Heavy clouds of fog engulfed Toronto’s Downtown skyline on Wednesday evening as the newly restored Waterworks Building briefly opened its doors for an event featuring a discussion from a distinguished panel of professionals in the city building industry. Organized by MOD Developments Inc, the event was the first a series that will follow in the coming months, encouraging the exploration of pertinent issues that impact development in this City; to kick things off, Wednesday’s discussion was framed around the topic of creating complete communities.  

Westfacing view of the Waterworks Food Hall entrance from Brant Street, image by Matias Bessai

Hosted on the mezzanine level above the heritage building’s former mechanical shop that has been thoughtfully converted into a stunning market-style food hall (targeted for opening in the Spring of 2023), an audience of about 50 industry professionals (with a strong representation from the finance side) were seated in front of the panel. The discussion mediator was Gary Switzer, CEO of MOD Developments, who co-hosted the event with MOD Developments President, Noorez Lalani.

Panel and hosts, (from left to right) Don Schmitt, Salima Rawji, Gary Switzer, Gregg Lintern, Eileen PK Costello, Noorez Lalani, image by Arthur Mola

Switzer began the discussion by introducing the panel, a group of individuals with whom he has had long-standing professional relationships, commenting jovially that, in his mind they were the ‘superstars of city building’. The four panelists (left to to right above) included Don Schmitt, Principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects, Salima Rawji, Senior Vice President of Development at CreateTO, (Gary Switzer), Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner and Director of the City of Toronto’s Planning Division, Eileen PK Costello, Partner at Aird & Berlis Municipal & Land Use Planning Group, (Noorez Lalani). 

Mediator Gary Switzer introduces panel to audience, image by Arthur Mola

The location proved to be particularly fitting for the event, as the discussion began with an impromptu analysis of the Waterworks revitalization project as a framework for approaching development from a community-oriented perspective. Schmitt, whose firm was responsible for the architecture of the project, highlighted some of the standout features of the revitalization that represent the pillars of community building, referencing heritage conservation, mixed uses like the upcoming food hall and the soon-to-open YMCA, an affordable housing component, a youth shelter, and thoughtfully designed condos. 

Panel in conversation, (from left to right) Gary Switzer, Eileen PK Costello, Gregg Lintern, Salima Rawji, Don Schmitt, image by Arthur Mola

The remainder of the 45 minute discussion considered the topic of complete communities from different perspectives in the industry, demonstrating the depth of knowledge shared between the panelists from different professional backgrounds. Points of interest centred around the differences between community building in the context of a multi-hectare master-planned project in comparison to in the relatively small development sites of the dense downtown core, and the challenges of working within the strictures of Toronto’s development policies. 

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