Waterfront TO chief pans jets on Island airport

Dennis Hanagan —

Waterfront Toronto President John Campbell hit the right nerve when he told a Downtown audience in that the waterfront shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” by any one element.

That one element Campbell referred to was the Island airport and a proposal to lengthen its runways 200 metres at both ends and add jets.

Waterfront Toronto Pres.  John Campbell: “We don’t want any one element on the waterfront to overwhelm the balance of it."

Waterfront Toronto Pres. John Campbell:
“We don’t want any one element on the waterfront to overwhelm the balance of it.”

Campbell updated a crowd of a few hundred at the Toronto Reference Library about the state of the city’s harbour and how Waterfront Toronto is managing its revitalization.

“The corporation’s view on this (the airport) is that we are very concerned about the scale of (it). For us it’s not necessarily about the technology. It’s really how big should the airport be,” Campbell said.

The jets and runway proposal from Porter Airlines is subject to an Environmental Assessment to determine how it would affect Toronto’s waterfront.

“We don’t want any one element on the waterfront to overwhelm the balance of it. It really should be a place for residential and parks and institutional and employment and cultural and transportation,” said Campbell.

He noted the airport is “a very valuable” regional business hub at its current size. “What we want to do is make sure that the scope of the (Environmental Assessment) is big enough…not just about putting 200 metres of dirt in the water.”

Campbell was drowned out by applause when he questioned the effect an expanded airport would have on the waterfront. He suggested, however, WT is in a wait-and-see mode.

“It (the airport) is a very important issue and we’re charged with it, but we’re not driven by ideology. Let’s get the facts. Let’s figure out how big it should be and go from there.”

Campbell also talked about the Gardiner Expressway’s east end and what to do with it. Last spring an Environmental Assessment recommended taking it down from Jarvis to the Don Valley Parkway.

That involved about a 6- to 7-minute incremental delay for commuters coming from the northeast, said Campbell. He added city council wants that delay mitigated.

A “hyrbrid” solution to keep the Gardiner from Jarvis to Cherry and have a connection from Cherry to the DVP is expected to reach council in May or June.

In the meantime, WT has other matters to consider. “Right now our crosshairs are on flood protection. We’ve got to get that resolved,” said Campbell.

Using slides, he showed how communities on the Don River’s east side would be endangered if another Hurricane Hazel struck. He said a solution is to give the river 3 outlets— the Keating Channel, an extended man-made route to the lake through a naturalized setting and a “greenway” that would flood into the shipping channel.

An EA for the project was approved by the province in January “after a lot of work by the city, by the (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) and by ourselves,” said Campbell. “This is a very complicated project.”

He said another EA with input from the city, TTC and WT was done to bring public transit to the harbour’s eastside. “(It’s) very important for commercial development to be able to have a direct connection to Union Station,” said Campbell.

“Unfortunately, it’s very expensive.” It’s about $525 million with the inclusion of rolling stock, a tunnel, a station and the re-doing of Queens Quay E. to Parliament St. Campbell said another way has to be found to make the project more cost-effective.

He called the north-south connections to the waterfront “pretty grim” in terms of appearance. WT wants to enhance those connections perhaps with public art “to bring people down to make it a pleasant experience.”

Campbell spoke about a new linear park for the bottom of Yonge St. “We’ve bought property from the Toronto Star. What we’re doing is turning that square parking lot into a rectangular piece by swapping some land with Pier 27 … to give us a linear piece that goes down to the water.”