"Let's take that goal of 80% Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050 and work backwards from there," Waterfront Toronto's new CEO William Fleissig told the audience. In conversation with urban designer Ken Greenberg at the Urban Land Institute's (ULI) annual 'Fireside Chat,' Fleissig outlined a vision of Toronto's waterfront as a sustainable cultural hub in decades to come.

ULI's Richard Joy introduces William Fleissig and Ken Greenberg (l-r), image by ULI's Richard Joy introduces William Fleissig and Ken Greenberg (l-r), image by Stefan Novakovic

Following in the footsteps of longtime CEO John Campbell, Fleissig identified environmental stewardship as a leading element of Waterfront Toronto's evolving mandate. "I looked around and thought... City Planning knows how to do planning, the Province and the City work on policy, and the Federal government does P3s. So where does that leave Waterftont Toronto?" Leading the way in sustainability initiatives that reach "far beyond existing standards"—and continuing to support new development and prevent sprawl—is Fleissig's answer.

William Fleissig, image courtesy of Waterfront TorontoWilliam Fleissig, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

Praising the work done since Waterfront Toronto's inception in 2001, which has seen Toronto's previously industrial waterfront transform into an increasingly vibrant urban space, Fleissig also stressed that supporting the waterfront's growing cultural prominence will continue to be an important goal. "Everyone in Toronto really has two neighbourhoods," he told the audience, "their own neighbourhood, and the waterfront, which belongs to everybody."

The grand opening of the new Queens Quay transformed a prominent stretch of the The grand opening of the new Queens Quay transformed a prominent stretch of the waterfront, image by Marcus Mitanis

A decade and a half since its founding, Waterfront Toronto's urban revitalization efforts now set a foundation for future growth, which Fleissig suggested would be "quicker than most of us expect." With a glut of private developments and public works projects now either underway or in planning, Fleissig promised that the coming years will continue to transform the city's "front porch" at a faster pace.

We will keep you updated as Toronto's waterfront continues to take shape. In the meantime, what do you think of Waterfront Toronto's evolving mandate? What should the organization focus on in years to come? Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a message in the space below this page.