Industrial development around the mouth of the Don River brought substantial growth to Toronto in the 19th and 20th centuries, though it came at the cost of the river's natural course and ecology. After devolving over recent generations into a polluted and silted channel, the mouth of the Don River is being reborn thanks to a $1.2 billion initiative led by Waterfront Toronto

Naturalized Don River mouth, image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto

The Port Lands Flood Protection Project is part of a long term plan to transform the industrial brownfield lands into a mixed use community with residential, office and parkland uses, starting with the river itself. The current mouth—a right-angled turn into the Keating Channel known for its restriction to the river's flow—is being given a literal course correction that will improve water flow and pollution issues while creating new park space and wildlife habitats. 

Shape of new river valley established, image via Waterfront Toronto

Work has been underway since the end of 2017, and the latest update shows impressive progress on the first section of a new Don River valley. A recent post from Waterfront Toronto updates the construction status as of May 8th: 

"This week, we begin installing cut-off walls that will keep the excavated area stable and dry as work progresses. Watertight retaining structures (called secant piles) will be installed along the edges of the new river valley. In total, we’ll install 3,000 secant piles over the course of the next several months. A small facility will be set up on site to produce concrete for the secant piles, allowing us to avoid additional truck traffic for material deliveries."

Guide wall lining edge of new river valley, image via Waterfront Toronto

A drone flyover video released last week by Waterfront Toronto provides an overview of the river valley excavation. With the site's current lack of public access, these aerial views offer the best angles of the growing valley, which averages at 100 metres in width, carving a kilometre-long path adjacent to Don Roadway and west of Cherry Street, terminating in a new naturalized river mouth.

The project also involves the creation of new shoreline at the mouth of the Keating Channel, already in the process of replacing the northernmost industrial docks in the Port Lands. The lakefilling process is nearly complete, a task which has involved approximately 230,000 cubic metres of locally sourced clean material being added around Essroc Quay to form the northwest corner of the new Villers Island.

Lake filling progress as of early May, image via Waterfront Toronto

Below, a map of the current work area offers some context into the work being carried out. The areas labeled 1 and 2 currently host construction of the New Cherry Street and foundation for the new Cherry Street North Bridge, while the existing bridge and street remain open. Area 3 is in use for soil stockpiling, while excavation of the new river valley is happening in areas 4 and 5. A mix of excavation and demolition is underway in areas 6, 7, and 8, tree removal in areas 6 and 7, and a mix of site prep and demolition in area 9.

Work area for the latest phase of construction, image via Waterfront Toronto

We’ll provide regular updates as this massive construction project progresses over the next five years. To learn more about the project, check out our database file, linked below, where you'll find additional renderings, or the associated forum thread with construction photos and finer details about what's coming to the Port Lands.

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