The Neighbourhood Organization: Thorncliffe Park and the Ontario Line


Thorncliffe Park is a multicultural community located in the City of Toronto, within the former Borough of East York, with main streets of Overlea Boulevard and Thorncliffe Park Drive, bounded by the Don Valley and the DVP to the south, Millwood Road to the west, Don Mills Road to the east, and the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Belleville Subdivision to the north.

Its origins, growing out of the site of the Thorncliffe Park Raceway, was as a master-planned, post-war, 1950s inner city suburb that was originally contemplated as ‘[the Town of] Leaside’s future’. A modern, mixed-use development at its inception, Thorncliffe Park was one of the first multi-residential, high rise rental apartment communities in Toronto. With one of the earliest enclosed and anchored shopping centres, Thorncliffe Park was a retail destination for shoppers locally, as well as from the east end of Toronto and Scarborough. It was also a significant regional employer in the retail, commercial, and industrial sectors. Thorncliffe Park was the home of Coca-Cola’s Canadian head office from 1965 to 2012.

In its first 70 years as a community, Thorncliffe Park has welcomed many waves of immigration to Toronto, as evidenced by its recognition as “Canada’s Arrival City.” 63.7% of Thorncliffe Park residents identify themselves as immigrants, and 79.2% are visible minorities. 40+ languages are spoken in the neighbourhood, with 57.8% or residents speaking a language other than English at home, compared to 29.2% citywide.

The official population is increasing relatively faster than the entire City of Toronto, growing +9.8% between 2011 and 2016 to 21,108 individuals. It is also a relatively young population, with 39% classified as Children aged 0 to 14 years and as Youth aged 15 to 24 years, compared to a City average of 27%. The TDSB’s Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy, opened in 2013, has an annual enrolment of 700 kindergartners.

Thorncliffe Park is a growing community that is full of promise, but it is also one that is also struggling to reach its full potential. There has been a decades’ long flight of diverse economic opportunities from its centre to the outer Greater Toronto Area suburbs, and more recently to downtown Toronto. Median household income is nearly -$20,000 less than the Toronto average, while the unemployment rate is +4.5% higher, despite 41.1% or residents having achieved a Bachelor’s degree or higher (compared to 44.1% citywide).

Image courtesy of

Investment in public amenities has not kept pace with local population growth and changing needs, although notably, due to a lower level of car ownership, 45.3% of Thorncliffe Park residents use public transit – TTC bus routes to Line 1 and Line 2 - to commute to work; higher than the 37.0% Toronto average. Similar to the city as a whole, over 80% have public transit commutes of less than one hour.

As it was originally designed, Thorncliffe Park continues to be largely a community of renters. 88.9% of Thorncliffe Park households rent, significantly higher than the 47.2% Toronto average. With relatively large household sizes and aging apartment buildings, 42.1% of the housing is considered unsuitable, 12.4% is considered inadequate, and 50.1% is considered unaffordable.


Project Description 

With the Provincial Government’s announcement in April 2019 that Metrolinx will build a new rapid transit line, called the Ontario Line, between Thorncliffe Park and downtown Toronto by 2027, The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO) proposes to refresh Thorncliffe Park’s original master plan for 21st century living.

TNO led public consultations about the Ontario Line in Thorncliffe Park in October 2019, which included a town hall and an online survey. While support for new transit opportunities was high, 82%, residents demonstrated through their input that they want to actively participate in planning the future of their community. Their questions included:

  • How will elevated trains impact community cohesion? Will it geographically split the neighbourhood? Will it increase noise inside residents’ homes? Will it increase potential for crime?
  • What lessons can we take from the Eglinton Crosstown to prevent significant disruption to Overlea Boulevard, Thorncliffe Park’s only arterial road, during construction?
  • Will the quality of education for Thorncliffe Park’s 3,000 middle school and high school students be affected if an elevated line is built in close proximity to their schools?
  • Is it safe to operate a maintenance and storage facility (MSF) in a residential neighbourhood?
  • Will transit-oriented redevelopment improve the community, or overwhelm it?

Image courtesy of Metrolinx


In this project, the client expects the team to design the following:

The proposed project is to re-envision and realize the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood as a complete community by contemporary standards, respecting both its current and future residents, by identifying gaps in social and physical infrastructure and proposing a program of solutions. We would like University of Toronto students in the MUCP program to:

Develop a conceptual framework for a "healthy built environment" to serve as a guide for Thorncliffe Park's future growth and economic development that aligns with the proposed Ontario Line project.

  • Develop design recommendations and approaches to improve existing open spaces in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood (RV Burgess Park, Leaside Park, side and front of 79 Thorncliffe Park, front and back left of 75, front left of 53 Thorncliffe Park, front right of 49 Thorncliffe Park, front of 47 Thorncliffe Park, front of 43 Thorncliffe Park, East York Town Centre Mall parking lot, walkway from Leaside Park to Thorncliffe Park)
  • Consider how to make these open spaces more usable, safer, greener, with improved pedestrian connections
  • Include one outreach component to promote the design recommendation (ex: report, pamphlet, multimedia campaign, social media, etc.)

NDA is required for this project