at least done Osgoode or St. Andrew (which need work).

I love the old 50s/60s tile look. Clean and functional.
Rob / February 27, 2013 at 03:13 pm
Had no idea Museum was refit at some point. I thought that was lock up where they kept fare jumpers.
I'm Jack's lack of imagination replying to a comment from Jack / February 27, 2013 at 03:41 pm

What's a North York?? replying to a comment from Rob / February 27, 2013 at 03:42 pm

Is that a made-up intersection???
fee / February 27, 2013 at 05:31 pm
Reno idea:


I'd take more frequent reliable streetcar and bus service over a station reno any day however. But, therein lies the difference between capital and operating expenditures. Poop.
realityCheck / February 27, 2013 at 05:36 pm
Why are we even talking about substantial retrofits at these stations when large sections of the city are without rapid transit? Oh right, they are downtown stations.
Whinewhinewhine replying to a comment from realityCheck / February 27, 2013 at 05:51 pm
Todd Toronto replying to a comment from Rob / February 27, 2013 at 05:54 pm
I used to think the cage was where they put the dinosaurs.

Come to think of it, nobody's told me otherwise, so...
Terry / February 27, 2013 at 06:10 pm
Who designed this atrocity? The reno is a pastiche of horribly-rendered iconography, for example why is the Egyptian column a sarcophagus and not a bundled papyrus stalk? The colours call to mind a Pottery Barn, but duller and the lighting is from the 60's. Thank god they ran out of money!
Poopdawg / February 27, 2013 at 07:41 pm
I gotta admit, the first time I ever visited Toronto, museum station impressed me. Now that I live here, I can see the cheesiness. Buuut, it's not the worst fleeting impression for a visitor to see.
Poopdawg / February 27, 2013 at 07:43 pm
Also, what's up with the Pape station reno? Why is that thing taking four years and why does it look so cheaply thrown together?
malaka replying to a comment from Poopdawg / February 27, 2013 at 08:34 pm
Yeah, Pape looks hideous. I liked the stenciled station name on the concrete much better.
DJ replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 27, 2013 at 09:16 pm
Best TTC-related comment i've ever read.

IMO, the best model for refitting stations is the glazed tile used at Dufferin, minus all the absurd, ugly colours that don't combine into something decent-looking (and cost way more than the standard field-colour). Simple, yet up to date and complete with modern amenities and better access.
Alex replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 28, 2013 at 12:04 pm
Museum looks awesome after the retro-fit, it's one of the few cool subway stations we have. I also really like Queen with the giant murals. I think it's either St.Andrew or Osgoode where the lighting is beyond awful, it's kind of green or bluey and it hurts your eyes. They really need to fix that.

Did that New York renovation happen recently? I was there about 3 years ago and the stations weren't pretty or anything. They were typical subway stations, dirty and grimy. They did have some cool pictures on the wall in the station I was taking regularly though, and some poems in another one. The original TTC designs were stupid, they were white tiles. What do you think is going to happen to those white tiles 5 minutes after being in the TTC? Yeah, it will be disgusting and it's pretty obvious why they don't use white anymore. Having a different colour scheme at each station is perfect, because it sets them apart and you know which one you're at when you can't see the name signs.
realityCheck / February 28, 2013 at 04:14 pm
Response to "WhineWhineWhine"...I'm not whining because my local station isn't getting a makeover. In fact, I live downtown. I was trying to make the point (which obviously you missed), that elaborate subway station upgrades aren't warranted as long as large areas of the city are not served by rapid transit. It's an "equity" thing which some people (albeit perhaps not you) consider an issue in how municipal dollars are spent.
the lemur / March 1, 2013 at 09:59 am
Something's wrong when the TTC lacks money to improve in all the important ways, but some nebulous foundation is able to commandeer a piece of infrastructure, do a half-assed reno that is purely aesthetic rather than functional (the unfinished ceiling and the makeshift payphone arrangement are ludicrous) and then walk away without accounting for any of its plans and motives.
kate / March 2, 2013 at 06:02 pm
It just seems ridiculous that so much money was spent on Museum station when so many stations still remain non-wheelchair accessible. Museum station looks great and it would be nice if all stations could be renovated in such an artistic way, but things really should be built in order of importance.
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