Mulock Park, the transformation of a former private estate in Newmarket, ON, into the town’s ‘Central Park’, has received full approval from the Town of Newmarket and is now in Schematic Design by PLANT Architect Inc. This four-season destination for naturalized public realm space and cultural activity will include an enhanced wetland and riverine water feature, a woodland skate trail and pavilion, conservatory and diversity gardens, an artist-in-residence studio, and many other feature areas. Mulock Park’s $40-million budget makes it Newmarket’s most ambitious parks project to date.
The process of re-envisioning the former Mulock estate for public use began in 2018, when the Town of Newmarket purchased the property at the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Mulock Drive from the heirs of Sir William Mulock. The following year, a team headed by PLANT was awarded the project. An extensive consultation program, led by team member PROCESS in partnership with the Town of Newmarket, involved collecting input from more than 3,000 Newmarket residents about their preferences for the site’s redevelopment and the adaptive reuse of its 19th-century manor house. This community feedback, in tandem with close collaboration with the Town of Newmarket’s Council and staff, informed the two-stage master plan that PLANT developed.
In the first stage, PLANT proposed three concepts for the redesign of the site. The consultation process led to the selection of a hybridized, nature-focused approach for more detailed, stage-two development. Key community priorities that emerged during the consultation process were the preservation of the manor house and its historical gardens; the development of contemporary art programs for the site; and the importance of telling the site’s many histories, stretching back through millennia of pre-settler habitation by First Nations peoples and forward to reflect the increasingly diverse composition of Newmarket’s population. Early in 2021, PLANT presented its advanced concept (summarized in this video) to Council and the community. The project’s budget received unanimous approval on June 8, 2021 from Newmarket Town Council. Through responsible budgeting and planning for the future, the Mulock Property’s operational and capital charges will be fully funded by growth and will have no tax implications to Newmarket residents.
Site investigations are now underway and PLANT has begun the process of seeing the project through to fruition. Mulock Park will encompass the remaining 11.6 acres of the Mulock estate grounds. Most of the land in what had once been a 200-acre farm had already been sold off and redeveloped, including a 3.4-acre parcel along the west edge of the present site that is now Jim Bond Park. An outcome of the consultation process was the decision to redevelop this existing park as part of Mulock Park, bringing the new park’s total area up to 15 acres.
Mulock Park’s name derives from Sir William Mulock (1843-1944), who, over the course of his long and industrious life, held positions including University of Toronto vice-chancellor, Liberal Member of Parliament in Canada’s House of Commons, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and Canada’s Postmaster General. For several decades the Mulock property in Newmarket was his country house. There, he hosted heads of state and luminaries from many different fields. His working farm was a research hub for agrarian science – and locally famous for the apples it sold.
While Mulock was a remarkable individual, it was clear even before the Mulock Park master planning process began that the site needed to be redeveloped in a way that would reflect the area’s millennia of history and celebrate Newmarket’s increasingly diverse identity. It was also clear that this park needed to provide green space in a part of town where intensive new residential development is pending. At the same time, Mulock Park is envisioned as a destination that will not only serve the local community but also attract visitors from a much wider area.
Early in Mulock Park’s master-planning process, five guiding principles emerged:
- A Destination: Ensure this site becomes a significant place to visit in Newmarket.
- Rooted in History and Forward Looking: Share the multiple layers of history and evolution of the Town on the site.
- Natural: Maintain and enhance the natural features of the landscape.
- Connected: Connect the site with the neighbouring areas through pedestrian walkways, trails, and cycling routes.
- Inclusive and Accessible: Create an inclusive and accessible site for all residents and visitors.
“Mulock Park is a symbiotic integration of architecture and landscape,” says PLANT partner Lisa Rapoport, who leads the Mulock Park design team. “The design we’ve developed in collaboration with Newmarket residents, Town Council, and stakeholders introduces new buildings to the site, preserves the heritage manor house while adapting it to an exciting range of possible new community uses, and focuses on ecological regeneration and the use of the site for many types of cultural activities, as well as passive recreational activities. We see the park as a network of destinations, linked by trails that will encourage people to explore different parts of the site on each visit.”
“Over the past two years, thousands of community members came together to share their vision for the iconic Mulock property,” says Newmarket Mayor John Taylor. “Born from shared ideas, stories and experiences, we are incredibly excited to bring our shared vision to life. We look forward to the completion of this magical place that will bring joy to the community for many years to come.”
The eight main site areas will be:
- Entry Area at Yonge Street and Mulock Drive: Near a landmark artwork that draws people into the park, an entry bridge will span a marshy part of the site that has been enhanced into a naturalized wetland.
- Riverine Water Feature: North of the entry bridge, naturalized gardens and boulders along a meandering water feature will recall the ancient glacial moraine.
- House & Great Lawn: This area will support food services, community events, and arts and heritage experiences. The manor house will be restored and renovated for future uses that may include a café, event spaces, and an art gallery and studios.
- Skate Trail: Used for skating in the winter, a woodland loop will convert to a walking trail from spring to fall.
- Ice Pond, Wet Plaza & Pavilion: Adjacent to a new amenity pavilion that also serves the Skate Trail, a small winter skating rink will convert to splash pad use in the summer.
- Conservatory & Diversity Gardens: The manor house’s garage and stables will be adaptively reused as a conservatory, containing and surrounded by gardens honouring the area’s Indigenous history and the diversity of Newmarket’s residents.
- Historic Garden & Artist Studio: A new artist-in-residence studio will be integrated into the revitalized heritage garden of the Mulock estate, originally designed by the prominent 1920s Toronto husband-and-wife firm H.B. & L.A. Dunington-Grubb, Landscape Architects.
- Jim Bond Park Natural Playground: Jim Bond Park will be redesigned to include a playground that turns fallen trees into engaging terrain for children to explore.
Construction of Mulock Park is expected to commence in 2023.
About the Town of Newmarket:
The Town of Newmarket is a thriving community in York Region, just north of Toronto. It is home to over 90,000 residents, over 41,000 local jobs, great restaurants, a regional healthcare facility and much more. Newmarket is consistently named one of Canada’s most dynamic, diverse and desirable places to live and work. The Town is also widely considered a progressive place committed to collaboration, creativity, environmental initiatives and innovation. For more information visit newmarket.ca