Public consultations set to begin for Ontario Line’s East Harbour, Corktown station sites

An early rendering of the proposed Corktown Station on the Ontario Line. Handout / Government of Ontario

The provincial government has released preliminary renderings for two Ontario Line subway station sites, including one that’s being billed as a major multimodal hub just east of downtown Toronto, in advance of community consultations.

The first station in the proposed 15-stop, 16-km subway line to be opened up for review is Corktown station at Berkeley Street and Front Street East, just west of Parliament Street.

Images released on Monday appear to show four new tower buildings with some “public institutional” use and open plaza space.

Some in the community have raised concerns in recent months about what the plan for the Ontario Line, which is slated to run between the Ontario Science Centre and Exhibition Place, would mean for the site of Canada’s first parliament. The buildings are located right beside the site of the proposed Corktown station.

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A public meeting organized by community members with Metrolinx, the provincial agency charged with planning the Ontario Line, is set to occur on Thursday. In Monday’s announcement, officials said they are working on a “meaningful plan to commemorate the rich heritage” of the parliament site.

The second station to be reviewed is the former Unilever soap factory, a 38-acre parcel of property just east of the Don Valley Expressway and south of Eastern Avenue. Officials said the land, which is north of the massive Port Lands redevelopment, will become a major destination with employment and retail uses.

The Unilever site, dubbed the East Harbour transit hub, is expected to have a new GO station, an Ontario Line subway station and access to local transit connections.

Ontario Associate Transportation Minister Kinga Surma told Global News the East Harbour transit hub is expected to have a major impact on transit congestion in downtown Toronto.

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“The purpose of the Ontario line … is to reduce the pressure of Line 1, which feeds into Union Station,” she said Monday afternoon.

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“By providing the other alternative and a station that will connect to our GO rail system — two separate GO lines — as well as local transit, we believe that there will be significant pressure off Union Station. In fact, we suspect it to be over 10 per cent of the pressure we have seen pre-COVID.”

When it comes to the exact details, uses and building configurations for both sites, those haven’t been announced. However, Surma said the sites will likely have residential and retail components.

She went on to say protecting heritage elements at the Corktown site will be important and noted there are shared provincial and municipal priorities, including affordable housing and access to child care.

Surma stressed it’s still early in the process and public consultations will occur beginning in the summer.

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“We are presenting very preliminary plans and visions of what we see around the neighbourhood and what’s possible,” she said, adding walkability and accessibility to services will also be key.

“I know that the City of Toronto knows their neighbourhoods very, very well and will certainly provide feedback.”

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As for when the stations will be open, Surma said the East Harbour transit hub should begin functioning sometime in 2026. It’s expected, based on current projections, that the Ontario Line will begin operation years later.

“We’re moving rapidly, but we’re doing our very best to communicate with the community so they know what is happening,” she said.

“[The East Harbour area] will be one of the best-connected areas in which to live in the city of Toronto.”

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