It seems that if you turn your back on the West Don Lands for more than a week, then you've missed something. The area is coming together so quickly, that there is always something new see with each visit. While we are always interested to see the latest concrete and rebar and glass to rise in this city, we're aware that the job is never done without the landscaping going in: trees that clean the air, buffer noise, provide shade, dampen the city's heat-island effect, and just plain look beautiful are something that everyone wants to see more of.

Future streetscape in the West Don Lands, image courtesy of Waterfront TorontoFuture streetscape in the West Don Lands, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

While the image above shows a sylvan future for the West Don Lands that is several years off, Waterfront Toronto's implementation of trees in their projects has been the best we have seen in recent Toronto projects, and we believe that the scene above, given a little time, is not far-fetched. The two rows now growing along the new Water's Edge Promenade past Corus Quay and George Brown College are testament to that: planted in silva cells that allow roots to spread out, the vigorous growth of the recently planted trees in that location bring hope to every other street that will be built this way.

Trees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new YMCA, TorontoTrees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new YMCA, image by RiverCity1

The West Don Lands are now seeing their first street trees being planted, and we wanted to bring you the promising first look.

Trees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new YMCA, TorontoTrees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new George Brown College Residence, image by RiverCity1

Cherry is going to be the West Don Lands' major north-south thoroughfare. Besides a roadway for cars and wide sidewalks, the space includes a separate right-of-way for a new LRT line to extend south from King Street. All this means that Cherry Street is going to see a lot of trees helping divide up the tranport modes.

In the image below you will see at left two rows of pits (with hidden silva cells underneath - more on them later) running the length of the sidewalk. These trees will provide lots of shade for pedestrians. At right in the image below you'll see the recently planted trench which separates the LRT right-of-way from the road. The images above show a line of trees planted on the west side of Cherry Street as well.

Trees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new YMCA, TorontoTrees going in along Cherry Street in front of the new YMCA, image by RiverCity1

The planting of trees along West Don Lands streets has been meticulously thought out. A plan below shows eleven species which have been selected to bring not just greenery in the Summer, but also seasonal colour in the Spring and Fall. While it might seem obvious to plant cherry trees on Cherry Street, well, Waterfront Toronto is not going for the obvious here. We will leave it to you to look up each species on Wikipedia if you want to get a feel for which streets will be colourful when, but for now we will say we are glad to see those vibrant purple stripes indicating "Autumn Blaze Red Maple" plantings: that's pretty promising!

Tree Planting Strategy for the West Don Lands, image courtesy of Waterfront ToroTree Planting Strategy for the West Don Lands, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

Back to the silva cells and a quick lesson in patience! The image below, taken on a cloudy May 24th of this year shows Old Eastern Avenue, looking west towards the core. With curbs just in, and other bits and pieces somewhat strewn about, it's not a particularly pretty vista. That black lattice work lying on the ground beside the curb is the base for silva cells. They are a plastic grid (with lots of open space for roots to pass through) that get a z-axis addition: pegs stick up out of that grid, and the new sidewalk rests on those. before the sidewalk goes on though, earth goes in, and the support of the sidewalk by the pegs mean that the earth underneath does not get compacted. Roots are free to go where they need to, and trees do well.

Old Eastern Avenue as it looked on May 24, 2013, West Don Lands, TorontoOld Eastern Avenue as it looked on May 24, 2013, image by Craig White

Less that four months later (on an admittedly much lovelier day, it's like a before-and-after weight loss ad) we are looking at a whole new streetscape. Not only has the south side of the street been planted—Hackberry trees the plan above leads me to believe—but the foliage in the soon to open western half of Underpass Park on the right side of the photo is looking great too. They seem to be doing things right down in 'these-here-parts'.

Old Eastern Avenue as it looked on September 14, 2013, West Don Lands, TorontoOld Eastern Avenue as it looked on September 14, 2013, image by RiverCity1

We'll be back for more of course, as more milestones are reached down here. If you'd like to know more about the West Don Lands or adjacent Waterfront Toronto projects in the meantime, there are plenty of renderings and lots of additional information in our dataBase files for the project, linked below. Want to get in on the conversation? Choose one of the associated Forum threads, or leave your comment in the space provided on this page.