On Tuesday June 6th, Waterfront Toronto (WT) held a Town Hall meeting at the George Brown College Waterfront campus, to discuss current projects, their evolving mandate, and ultimately the future of the City's blue edge. Hosted by the President and CEO of WT, Will Fleissig, a couple hundred people came out to the meeting, eager to listen to what WT have been working on in the past year.
The many projects that WT has underway were mostly presented as brief touchpoints rather than in-depth discussions, though Fleissig shed more light on particular plans. One such item was the East Bayfront LRT, which is still years away. Another was the Port Lands, where the first phase of work will be the flood protection for the area which will come from creating the new mouth of the Don River. It is anticipated to take seven years to complete once it has been funded. Villiers Island will also emerge as a result of the new mouth of the Don. The work includes soil remediation, break walls along the western edge, and is tagged with an estimated cost of $1.25 billion.
Other ongoing projects through 2017 and 2018 were discussed during the evening. The Bentway is currently in its first phase of construction, and is expected to run until late Spring next year. At the foot of Bay Street, plans continue behind the scenes for the new Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. WT is working with Ward 28 Councillor Pam McConnell along with the Parks, Forestry & Recreation department. $2.81 million has been secured for Phase 1A of the project, and will begin construction later this Fall. This will include improved access to the terminal from Queens Quay, while upgrading some elements of the adjacent park. More funding is currently being sought out for the full master plan, which would include a new and expanded terminal building, in addition to a redesign of Habour Square Park.
Questions from the audience ranged from global warming concerns as connected to a higher lake level and Don River flood prevention, PATH extensions into the East Bayfront area, and the affordable housing mix in new residential zones. (Answers: it's being studied, yes the PATH will be extended, and WT's mandate requires that 20% of the housing in any new neighbourhood be affordable.)
One question that dovetails with a significant interest on the UrbanToronto Forum, is the current design for the Waterfront Innovation Centre by Menkes Developments. When a member of the public asked how far along the plans are for this building, Meg Davis of Waterfront Toronto replied that Menkes is currently seeking out tech-based tenants, who would shape their space from the inside-out. In other words, the current design would likely change to suit tenants' needs, with innovative interior spaces driving the final exterior expression. Davis also mentioned that the current design has not yet been seen by WT's Design Review Panel. In fact, Waterfront For All, a citizen's group, had set up a booth at the event to get people to sign a petition demanding better design on the City's waterfront.
One area that drew a lot of attention was the Quayside project, the next neighbourhood to follow Bayside, which is currently under construction. Quayside is mostly north of Queens Quay east of Sherbourne Common, but also wraps around the east side of the Parliament Slip south of Queens Quay. (Great Gulf's Monde is currently rising immediately west of Quayside in a single development block dubbed Parkside. Parkside, Quayside and Bayside are all part of the precinct plan for East Bayfront.)
Aimed to tap the potential of new technologies to create a precedent-setting mixed-use neighbourhood, the Quayside plan is built around four high-level objectives, including:
- complete (mixed-use/mixed-income) communities;
- sustainability, resiliency and urban innovation;
- economic development and prosperity; and finally
- partnership and investment.
In March 2017, WT issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the international market, seeking an innovation and funding partner to realize a new vision for Quayside. The partnership will realize and create the vision for this portion of the waterfront, with the partner contributing a significant amount to the funding.
While Google has recently announced plans to development a "tech community" on a waterfront site, WT neither confirmed nor denied that the company is in the running to develop Quayside.
Following an expected Fall 2017 announcement of the winner of the RFP, the first step to create this area is a realignment of the Queens Quay and Parliament intersection, estimated at a total cost of $66 million. The timeline for completion has not yet been determined, though this will be part of the plan developed between WT and their chosen Partner.
More information regarding the aforementioned projects can be found in their associated dataBases, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about the Town Hall? Feel free to leave a comment in the space provided on this page, or join in the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum threads.
This article has been revised to include corrections from the first publication.