A story about community persistence: 11 Wellesley Groundbreaking Event
On Thursday June 11, a tree was planted in the middle of the city. Barry Fenton and Mark Mandelbaum, co-founders of Lanterra Developments and city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam helped plant the tree, until the shovel was passed on to members of the community, each adding soil to help the tree grow. The tree planting was symbolic of the future 1.6 acre park located at 11 Wellesley, in between Bay and Yonge Streets. The groundbreaking ceremony was also symbolic of the cooperation and collaboration between developers, the city and the local community who all worked together to create an urban park.
“This is a story about community persistence,” said Toronto City Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam. She added that it was the first time that she’s ever attended a condo groundbreaking event.
“Had it not been not been for Lanterra, we would not be here today for the groundbreaking of this park…” Wong-Tam added.
Before Wong-Tam was Councillor for the area, neighbourhood residents and associations petitioned and protested to liberate the chunk of vacant land. Wong-Tam said, “We don’t often go marching and protesting to Queen’s Park and we certainly don’t yell into the Pink Palace saying, “Give us Parkland” but you did that.”
After Lanterra Developments bought the land, Wong-Tam, Lanterra and the community worked together to create the future park and development. The city eventually offered $8.5 million to buy the land for the park.
“We had a glimmer of this vision and from that initial meeting until going through all the development approvals for all these projects until this point where we’re ready to start building is something that us as developers, we don’t do very often. And it’s a very good feeling,” said Mark Mandelbaum, chairman of Lanterra Developments.
Most of the time, the Bay Cloverhill Community Association works against developers, but the relationship with Lanterra Developments has been the most cordial, said Rick Whitten-Stovall, president of the Association. When Whitten-Stovall moved to Toronto in 2010, he joined the community organization and worked with MPP Glen Murray to try to get the provincial land transformed into a park. While it didn’t work out with the province, Whitten-Stovall says he was pleased that Lanterra reached out to the BCCA when they bought the land.
Marilyn Green is a local resident, and a member of the condominium board at 24 Wellesley. She said she could see the open space from her window on the 21st floor and is excited for the future park. “We worked very hard for that park, and it was great that Lanterra agreed to sell it to the city,” she said.
The groundbreaking event also illustrated how neighbouring communities have a stake in the park as well. Bob Fabian, a member of the board for the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association said that we need to take advantage of opportunities to create park space.
“Had [Lanterra] not gotten two properties, situated on both sides, and then this came into play, the three make a package that wind up meeting [Lanterra’s] density needs, our desire for the park, and even meeting the North Downtown Yonge planning framework,” Fabian said.
Councillor Wong-Tam added that downtown neighbourhoods don’t have the luxury of transforming 40 acre industrial lots into parkland, and instead need to assemble and work together.
She added, “What we will build is one of the most dynamic parks in the city, it is going to be a park that is going to embrace urbanity. It’s going to be a park that’s going to create beautiful green edges on what is an already vibrant neighbourhood with some hard city edges and I think that we would not be able to have done that without you.”
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