The area around Wilson Subway Station has long been a mish-mash of commuter parking lots, aging office and warehouse commercial space, and some light industrial buildings. While industry and warehousing has gradually moved northwest over the years, so have the commuter parking lot users who have followed the Spadina subway line extensions to the north and west too. In the meantime—while the City of Toronto has generally aimed to keep Employment Districts for more employment—developers have been pushing to build residential when they redevelop in the suburbs, because that's where they know they'll get a return for their investment.
In 2006, development plans for properties on the the south side of Wilson Avenue east side of Tippett Road were approved by City Council, only to be followed in 2007 by the developer appealing to the OMB a set amendments they desired to make to the proposals. The original plan was for a primarily residential mixed-use structure at 525 Wilson, to be outfitted with two-storey live/work units on the ground floor, capped with 498 residential units spread across a staggered, 6, 9, and 12-storey stepped mid-rise tower above. To front onto both Wilson Ave and Tippett Road, the structure (top-centre on map below) was to be the first of two phases of development, part of a much larger vision to carve a new neighbourhood out of the vast former Employment District bounded by the Allen Rd to the west, Wilson Ave to the north, Champlain Blvd to the east, and Highway 401 to the south.
In 2010, amendments to the parking restrictions were eased, allowing for the scope of phase one of the development at 525 Wilson to grow slightly to 512 units. Thus, the development known today as Gramercy Park, designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects for Malibu Investments, went to market and came to be completed in 2013.
At the same time, plans for phase two of the development—a 5-storey office building to be built at 9 Tippett Road—were also approved, but it never got built. Instead, the developer sought amendments to the zoning by-laws for that property too, desiring to build another residential development. The U-shaped structure would stand at 17 storeys along Tippett Road, with 7 storeys along the south side, 11 storeys on the east side, and would hold 498 residential units. 9 Tippett would share a driveway with 525 Wilson, and would similarly include a central outdoor courtyard. To be known as the Southside Residences at Gramercy Park, renderings from 2013 reveal a structure with the same design language as its sibling at 525 Wilson.
In the Spring of 2015, the matters in regards to 9 Tippett Road went before City Council once again, before ultimately being placed before the OMB in October, 2015. At City Council, the City Planning Staff made clear their desires for the site, falling as it does within bounds of the Tippett Road Area Regeneration Study, that the development add to plans for the area which include a mixed-use area with a maximum of 500 residential units, a minimum of 700 sq m of privately-owned publicly-accessible (POPS) space, 3 metre easements along the property line, pedestrian walkways, a connection to the future Mud Creek Pathway, and a commitment to include 25 affordable housing units. While the developer agreed to most of City Council's recommendations, the revised plan, now containing two towers (as seen in the image above) failed to meet the desired area given to non-residential purposes, and thus the matter went to the OMB where it was approved in December, 2015.
Under construction on the west side of Tippett Road while Gramercy Park was finishing up, The Station Condos on the Subway, designed by SMV Architects for Brandy Lane Homes, Shiplake Management Company, and Wise Management Inc, has now completed at 545 Wilson Ave. The 13 and 14-storey residential complex is prominent when viewed from a subway train entering Wilson Station (as in the image above, with Gramercy Park alongside it to the east). Now, the developers have plans for the next phase to the south, which would replace much of the parking lot seen in the image above. A pair of buildings, one 8 storeys high, the other 12 storeys, will add 396 new residential units to the area along with a childcare centre, retail near the subway station entrance, and a Privately-Owned Publicly accessible Space (POPS) along with improved publicly accessible walkways to Wilson Station. The development will include 50 affordable rental suites, and 50 affordable ownership units.
Once complete, the spate of recent and proposed developments within the Tippett Road Area Regeneration Study lands will significantly transform the former Employment District into a city unto itself, complete with a large collection of mixed-use condo towers, offices, and commercial spaces, parkland and POPS spaces, walkways, bike paths, all with a quick connection to Wilson Station. Renderings completed for the Tippett Road Master Plan back 2013 (above and below) highlight the vision as originally presented, showcasing a revitalized residential neighbourhood connected to parks, stores, cafes, and high-order transit.
Today, with more than half of the development plans in store for the former Employment District lands yet to go, only time will tell what the built-out neighbourhood will look like exactly. What can be said for certain, however, is that the somewhat sleepy area around Wilson Station will soon become a hive of activity, as hundreds, and eventually, thousands, of new residents begin to fill in this rapidly evolving corner of the city. No longer "the end of the line" since the opening of Downsview Station in the mid-1990s, and soon to become even further removed from its former claim to fame, the area surrounding Wilson Station will only continue to grow as more and more redevelopment makes its way from drawing board to reality.
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