By Eric Morse –
“We don’t want Ferris wheels, we don’t want monorails, we don’t want strip malls, and we don’t want casinos!” Ward 30 councillor Paula Fletcher told a relatively sedate but supportive crowd of about 300 people at the Metro Convention Centre, in response to a suggestion in one of the national newspapers that the three-month delay in submitting an accelerated development plan to council was the result of lobbying by casino interests. Not so, said spokesmen for Waterfront Toronto.
Waterfront Toronto president John Campbell told the gathering that the submission previously expected to go to council in July will now go forward in October. Part of the extra time will be used to refine a business plan, and an extra public meeting will be added.
It takes an effort to grasp how immense the entire port lands area between the harbour and the Leslie St. Spit really is. Waterfront Toronto’s approach to the area as a whole emphasizes phased development.
The May 24 session concentrated on the agency’s planning and phased approach to the revitalization and flood control planning for the comparatively small area of the Don Mouth itself, around the Lafarge Cement Plant and Polson and Cousins quays. The latest variation presented to the gathering is called 4WS Realigned, which differs from its predecessor 4WS Preferred in that it makes the proposed mouth of the Don more rectilinear, slightly increases developable space, slightly decreases green space, and provides a flood path for the river straight through to Cherry Beach. It also allows development in five phases, decreases costs, and maintains industrial access to the Lafarge cement plant slip for the life of the plant.
The ability to generate front-end revenue from developers’ fees on the two quays, while reducing the need for front-end infrastructure investment was also emphasized.
Some of the advantages cited were among the issues raised by the facilitated groups at tables throughout the room. “Why keep the cement plant at all?” was popular in some circles, but one major issue seemed to be the lack of profile given to public transit planning, with some calling for LRT connections from the outset.
Little play was given at the meeting to the fact that a section of streetcar line is about to be built on Cherry St. between the Distillery District and West Don Lands (King St. E), though plans are not yet in place to link it into the Port Lands and Queen’s Quay, mainly due to funding issues. For the time being it remains a stub in terms of service to the Port Lands area. The Port Lands will likely see some form of combined streetcar and bus service as they open up.
The loss of four hectares of green space and a similar increase in development space was also a prominent topic. Some participants expressed concern that the increase in development space would not mean a decrease in density of what was eventually built. Also noted was the sacrifice of large park space in favour of parkettes scattered among the developments.
Island resident Barry Lipton memorably summed up the general response: “4WS Realigned looks like it was drawn up by an accountant and a British Land Ordnance surveyor from the 19th century.” While his comments got a round of applause, it was one of the few strong opinions expressed from the floor..
One participant commented that the sense of outrage perceptible at earlier meetings was largely missing from this one—the turnout was considerably lower as well. There seemed to be more acceptance that, if necessarily vague in many aspects, the plans being presented remain firmly linked to the longer-term planning work that was done before acceleration kicked in last September. That in turn may be because the sense of existential threat posed by large transformative proposals like Ferris wheels, shopping malls, and casinos was also no longer in evidence.
West Don Lands committee chair Cindy Wilkie told The Bulletin, “I think it’s clear from the meeting that we’ve made some progress but there’s a long way to go. I hear them saying that they’re willing to continue to work on things like naturalization and green space planning, and that’s critically important. The public is really, really interested in seeing that we come out of this with a river that is still an iconic value.”
Waterfront Toronto will announce the date of the next public consultation in the course of the summer.