A public parkette at Queen Street West and Ryerson Avenue, just west of Bathurst Street, was largely dismantled last week, but neither the City of Toronto nor the area’s BIA approved the move.
The parkette was built in 2018 as a community space for live performances and other events, or as a place to hang out, people watch and enjoy the neighbourhood.
In a statement, the Queen Street West BIA said the “parkette’s original intended use went unfulfilled” during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a number of socio-economic issues and public health restrictions.
“As a result of unintended use of the parkette, the BIA went through extensive efforts to clean and maintain the site from harmful materials that could endanger the public realm,” they said.
When CityNews inquired, they did not clarify what unintended purposes the parkette was used for or what harmful materials were found on site.
According to an Instagram post by Alexandra Community & Encampment Support (ACES) the parkette was a hub for some of Toronto’s unhoused people. In the post, they allege it was destroyed by staff from a nearby business because they felt “it is a ‘hospice for death’ that is destroying the neighbourhood because people use drugs and have OD’d here.”
Despite several attempts, CityNews has not been able to connect with the business named to independently verify these allegations.
In their post, ACES expresses concerns about the destruction of spaces used by unhoused people during a “housing and drug poisoning crisis and unhoused people don’t have access to safe indoor spaces to socialize and use drugs in privacy.” They did not respond to CityNews’ requests for comment.
The BIA says after consultation with the city and police, they had already decided to redesign the space around fall of this year and seating was to be taken down mid-July.
Before they could get to it, a fire broke out at the parkette on July 9. A few days later, the BIA says “there were individuals who started roguely removing some of the seating and staging ahead of schedule without consent.”
“Neither the City BIA Office nor the Queen Street West BIA had prior knowledge, consultation or gave permission for any demolition that took place,” they said.
However, Toronto police tells CityNews a police report about the incident was not filed.
The area has now been fenced off and the BIA says redesign plans will be publicly posted at the site soon.
A photo of the proposed redesign on the BIA’s website shows the parkette’s original metal archways, but no seats or stage. Light posts are shown in the area that previously had wooden seating, with the concept dubbed “the light forest.”
“This is an image of a concept rendering of the soon-to-be constructed redesigned parkette with an emphasis on lighting for enhanced safety,” says the photo caption.
The BIA says the redesign aims to “bring these public spaces back to their intended use of serving Torontonians and tourists alike.”
There are no timelines available for when construction will begin or be completed.