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Village of Yorkville

The Village of Yorkville Park
(Cumberland Street @ Bellair Street)

The Promise of a Park

The idea for a park for the Village of Yorkville dates back to the late 1950s after the Victorian row houses that existed on the south side of Cumberland Street had been cleared to make way for the Bloor Danforth subway line. Led by local businessman Budd Sugarman, a small group of Yorkville residents and business owners dared to imagine that a park could be built over a subway. In place of a park, a parking lot was created, but local residents continued to press for a park and in 1973 the City agreed. Despite this agreement, little happened until 1991 when an international design competition was announced by the City of Toronto Department of Parks and Recreation.

The Park Design

A jury composed of local residents and design professionals selected Oleson Worland Architects, in association with Martha Schwartz / Ken Smith / David Meyer Landscape Architects, who presented a scheme to turn the parking lot into a park that celebrates the history of the Village of Yorkville and reflects the diversity of the Canadian landscape.

In creating the new park, the objectives were:

  1. To reflect, reinforce and extend the Victorian scale and character of the original village;
  2. To provide unique, inner-city ecological opportunities for the introduction of and display of native plant species and communities;
  3. To provide a variety of spatial and sensory experiences, landscape qualities and park functions;
  4. To link the park to existing pedestrian walkways and adjacent areas.

To achieve these objectives the park was designed in a series of gardens. The gardens vary in width and the frames of the gardens are symbolic of the lot lines of the row of houses that once stood on the site. Each contains a distinct collection of plant communities - ranging from upland conifer and deciduous species at the east end of the park to lowland / wetland varieties and a granite outcropping in the central areas to shade gardens at the west end. The granite outcropping created a lot of attention as it was taken from a farm in Muskoka, piece by piece and then put back together on site at a cost of $250,000. The total cost to build the park was $3.5 million.

In the words of one of the landscape architects, "We designed the park to reflect the Victorian style of collecting. In this case we were collecting landscapes of Canada - pine grove, prairie, marsh, orchard, rock outcropping and so on - and arranging them in the manner of the nineteenth century row houses."

The result of these influences is a contemporary variation on the traditional garden and one that engages the imagination as well as the senses.

The Village of Yorkville Park has garnered many awards since its opening, including:

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