A money-losing parking lot near the foot of Bathurst Street could be closed as early as 2024 to make way for a new “landmark” waterfront park currently in the early stages of development, city staff say.

The two-story underground garage, built in 1985, has been operated by the Harbourfront Center under a long-standing lease, but staff say the structure needs millions of dollars in repairs and is likely to be “permanently closed” to early 2024.

That, in turn, would create an opportunity to use the land it sits on as part of a new three-acre waterfront park planned for the area. The park vision also calls for a structure to be built on top of part of the adjacent Portland Slip.

Speaking to reporters during a news conference Tuesday, Mayor John Tory said the underutilized parking lot would essentially serve as the “structural foundation” for the “new landmark waterfront park.”

Right now, construction is scheduled to start in 2026, but Tory said she thinks the timeline can be sped up.

“I’m excited about the Bathurst Quay waterfront park because we can open up three more acres of our waterfront,” he said. “For so many years this city turned its back on the waterfront. I was on something last week commenting on the fact that I remember when there were literally car wreck yards and used tire yards right by the water. That is what it was and we are changing it. A parking garage may have seemed like a good idea at the time it was put there, but like many things, times change and we will do something much, much better.”

Bathurst Quay project update included in larger report staff report which also provides details on park initiatives planned for the median that runs along University Avenue, as well as the areas surrounding the existing rail corridors that run through the center of the city.

Tory admitted the projects are “big” and “will take some time to complete,” but said it’s “important” that the public know the city is making progress.

For that reason, the staff report details the activities that have been done to date to advance each of the projects, as well as timelines for the work the city hopes to accomplish in the next five and 10 years.

“Like all important moments in the life of our city, today we are laying the foundation to provide public spaces for current and future generations of residents and visitors,” said Tory. “These projects are opportunities to deliver much-needed public and green space in areas where it is currently lacking. They will provide beautiful new parks and public spaces for everyone who lives here, works here, and visits here. All these projects are possible, even if they are also complicated.”

Staff say “early conceptual planning” for Bathurst Quay Park envisions a “mix of hard and soft escape spaces suitable for a variety of park uses and functions, both passive and programmed.”

They also say that Canada Malting Company’s historic silos will be used as “a year-round outdoor canvas for potential custom projection mapping shows, waterfront film festivals staged in the new park space, and/or exhibitions of public art showcasing both traditional and digital art media”.

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