Advancing plans for the Ontario Line station in Corktown: Commemorating history while building for the future

Corktown Station will be an important landmark on the Ontario Line, with connections to surface routes, bringing growing neighbourhoods east of the downtown core into the subway system. A section of Corktown that is mostly paved over will become a place for the people, with a mix of housing, commercial, retail and community space around the station. This historic location was the site of Upper Canada’s first Parliament Buildings. Indigenous Peoples have resided here since time immemorial. Metrolinx will take care to interpret and communicate any artifacts found on the Corktown Station site and share its history for generations to come. Here is that continuing story.

Corktown will be on the new Ontario Line subway, with its own station at King and Berkeley, transforming a long underused block into a hub for both transit and the community.

The Ontario government announced today (April 12) that preliminary plans have been shared with City of Toronto for both this site, as well as the East Harbour Transit Hub, just across the Don River from downtown Toronto.

The province’s preliminary station proposal includes a comprehensive plan to commemorate the history of the First Parliament site at Corktown Station.

It was home to Upper Canada’s first Parliament Buildings. Built in 1797, they were burned by invading American soldiers in 1813, rebuilt in 1820 and destroyed in another fire, this time accidental, in 1824.

The site went on to become the location for the Home District Gaol (jail), Consumers Gas and various automotive businesses. It’s also next to the original Lake Ontario shoreline. Construction will provide an opportunity to finally discover historic artifacts that may be currently lying below a parking lot, car dealership and car wash.

King and Berkeley will be the site of the Ontario Line’s Corktown Station. Today, a little bit of greenery on the corner brightens up a block that is largely paved over for a business supplies store and a car dealership. (Mike Winterburn photo)

Metrolinx will be working with Indigenous Nations and community stakeholders to ensure artifacts found are conserved, when possible.

Malcolm Mackay, program sponsor for the Ontario Line, said a large number of archaeological experts are involved, representing the City of Toronto, Metrolinx and its consultants, First Nations, and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

Indigenous Peoples were present at this site long before Europeans arrived. It is located on the traditional territory of many Nations, including the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples, and the treaty territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

“Indigenous Nations – in particular the Treaty 13 signatory, the Mississaugas of the Credit – have been involved right from the start,” Mackay said. “They are very active participants and they bring a great perspective to the work we do in the archaeological field.”

An archaeological assessment will be performed with opportunities for participation in the fieldwork by Indigenous monitors to commemorate the history of the area.

“As the Treaty holder for the lands on which the First Parliament site project is occurring, the Mississaugas of the Credit look forward to providing an essential voice at the First Parliament working group table,” said Chief R. Stacey Laforme.

With a steady stream of people connected to this community by new rapid transit, Corktown Station will be a natural place to display the rich history of the First Parliament historical site.

The station will put Corktown on the new subway line and give improved transit access to people living in and around the bustling Distillery District.

As well, it will provide transfers to and from the TTC’s King streetcar and Parliament bus route.

“The subway connection at Corktown will help relive congestion on the King streetcar,” Mackay said.

In addition to speeding-up commutes, this subway station will open-up more of the city to people living nearby. Destinations like the Exhibition Grounds, Liberty Village and Danforth Avenue will be much more accessible.

The Ontario Line will also make it easier to reach the St. Lawrence Market area and George Brown College. A pedestrian connection to the waterfront will be available through the Cherry Street underpass.

“The station will be used by people of all ages – commuters, students, moms and dads going to shop in the Distillery District, and athletes and naturalists enjoying trails along the waterfront and in the Don Valley,” Mackay said. 

Corktown residents would be able to look forward to both new transit and a new complete community. The early plans submitted today builds off the City of Toronto’s First Parliament Master Plan.

“It’s a collaborative effort moving forward based on work already put forward by the city,” Mackay explained.

The proposal would deliver a diverse mix of new housing opportunities, commercial, retail and community space with direct access to the Ontario Line subway and bus service.  It includes both the First Parliament site, on the south side of Parliament Street, and land to the north. Both Corktown Station and the East Harbour Transit Hub will be examples of the transit-oriented communities (TOC) program that will bring more jobs and housing to sites conveniently located along the routes of new subway projects.

Following municipal engagement on these preliminary plans, public consultations will begin this summer.

To learn more about plans for Corktown Station, along with the East Harbour Transit Hub and the Ontario Line, keep reading Metrolinx News and make sure to bookmark MetrolinxEngage.com.

Story by Mike Winterburn, Metrolinx communications senior advisor