WDLC readies for Pan Am planning challenges

By Anthony Marcusa –

There is no excuse for Downtown residents not to be aware of what will descend in the West Don Lands in the summer of 2015 during the Pan-Am Games. At the same time, there will be no escaping broken promises by those groups in charge of creating lasting, thriving legacy in the area.

At the Feb. 28 meeting of the West Don Lands Committee (WDLC), members of the Toronto 2015 host organization introduced themselves to residents, looking to create a dialogue and working relationship four years out.

“We see ourselves as far more than a short-term tenant,” explained Alan Vansen, senior VP of operations. “We want to make sure the village is designed and developed to meet all requirements.”

Three major groups will plan and carry out the games, with Toronto 2015 working alongside Infrastructure Ontario and Waterfront Ontario. IO is the primary project manager, enabling work in the Athlete’s Village, creating the public facilities designed to support the masses of people. Waterfront Toronto will lead any land use planning, as well as West Don Land services. Toronto 2015 will handle temporary overlays, those parts that will be created solely for the event. One such piece will be a vast dining hall with seating for up to 5,000 people, offering roughly 30,000 meals a day, all from a temporary kitchen that will cost roughly $4.5 million.

Many residents of the city are likely not too familiar with the true undertaking of such an event. While not quite the scale of a Summer Olympiads, casual sports and culture fans should get hip to the fact that the Pan-Am Games are bigger than the Winter Olympics; Toronto is undertaking an event larger in scope than Vancouver 2010.

Vansen introduced the three parts of the Athlete’s Village, giving residents of the West Don Lands and neighboring communities a general idea of what to except. A residential zone will be created exclusively for athletes under the highest security. A second part, the so-called Plaza Zone, is where people can gather and interact; it is a non-accredited space, but requires a guest pass to access the festivities. Lastly there exists an operation zone, the least glamorous and most functional of the spaces.

“There is an important legacy component we want to make sure the area is thriving in the future,” said Vansen, echoing statements made to the WDLC by Waterfront Toronto in January. “Step One is to design the area for a post-2015 use; Step two is creating a temporary situation for the Games.”

The ‘legacy’ phrase continues to be thrown around, and residents are wary as to how much this means to the groups involved. “We said ‘legacy’ first, and the groups now are repeating it to calm us,” said Ole Calderone, resident of Percy Street. “They are trying to get us involved now so we can bring on board residents who are concerned about the Games”

“There was nothing presented that we already didn’t know-we are looker for firmer details at the moment, but it’s the two years leading up to the Games that are key,” added Calderone. “I don’t have a lot of hope at the moment, but I’m comforted that people will move into the area and create a larger, connected community.”

Those are not fans of sport or large festivals may wish to take a vacation during those two weeks in July. “The area will be infused with everything Pan-Am,” said Zenia Wadhwani, Lead of Community Outreach, referring to the corner of the city surrounding the Athlete’s Village. “We would like to do a lot of partnerships and collaborations within in the community with groups and businesses.”  These thoughts were echoed by Aaron GlynWilliams, External Partnerships Community.

Cynthia Wilkey hoped to involve communities right away. “The Distillery, St. Lawrence, and Corktown are the closest to the area and I think many of us want to feel particularly invested,” said the WDLC Chair. According to Toronto 2015, the time for individuals, businesses, and community organizations to get involved is now.