The top 10 unbuilt projects in Toronto
The top 10 unbuilt projects in Toronto is something of a companion to my post about the top 10 buildings lost to demolition. Each offers a glimpse of how Toronto might look if, as the saying goes, things turned out differently. Unlike the prior post, however, not all of these projects are mourned. Perhaps the most notorious entry on this list, the Spadina Expressway, is still generally loathed to this day (as was evidenced by the reaction to Rocco Rossi's proposed Toronto Tunnel). In fact, a list of this type can't but be defined by a certain ambiguity. As fascinating as it is to peruse the proposed developments, even a brief a critical consideration of each reveals that most fizzled for good reason.
Still, it's always intriguing to look back and think about what might have been.
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 and the project was dead.
Why it wasn't meant to be: Now the site of condos, Bay and Wellesley was almost home to Toronto's Opera House. Designed, if not built, by Moshe Safdie, the proposed building was would have been iconic, to say the least. 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 when the Ballet-Opera House board balked at building a less expensive structure.
Eaton Centre Towers
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 (later in negotiations that too was slated to go), but the City and Eaton's 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
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. The current plan for public transportation along Eglinton is the Crosstown LRT.
Why it wasn't meant to be: Harbour City would have been just that -- 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 -- including Jane Jacobs who once said that it was "probably the most important advance in planning for cities that has been made this century" -- ultimately concerns over the the environmental impact of the development led to its demise.
Why it wasn't meant to be: Project Toronto never really got beyond the theoretical phase, but 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 and its relationship with the waterfront. With plans for Metro Centre arising at the same time, Project Toronto never really went anywhere.
Why it wasn't meant to be: Metro Centre was, bar none, the biggest project that never came to be in Toronto. Had it been completed, Union Station would have been demolished, the CBC would have got a huge broadcasting tower, the YUS Subway line would have been extended to Queen's Quay, and basically very little would look the same in the far downtown core. Although there are a plethora of reasons Metro Centre never came to be, chief among them was the recommendation by a joint committee from the provincial and municipal governments to retain Union Station, which led the railway companies behind the development (CN and CP) to pull out.
Queen Street Subway
Fizzled: 1980 (but there's always the DRL)
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 to the north.
Cambrai Avenue and Vimy Circle
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 Torontonians killed the projects, which were part of a question on the municipal ballot in 1930. Shortly after the stock market crash of 1929, citizens voted narrowly against the City going into debt to finance the road improvements.
Fizzled: It hasn't really
Why it wasn't meant to be: Believe it or not, the first plan to build a tunnel to the Island was hatched in 1935 -- not only that, they actually started building the thing. With federal funds secured for the project, it looked like a go, until -- you guessed it -- a changed in power. When William Lyon Mackenzie King took office, the project was almost immediately scrapped. But that hasn't stopped it from hanging around.
Images from the Toronto Archives, York University, Zeidler Partnership Architects, and Duke 360 on Flickr.
Mark Osbaldeston's Unbuilt Toronto was, obviously, very helpful in putting this post together, though credit should also go to David Kopulos and his site Toronto Pending.