TORONTO - Infrastructure Ontario (IO) will be installing artwork on construction fencing for a new Toronto courthouse to help commemorate the downtown site's rich cultural history. The artwork will draw its inspiration from the archaeological discoveries that have been made on the site, most of which date from the mid- to late-1800s.

The STEPS Initiative, an award-winning public arts organization, through its public arts consultancy, PATCH, will project manage the design and installation of the artwork. A Canadian artist duo, PA System, will create the design. The artwork will go on the hoarding (the temporary wood fencing) around this busy, high-profile site in May 2016. The provincially owned property is earmarked for a new high-rise courthouse, scheduled to begin construction in 2017.

The 1.7-acre site was once part of St. John's Ward, one of the city's first immigrant settlements and migrant communities. Founded partly by prominent members of Toronto's early African-Canadian community, this parcel of land became home to refugee slaves who escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century. Many families of Irish, Chinese and Russian-Jewish descent also settled on this block up until the mid-20th century.

The site, which was most recently a public parking lot, underwent a complex archaeological excavation that uncovered numerous artifacts, particularly from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A detailed archaeological analysis of the site findings will continue over the coming months, while the property undergoes further preparation for construction on the courthouse to begin.

To watch a video about IO's archaeological excavation, visit

Quick Facts

  • Once completed, the new Toronto courthouse will bring together several courts across the city in a single location. Amalgamation of justice programs and services is expected to reduce operational and facilities costs, improve efficiency, and better serve the community.
  • IO is leading the project on behalf of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • This project is being delivered using IO's Alternative Financing and Procurement model, an innovative way of financing and procuring large, complex public infrastructure projects.
  • The new Toronto courthouse will be located at 11 Centre Avenue, bordered by Chestnut and Armory Streets.
  • Examples of artifacts discovered during the archaeological excavation include children's toys, shoes, perfume bottles, dentures, glass soda bottles, ceramic pitchers, dice and dominoes, among numerous other items.


Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure
“It's wonderful to see the amount of care and attention being given to extracting the heritage and history from this archaeological site before the important work of building a new Toronto courthouse begins. Infrastructure is a key element to a strong economy, but it can also serve to highlight and celebrate significant historical events. This project will be a welcome addition to Toronto's streetscape.”

Bert Clark, President and CEO, Infrastructure Ontario
“This project is an example of how IO's many talented professionals are coming together to bring a much-needed new Toronto courthouse to life while also uncovering several layers of the city's history.”

Learn More 
Infrastructure Ontario
The STEPS Initiative


Nancy Kuyumcu
Infrastructure Ontario

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