There are new plans for the future of Toronto's Cherry Street. And, sadly, they don’t involve cherry trees.
The public space at the Distillery Loop and Cherry Street streetcar branch opened in 2016 and it’s been in a state of planning ever since. A planned extension of the Cherry streetcar will see the existing loop replaced by a new gateway for streetcars to cross under the existing rail corridor to the upcoming Villiers Island and Port Lands area.
This will replace the existing stop in the loop with stops south of Mill Street. Tank House Lane, which currently ends at Cherry Street, would continue across Cherry to serve the transformational new development currently in the works.
A revised proposal for the future of Cherry Street was presented to Waterfront Toronto’s Design Review Panel on February 23.
What hasn’t changed from the most recent June 2021 update is the fact that the connection from the existing Cherry Street trackage under the rail corridor to New Cherry Street will be made through a new tunnel through the existing Cherry Street underpass.
Due to the tricky nature of the area, however, some of the original plans -- though they sounded nice in theory -- have been nixed for practicality reasons. This includes plans for a small urban area of cherry trees -- a nod to the street’s name. But the water table proved to be too high and the underpass is at a low point in the surrounding stretch of land, so any high water event would flood the area and make it tricky to keep trees alive.
As a means to control the water, it will be incorporated as part of the surrounding intricate landscape as an urban marsh – much more inspiring than the landscape surrounding other Toronto transit corridors (but, to some, no comparison to picturesque cherry trees). Rather than trying to fight against the water, the new design embraces it by integrating areas to channel and hold water using a wetland at a lower elevation than the new streetcar right-of-way.
The proposed Cherry Marsh would exist on the current site of the Cherry Loop beside the new portal. The marsh will be comparable to the neighbouring existing award-winning urban wetland at Corktown Common, which offers a lush oasis in the middle of the city and includes a photo-worthy bridge. This new public space would bridge the city’s storied Distillery District and the up-and-coming West Don Lands area.
The urban oasis would feature a primary boardwalk and deck, patio seating, a pedestrian crossing, and greenery-filled planters.
In the previous proposal, the existing Cherry Street signal tower was to remain at its longstanding location with the streetcar tracks curving east around it. The revamped proposal sees the historic tower moved slightly to the east to accommodate the new streetcar portal. The extended streetcar line could run on a “green track,” similar to one that’s been installed on Eglinton’s surface section east of Brentcliffe Portal.
The next full project update will come before Toronto’s Executive Committee at the end of March 2022.