Preparing a city for a large scale multi-sport event is often a test of cooperation between government bodies and the hosting city, as well as a test of efficiency for event organizers, construction workers, planners and developers. The months before a large international sporting event can be chaotic as host cities struggle to ensure that all of the necessary infrastructure is in place. Rio de Janeiro’s apparent lack of readiness for the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics is just one of many examples of a host city cutting it close. Here in the most construction-heavy city in North America, however, things are a bit different. With 671 days left until the start of the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games, many of the structures in the Athletes’ Village are nearing completion, and much of the promised infrastructure is either finished or on schedule for completion well before the opening ceremonies. 

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoThe West Don Lands viewed from the new Corktown Common Park, image by Jack Landau

Progress has been rapid on development of the West Don Lands (WDL), especially when compared to the type of mid-city construction we are more accustomed to. The site, a large gated-off construction area isolated for the time being from the city around it, allows for much more elbow-room for constructors than projects with tight staging areas located in active residential neighbourhoods and commercial districts.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoOne of the construction gates at the West Don Lands, image by Jack Landau

An extended Front Street, featuring a wide tree-lined promenade, will lead to the focal point of the community, Corktown Common. The large landscaped park, which opened earlier this summer, sits at the east end of the Front Street extension in an arrangement similar to a golf ball on a tee thanks to the curving extension of Bayview Avenue.

Lining the Bayview extension in the images above and below is a yet-to-be-named market condominium. The concave structure, which will serve as part of the Athletes’ Village before being converted into condo units after the games, is by far the most dominant feature of the WDL when viewed from the east.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoStill unnamed market condo on the east edge of the WDL viewed from Corktown Common, image by Jack Landau

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoConstruction in the West Don Lands, image by Jack Landau

Looking further west from Front Street’s future terminus, we can see one of the TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) affordable unit buildings in the foreground, topped out amidst other construction.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoTCHC apartment building on the north side of the Front Street Promenade, image by Jack Landau

A second TCHC building of similar design and proportions stands just to the northwest, with the skeleton of a third building visible further to the west. The third building will eventually be a residence for George Brown College, while all of these buildings will be used as accommodations for some of the 10,000 Pan Am athletes during the games.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoTCHC apartments under construction in the West Don Lands, image by Jack Landau

On the west side of the WDL, the intersection of Front and Cherry Streets will serve as the de-facto gateway to the community. 

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoLooking east into the West Don Lands from the current terminus of Front Street, image by Jack Landau

This key intersection features the twinned structures which will be home to both a George Brown College student residence and a local YMCA branch for a fledgling community set to contain ample affordable housing.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoGeorge Brown/YMCA building, image by Jack Landau

Construction on this part of the project is largely complete; in fact, when we visited the site yesterday afternoon, the building’s tower crane was being dismantled.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoCrane being disassembled at George Brown/YMCA building, image by Jack Landau

Nestled behind the old red brick building, front and centre in the photo below, and which was home to the Canary Restaurant, is the 4-building, 369-unit Canary District Condos. Like the rest of its neighbours, Canary District will start off as part of the Athlete’s Village before being converted as permanent residential space. While only a few buildings in the WDL, like Canary District, are DundeeKilmer market condo projects, the developer signed a fixed-price contract to build and finance the construction of the entire Athletes’ Village.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoThe old Canary Building and Canary District Condos, image by Jack Landau

It isn't an easy task to build an entire community in one shot. Since the area is being built up from almost nothing, construction on the WDL has involved a large amount of infrastructure, including these sidewalks and adjacent streetcar tracks being installed along Cherry Street.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoStreetcar tracks being installed along Cherry Street, image by Craig White

This initial segment of streetcar track, to be expanded upon at a later date, will run in its own right-of-way for approximately 700 metres between Lake Shore Boulevard and King Street, with a turning loop at Distillery Lane.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoTrackwork still to be completed north to King, image by Craig White

Set to enter service after the 2015 Games, this short Australian spur line should prove invaluable for the early pioneers of a community in its infancy. Ultimately, it will connect up with new lines extending along the East Bayfront and down into the Port Lands.

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoNew streetcar tracks along Cherry Street, image by Craig White

With just under two years before the Games, and a greater part of the work done, it looks like everything will be in working order in time for the Opening Ceremonies. (This is how Toronto prepares to host a major sporting event and casino; are you listening International Olympic Committee?!)

West Don Lands Canary District YMCA George Brown College DundeeKilmer TorontoRendering of the completed Athletes' Village

Additional information and renderings of the West Don Lands can be found at the project’s dataBase listing, linked below victoryag. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided at the bottom of the page.