There will soon be a new spot to relax in Downtown Toronto; construction at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park is in full swing on the south side of Wellesley Street between Bay and Yonge. The park's namesake, Dr. Lillian McGregor of Whitefish River First Nation, was a dedicated nurse and community leader who was well-recognized for her work in promoting Indigenous culture and education. She received many awards and was the first Indigenous woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto, and was the University’s first Elder In-Residence.

Pavers being installed beside the Wellesley Street sidewalk, image by UT Forum contributor Rascacielo

Designed by DTAH, the park is filled with public art by Manitoba-born artist Kenneth Lavallee of Métis descent that reflects themes that were important to Dr. McGregor—health, spirituality, and language. At the park site, pavers are going in, and concrete planters have been installed which workers have filled with plants. The plant selection of the park includes foliage, flowers, or shrubbery that will offer something every season of the year, and in many instances which are traditional indigenous species and sacred herbs important to Dr. McGregor’s teachings.

City workers planting at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park, image by UT Forum contributor limer

Trees are also a part of the planting strategy of the park, the selection balancing fast growing species that will quickly make the space more green with shade trees that will take longer to reach maturity, but will eventually develop a broader canopy over the park.

The space will include a children's playground, a large sloping patch of grass, and an off-leash dog park. There will also be plenty of seating, including a paved seating area fitted with bistro tables and umbrellas lining Wellesley Street, as well as a path-side bench which will meander throughout the park–which has already been partially installed. 

Public art installations at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park, image by UT Forum contributor Benito

The park will also feature installations of public art, many pieces of which are inspired by Dr. McGregor. Her family clan sign—the crane—and elements of her childhood home north of Little Current at Birch Island—rock outcrops, water, reeds—all show up in the form of art in the park. The artwork—much of it painted teal to mimic the colour of reeds—weaves throughout the site and will be fully integrated with the landscape.

Public art installations at Dr. Lillian McGregor Park, image by UT Forum contributor Northern Light

Some of the public art pieces will also be used for other purposes; the reed screens are built to make their placement flexible, and are expandable and able to cover any structure within the park, while an abstract white powder-coated aluminum feather will become a canopy over the Wellesley Street entrance and will provide shade and protection from the elements.

You can find many more images in our Buildings Forum thread for Wellesley on the Park, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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