Back for its fourth year, Lake Leaside offering a rest stop for the birds

“It must be spring. Lake Leaside has made its appearance again.”

That’s how a story in Streeter began two years ago.

It works just as well for this story.

The annual flooding that fills the abandoned construction site on Vanderhoof Avenue, east of Laird Drive, with water every spring has returned for at least its fourth year in a row.

Called “Lake Leaside” by some local wits, the flood is thought to be created by melting snow, usually reaching its greatest volume by early summer.

It has become such a established feature of the area that ducks and geese seem to be using it as a regular stopover on their flights across Toronto.

Joking aside, some local residents have been concerned in the past that the “lake” could be a danger, as kids or others could fall into the water.

In 2017, then-councillor Jon Burnside negotiated with the property owner, SmartCentres Real Estate Investment Trust (SmartREIT), to drain the water. Last year, current Don Valley West councillor Jaye Robinson again negotiated with SmartREIT to drain the site.

SmartREIT owns the SmartCentre shopping centre at Laird and Wicksteed Avenue, just south of the construction dig. Its plans to extend the centre north of Wicksteed into the block that includes the flooded area have been discussed since at least 2012.

At that time the development proposal for the land between Wicksteed and Vanderhoof called for 147,000 square feet of retail space, including an anchor store such as Wal-Mart.

Digging began in 2015 but the project stalled shortly after.

Plans for Lake Leaside site
OLD PLANS: Aerial photo from 2017 shows plans to extend the SmartCentre north to hook up with Eglinton Avenue East shopping centre.

By 2016 all that was created on the site was a huge, shallow crater — leading some to joke Leaside should turn the space into a skateboarding park, a skating rink or a swimming pool. One local wag proposed the pond be stocked with fish and turned into an attraction for Toronto fishermen.

The swimming pool suggestion almost came true when the flooding began the next spring, But although the water feature is broad, it is a actually quite shallow, reaching depths of only about a foot in most places.

Lake Leaside is broad but shallow
LAKE LEASIDE is broad but shallow.