Pride may soon lose another of its performance venues as the Toronto Parking Authority pursues plans to sell its Wellesley Street lot for a possible multiple-tower development that would also see a pair of adjacent properties on Maitland Street, including the Catholic Children’s Aid Society building, demolished.
The lot, across the street from Wellesley subway station, has approximately 150 parking spots and is transformed into a large performance venue during Pride weekend. The Wellesley Stage is Pride’s largest outdoor performance space and has in the past hosted performances by Mia Martina and Kelly Rowland, as well as the Blockorama parties.
The Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) has been entertaining proposals to redevelop the lot and has settled on a proposal from one developer. The TPA does not yet have authority from the city to sell or redevelop the property.
Marie Casista, TPA’s vice-president of real estate, says there’s no guarantee the proposal will proceed. “It’s an integral part of the community in that it supports parking and therefore supports the businesses,” she says. “But it’s a lot of land, and there must be something we can do with that land to revitalize it or make it something more than just a surface parking lot.”
The TPA is sensitive to the needs of the community and the lot’s use during Pride, but that doesn’t mean a stage-ready space will survive the proposed redevelopment, Casista says.
“We are aware that it’s an important area for staging for Pride,” she says. “I think an important component can be market/residential. I’m not saying the whole area, but that’s also part of maintaining a vital community.”
While the TPA would not disclose many details of the proposal under consideration, Casista says that it will definitely include some sort of open space, laneway or linear park, continuing the path network that runs from Charles to Dundonald streets. It will likely also include a reduced number of public parking spaces, which, combined with spaces to be built in a new underground lot under the new park at 11 Wellesley St W, will total the existing parking spaces.
Because the lot lies above the Yonge subway, there is limited room for underground parking except under the affected buildings on Maitland Street. The size of the lot indicates the proposal could include multiple towers. The development may also have to incorporate a new accessible entrance to Wellesley subway station, although TPA has not consulted with the TTC about that.
Staff at Pride are aware that the lot may be redeveloped but did not know that planning has advanced to the proposal stage. They have worked out contingencies to find alternative performance spaces during the festival, although none are inside the Church-Wellesley Village neighbourhood. “Pride has a long tradition of being celebrated in Church-Wellesley, and it means a lot to people that it is,” says executive director Kevin Beaulieu. “We’re also expanding during WorldPride, but we’re going to see how that can be carried over in the future.”
Last year, Pride added a stage at Yonge-Dundas Square, and this year it’s adding a performance space at Allan Gardens.
“There’s some discussion of how that will be part of future festivals,” Beaulieu says.
If approved, the condos will join a raft of new condos proposed or under construction on Wellesley Street, including a 29-storey condo in the now-empty lot across the street at 50 Wellesley, a proposed condo at 81 Wellesley St, as well as the aforementioned project at 11 Wellesley St W.