UrbanToronto stopped by WaterfrontToronto's offices today for an update on the newest addition to Toronto's blue edge. In the past, the agency has received undue criticism due to improvements to infrastructure that are unperceivable yet necessary. The newest construction project promises to greatly impact the city's aesthetic, sure to quell those who doubt WaterfrontToronto's capabilities and scope. Queen's Quay is the spine of the current and future waterfront development, a transportation corridor for telecommunications, people and goods. It has in the past lacked the infrastructure and design necessary to fulfill said role, effectively acting as a barrier to the lake, both physically and mentally. This morning's meeting provided an extensive overview of the redevelopment of Queen's Quay between Yo Yo Ma Lane (just west of Spadina) and Bay Street.

Queens Quay at Lower Simcoe looking west, image courtesy of WaterfrontToronto

The project has been in the works since 2006. Due to extensive environmental assessments that were only completed in 2010 it had not yet seen physical progress. The architectural firms of West 8 and DTAH secured the project following an international design competition, proposing a streetscape that would not only adhere to stringent design standards, but would also improve access by providing all forms of transportation dedicated lanes. The design has evolved over time but remains true to the original vision, ensuring uniformity with existing waterfront projects.

North side sidwalk, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

The most notable feature of the design will be the expansive 7.2-metre wide pedestrian promenade, located on the south side of the street. The promenade will be paved with red and white granite, with a repeating maple leaf pattern similar to what has been installed on the water's edge promenade by Corus Quay. Red granite will pave the northern sidewalk up to the existing buildings, similar to what we saw installed on Bloor Street.

South side pedestrian promenade, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

An emphasis on improving access to the district is evident in the transportation plan for Queen's Quay; the promenade will be next to dedicated bike lanes, which in turn will be next to the dedicated streetcar lines. A double allée of trees will separate bikes, streetcars and pedestrians, with a single row planted on the north sidewalk. Construction is slated to begin this summer with the installation of new utilities over the coming months, while new TTC rails will be installed during the fall and winter so as not to interrupt tourist season. The north sidewalk and traffic lanes will be addressed next summer, while the pedestrian promenade and Martin Goodman Trail will be built in 2014. Street furniture will be similar to what's currently found around Sherbourne Commons; signature tapered wooden poles will light the street, and the expensive — yet durable — ipe wood benches will be placed along the promenade.

Martin Goodman Trail, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

While it's great to see that the agency is making way on this stretch of Queen's Quay, what we reallywanted to hear about was the eastern portion of Queens Quay, between Bay and Parliament. John Campbell, CEO of Waterfront Toronto, duly noted that until these areas have a population to justify the near-$300 million necessary to construct TTC rail access it would be superfluous to begin construction. We were assured, however, that the agency is in continued discussions with the TTC, planning how best to provide reliable access to Corus Quay and future developments.

Queens Quay aerial looking east at Simcoe WaveDeck, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

The work of Waterfront Toronto is often perceived as exclusively limited to the realm of large-scale projects, centred on the West Don Lands and East Bayfront. It's important to note that they've been working on Queen's Quay and the central waterfront for a number of years. The rendering that depicts the Simcoe Wavedeck shows the foresight that went into the playful structure, indicative that its current appearance isn't all we have to look forward to and that it was intended to be complemented by the promenade. There's a method to the madness that can (occasionally) be described as Toronto's waterfront, and we're absolutely thrilled to watch it all unfold. A holistic approach that doesn't attempt to rush construction for the sake of immediate gratification is critical in the creation of a healthy waterfront, which is just what Waterfront Toronto appears to be doing.

Related Companies:  Claude Cormier + Associés, DeepRoot Green Infrastructure, Diamond Schmitt Architects, DTAH, Jill Anholt Studio, PFS Studio, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, Teeple Architects, urbanMetrics inc., Waterfront Toronto, West 8