As Toronto's Downtown and waterfront continue to rapidly develop—and land continues to become more valuable—the potential of Toronto's Port Lands is being realized. However, while the Port Lands and the nearby Unilever site are quickly becoming prime real estate, much of this area currently sits in a flood plain, hindering future development. To address this, the City of Toronto, together with Waterfront Toronto, pledged to study the costs and feasibility of a proposal to prevent flood risk, marking a potentially significant step in Toronto's ongoing waterfront revitalization.

Waterfront Toronto chair Mark Wilson speaks as Joe Oliver, Brad Duguid, and John Tory look on, image by Jack Landau

In order to provide flood protection to the region—and subsequently realize its potential for development—the naturalization of the currently concrete-chanelled Don River Mouth has been proposed as a solution to prevent future flooding (alongside other flood protection measures). The river's natural flow would be replicated, replacing the current 90 degree concrete outflow with a naturalized river-bed. The Don River reconfiguration would also carve out a new island from the Port Lands, referred to as Villiers Island in the map below.

A map of the revitalized Port Lands showing the naturalized Don Mouth, iamge courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

Standing alongside Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid, and Waterfront Toronto chair Mark Wilson, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced $5 million in funding to undertake due diligence work that will present a clearer outline of the costs and risks associated with the naturalization project.

John Tory announces the $5 million funding commitment, image by Jack Landau

The 400 hectare (988-acre) Port Lands would present an opportunity for large-scale redevelopment, while the naturalized Don Mouth would aesthetically and environmentally improve the region, making flood protection an important initiative. As it stands, 290 hectares (715 acres) of the area are at risk of flooding (below).

A map showing current flood risk (in yellow), image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

While the Provincial and Federal governments have yet to provide any concrete funding pledge for the project, both Oliver and Duguid stressed their respective governments' commitment to waterfront development, citing the region as an important hub for future economic activity.

Brad Duguid speaks about the importance of Toronto's waterfront to the Ontario economy, image by Jack Landau

According to Tory, the most effective approach to Port Lands redevelopment would entail participation from all three levels of government, though, with the project still in its exploratory stages, funding commitments are not expected in the immediate future. Nonetheless, all three levels of government were keen to express their support for the initiative, with Tory calling the Port Lands "part of an exciting waterfront revitalization that will create good jobs and be home to vibrant commercial and residential development."

John Tory stresses the economic and environmental importance of a revitalized waterfront, image by Jack Landau

The proposal to flood protect the Port Lands kicks off the second phase of Toronto's waterfront revitalization (known as Waterfront 2.0), with the City of Toronto now actively engaging the provincial and federal governments for funding.

A rendering of the revitalized Port Lands, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

Following the due diligence study, public consultations are expected later this year, which will serve to include residents' viewpoints and concerns in the finalized plan. We will keep you updated as this exciting developments continues to take shape, potentially transforming Toronto's post-industrial Port Lands into a vibrant and ecologically sustainable urban community.