Last week, we explored the proposed planning framework that detailed the preferred plan for the future development of Toronto's Port Lands. Concurrent to the drafting of this framework, a Villiers Island Precinct Plan (VIPP) is in the works that lays out a vision for the future of this northwestern-most segment of the Port Lands that is slated to become a new mixed-use residential neighbourhood. The draft Precinct Plan, presented back in March to the Waterfront Toronto Board and Stakeholder Committees, sheds light on the proposed land use, built form, public realm, and character of Toronto's newest district.

Aerial view looking southeast at Villiers Island, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The VIPP, drafted by Urban Strategies Inc., is founded on 10 guiding principles and 6 'structural moves' that form the basis of the plan for the neighbourhood. The six structural moves include: creating an island with varied water's edges; framing a central 'living room', with residential uses concentrated in the middle of the island; creating an island connected to its surroundings; creating a complete island, with a wide variety of uses required for a healthy community; creating a destination island, with nodes that attract visitors from the wider region; and creating an island of history, with many heritage buildings and structures preserved throughout.

The six structural moves, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Once complete, Villiers Island will be home to between 8,270 to 10,700 residents and about 2,900 jobs, with roughly one-third of the island dedicated to open public spaces. The design of the island will feature a ring of public spaces, community facilities, and parks that encircles a central residential and business district, with two 'catalytic' destination uses that will provide alternative programming.

Map of the Villiers Island Precinct Plan, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The land use map shows employment and commercial buildings concentrated along Old Cherry Street, while the remainder of the island would be mostly residential, with retail and commercial uses on the ground level along most streets. The central east-west road is envisioned as a central residential mews, with 'active uses' concentrated at the intersections. The catalytic uses will be located in Promontory Park at the west end of the island, and next to the New Cherry Street Bridge on the north side of the island, incorporating the existing silos located on the Essroc Quay. 

Map showing proposed uses, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

A total of 8 heritage buildings will be preserved in some form, while historic structures like the walls of the Keating Channel and the Western Docks will also be retained and transformed into public features. As well, the island will be host to a variety of community facilities, including an elementary school, a daycare, a fire station, a community centre, a playground, and a multi-purpose field.

The built form will be predominantly mid-rise within a height range of 6-10 storeys. A total of seven towers is proposed, ranging in height from 16 to 29 storeys. The towers are distributed across the northern half of the island and are staggered, aiming to avoid the effect of a wall of towers. As well, each of the mid-rises will feature generous step backs from the street, and create a consistent streetwall along each of the roads.

Aerial view looking northeast showing proposed building heights, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Aerial view looking southeast showing proposed building heights, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The distribution of the built form is intended to create an appropriate transition to the preserved heritage structures on the island, while concentrating density close to transit stations. As well, the towers and streetwalls are placed so as to create gateways, frame the public spaces, and maximize sun access in the public realm.

Placement of the towers on Villiers Island, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The VIPP lays out five distinct character areas across the island that describe the intent of each segment of the community. Together, they aim to form a complete neighbourhood that provides a year-round attraction for visitors, while providing something for all of the future residents of the district.

Map showing character areas, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

First, the Harbourside & New Cherry Street Character Area is located on the western end of Villiers Island and is envisioned as a "lively and active mixed-use waterfront destination". It is anchored by Promontory Park to the west, and also includes New Cherry Street, which is the main point of entry onto the island with dedicated streetcar and bike lanes. New Cherry Street will be lined with mixed-use buildings and will be a focus of commercial and employment-related activities.

Rendering of Harbourside and Promontory Park, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Rendering of New Cherry Street, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Next, the Keating Promenade & Old Cherry Street Character Area will include the island's "most distinctive urban gathering space" along its northern canal frontage. The Keating Promenade will be lined with low-rise pavilion-style buildings, and will feature a generous public realm, waterside cafes, restaurants, and small shops. The new Silos Square will anchor the north end of Old Cherry Street, along which will be a "cohesive heritage cluster" of repurposed historic commercial structures amongst new sensitively-scaled infill buildings.

Rendering of the Keating Promenade, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Rendering of Old Cherry Street, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

To the south, the River Park & Commissioners Street Character Area will feature a green southern edge along the naturalized Don River with walking and cycling trails throughout, while Commissioners Street will be a transit-oriented road whose northern edge will be lined with pedestrian-scaled buildings and a continuous streetwall.

Rendering of Commissioners Street and River Park, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The Centre Street Character Area is envisioned as a shared pedestrianized route across the middle of the island that connects Promontory Park and its catalytic use to Villiers Park in the east.

Rendering of Centre Street, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Finally, the Villiers Park Edge Character Area provides a quieter alternative with an elementary school and outdoor active recreational space, aiming to become a local community hub framed by mid-rise residential buildings.

Rendering of Villiers Park, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

The Villiers Island project also has an ambitious goal of becoming a climate-positive neighbourhood, producing a net-negative greenhouse gas emission with respect to waste, water, and energy consumption.

More details about the Villiers Island Precinct Plan can be viewed in the full presentation, found here, which includes more in-depth descriptions of everything listed above. The Plan is scheduled to go before City Council in Fall 2017.

At the same time as Waterfront Toronto has been advancing planning for the Port Lands, there has been some private sector movement recently, with a rezoning application submitted by Castlepoint Numa for 309 Cherry Street at the northeast corner of Cherry and Commissioner Streets. The proposal calls for two towers, of 52 storeys and 11 storeys, which far exceeds the height envisioned in the VIPP and does not match the desired built form for that character area. It is unclear at this point in time how the VIPP will affect this development, and vice versa.

Rendering of 309 Cherry Street, image courtesy of Castlepoint Numa.

Next up, we will explore in detail the park and public realm designs for Villiers Island, giving an overview of some of Toronto's newest waterfront spaces. In the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  Castlepoint Numa, LEA Consulting, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, SvN, urbanMetrics inc., Waterfront Toronto