The rainbow flags are out, and this year is a very exciting one for Toronto's Church & Wellesley Village as the neighbourhood is hosting not only the annual Toronto Pride festival this weekend, but this year is set to be bigger and better than ever as Toronto hosts World Pride. With such a large celebration, the neighbourhood has been preparing over the past couple years to beautify the Village and reinforce the identity of the community.

Looking south towards Church & Wellesley, image by thinc design

This has been accomplished over the past year with projects like the Church Street Mural Project with 11 new murals brightening walls across the neighbourhood, but most prominently in the revitalization of Cawthra Square Park. This massive project was spearheaded by the City of Toronto, with leadership by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Following public consultations, Toronto based landscape architecture firm Thinc Design created the park's new face more welcoming for Church Street. Construction was started in mid-September 2013, and ended last week to kick off the World Pride celebrations.

Newly designed Cawthra Park, image by thinc design

The new park design includes a new plaza where varying shades of granite setts are laid in an undulating pattern, opening on the Church Street sidewalk and extending to the park's interior paths. Along the way there is plenty of new seating, a new wooden deck which can be used as a stage, and improved lawns. Existing elements of the park such as the off-leash dog area, the AIDS memorial, the playground, expansive lawn space, and many mature trees have been maintained.

Site plan of Cawthra Square Park, image thinc design

The most controversial part of the project was the removal of 27 trees to accommodate the new park design, while 17 new large calliper trees have been planted as part of the improvements.

Newly planted trees at Cawthra Park, image by thinc design

At nighttime, the mark is transformed by the addition of programmable LED lighting, both on overhead arrays and on pillars scattered through the park. 

Newly placed LED lighting system at Cawthra Park, image by thinc design

Looking east from Church Street at Cawthra Park, image by thinc design

At June's City Council meeting, Councillor Wong-Tam presented a motion to rename the park in honour of former Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall. Now Ontario's Human Rights Commissioner, Hall is a longtime friend of the LGBT community, who as a lawyer defended those caught up in the bathhouse raids of 1981, and was the first Toronto Mayor to march in the Pride parade in 1994. The motion to rename the park passed, but a date for the official renaming has not yet been announced.

For more information about the Cawthra Square Park renovations, head to our Church & Wellesley Neighbourhood Node thread where you can join in on the conversation, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page. Happy Pride!