With all the discussion of public squares in general, and this city block in particular in the "decay of Queen Street East" thread (it has remained a parking lot for 28 years), I had hoped to announce some triumphant news about a concept introduced here and in the media about 5 years year ago that some of you will remember.
CATHEDRAL SQUARE, a mixed-used community surrounding a European-style piazza interpreted in a Toronto architectural context, was envisioned as a true legacy project for the city that would accelerate the east of Yonge transformation that is underway, eliminating a massive scar on the downtown urban fabric.
Long story short: in the past 6 months the idea was revived and developed further and "market-tested" with a handful of major developers. All responded enthusiastically but all identified a major barrier - inflated land valuation. Interest from international retailers not represented in Toronto and overseas investor interest began to solidify. The neighbourhood faces tremendous, much-discussed challenges of course and suffice to say support for the long-term transformative potential of CATHEDRAL SQUARE from neighbourhood organizations was enthusiastic, to say the least.
A brief project overview, which can be downloaded at cathedralsquare.ca, was presented to the landowners a few weeks ago. Though well received, the landowners confirmed the land was not for sale... at any price.
Obviously there have been many approaches from developers and others over the years as this is largest piece of "vacant" land in the downtown, just minutes from Yonge Street. Unconfirmed reports suggest that in the past year, despite an inflated valuation, a group agreed to meet the asking price, only to have to walk away after ownership (two elderly gentlemen) changed their minds. This may have happened a number of times.
So the bad news is, short of expropriation, this huge city block with "transformative" city-building potential, will remain a parking lot for the foreseeable future. 28 years and counting. Suffice to say, we are somewhat devastated.
Why report this news on a public forum? Other than a minor cathartic benefit (it was a lot of work), my intention is not to whine and complain (business is business) but to shed some light on the challenges of developing property in general, and this priceless (lost) opportunity in particular. Feel free to comment on the project overview if you wish.