After 90 years, what will happen to the Toronto bus station?


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Normally packed with travelers returning home for the holidays, the Toronto Coach Terminal was quiet on its 90th birthday last month.

What was originally called the Gray Coach Terminal, the building, located near the corner of Bay and Dundas streets, opened with great fanfare on December 19, 1931. Toronto Mayor William James Stewart even bought the first ticket – a round trip to Hamilton.

But the intercity transportation hub closed its doors last summer, and its potential redevelopment is now in the hands of the municipality.

So what will become of the flagship site? Three Torontonians – a city leader, an architect and a heritage director – share their dream scenarios.

Councilor Mike Layton, whose University-Rosedale district includes the closed bus station

“Affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing.

It’s a great site with so much potential. My staff have done some preliminary work around what might work, and there is a significant amount of possible density at the site. It’s right in the Health Sciences District – across from the YWCA, near two metro stations – it’s just an insanely good site for that. It is difficult to find buildings this perfectly located for affordable housing. You don’t have so many buildings that are so closely linked to hospitals and other large institutions. But to achieve this level of affordability, we need governments to to step up. It wouldn’t be a small, fast-paced 20-room housing project; it would take a much deeper investment.

Steven Fong, Associate Professor in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

“The Toronto Bus Station was built at a time when urban transit hubs still had a sense of grandeur and occasion. The art deco facade on Bay Street and the spacious double-height waiting room lived up to its intended role as the city’s central gateway.

(It is) a vacant architectural artefact worthy of preservation in a place of pressing need for intensified land use, at a time of urgent and important discussions on social inclusion.

From my perspective as an architect engaged in social impact entrepreneurship, it seems Torontonians need a solution that works for everyone. Part of this building could be developed on the Wychwood Barns (old tram repair facility) model. The part of the public programming (could be) managed and operated by an NGO such as Artscape, as in Wychwood, where there are facilities and programming, such as art performances, theater and dance lessons, that benefit a wide range of people.

This important site has the opportunity to show how much we care for our city and all of its people.

Liza Chalaidopoulos, Chairman of the Board, Heritage Toronto

“As a charity that brings people together to explore Toronto’s shared past and people’s lived experiences, Heritage Toronto is excited about the future of the Toronto Coach Terminal. I would love to see it reimagined in a way that respects and preserves the history of the building while being tailored to serve the public. With its size, footprint and location, we have the opportunity to turn it into something beautiful that serves both the people of Toronto and the countless tourists who we hope will visit the area.

We know that revitalizing heritage buildings is better for the environment and better for the economy. We also know that heritage buildings offer opportunities for innovation and experimentation. It is a huge relief that, unlike recent private demolitions and provincial rezoning, our city council has the power to determine the future of the terminal to better serve the public interest.

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