The Port Lands: The Next Frontier for Waterfront Renewal

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Over the past years, Toronto’s residents had to push back against several wrong-headed development proposals for their waterfront: Ferris wheels, mega-casinos, and jets. With these fights hopefully behind us, it’s time to re-focus on continuing the renewal of our waterfront. 

And an import part of that are the Port Lands as a future place to live, work and play.

Just the sheer size makes the Port Lands the greatest opportunity the city has to continue the momentum of waterfront revitalization: The area is twice the size of High Park with 350 hectares (800 acres). It’s an easy walk, cycle or transit ride to downtown; there are great sight lines and parklands. However, much of it could be inundated if the Don River should flood. So for years, development in the Port Lands has been stymied by sensible regulations that forbid development in the flood plain. 

This problem will hopefully be solved soon now that all levels of government have committed to flood-proofing and naturalizing the Don River mouth. The flood protection will open the way for Waterfront Toronto and the City to complete the revitalization of great new neighbourhoods and business districts in the Port Lands. Needless to say, the seven-year project is on top of Waterfront Toronto’s to-do list. 

Prior to the tri-government funding announcement for the $1.25 billion plan earlier this year, the Don Mouth naturalization received approval from the provincial Ministry of the Environment and Toronto City Council.

We know that the Don River mouth project and the revitalization is an important step, but only one piece of the puzzle as Toronto’s waterfront shows its transformational potential. Other important steps in recent years included the Pan Am Games Athletes’ Village and dynamic new developments in the West Don Lands, namely the Canary District and River City. Another crucial part is taking shape with the redevelopment of the East Bayfront.  The Corus Entertainment headquarters and the George Brown College waterfront campus will soon be joined by the mixed-use Daniel Waterfront complex that will include space for the arts and non-profits – to just name one project. Now we just need to stop the wrong-headed plans for a mega-club in the Port Lands...

And just as the Don River naturalization reignites waterfront renewal, it also acted as a catalyst for Waterfront for All. A number of highly effective and engaged waterfront organization are working to contribute community energy to continue the renewal of our waterfront – including the Port Lands.

We are working to bring together a forward-thinking coalition of community and interest groups with a goal of a clean, green, diverse, and vibrant waterfront extending right across the city. This includes building relationships with industry stakeholders, Waterfront Toronto, and the City to extend sustainable waterfront development from Long Branch to the Rouge River.

To this end, we are organizing Toronto’s first-ever Waterfront Summit on October 27 and 28. Please find out more here and RSVP for this important event. Let’s continue to protect and enhance a waterfront for all.