The Wychwood Car Barns were built between 1913 to 1921 by the by Toronto Civic Railways (TCR), now the Toronto Transit Commission (“TTC”). They were used to store, maintain, and repair Toronto’s streetcars until 1978. Because of their historical significance as the oldest surviving car houses built for the TCR, they are listed in the City’s Inventory of Heritage Properties. From their decommissioning 25 years ago, the TTC has let them remain unused, although they occasionally served as parking and storage facilities. In 1998, the newly amalgamated City of Toronto took over the site.
While the city staff and the proponent, Artscape, were recommending that this area be redeveloped as a mixed use area. Four of the five barns were to be retained for development as part of the project. Other uses proposed for the site included community arts space, greenhouse, community garden, covered winter garden and live/work artists’ spaces.
Opposition quickly arose from local people who wanted open, landscaped green space to bring nature back into this highly developed urban environment and those wishing to retain this part of our industrial heritage. The latter believed it misguided to tear down heritage buildings in order to bring back a small bit of natural landscape. One supporter of the present plan stated “It’s not a fight for buildings versus green space. There’s room for both.”
In September 2003, the City Council authorised the Commissioner of Economic Development, Culture and Tourism and Artscape to seek out capital funding for the Wychwood Car Barns affordable housing and green barns redevelopment proposal. In January 2004, Artscape was given the green light to proceed with adaptive reuse of the Wychwood Car Barns within a public park setting. Wychwood Car Barns would be preserved, not demolished and a new urban park would bring built and natural heritage together in mid-town Toronto.
For more about this plan, see Councillor Joe Mihevc’s website at www.joemihevc.com/barns