The Don of a New Waterfront


A few days ago I took the streetcar from Chinatown to Union station en route to visiting a friend. It was the first time I had traveled along the waterfront by streetcar in a while, and it gave me an opportunity to take in some of the work undertaken by Waterfront Toronto over the last few years.

With the Spadina wavedeck and HTO park complete and open, and two more wavedecks under construction and scheduled for completion this year,  there is a palpable sense of change on the waterfront. The process has had its hiccups – and no doubt there will be many more – but it is exciting to see some of the renderings that have been used so much in promotional material finally becoming a reality.

The above video – posted to YouTube by Waterfront Toronto – features a few more such renderings for another part of the waterfront: the Lower Donlands. Featuring excerpts from a tour of the area ostensibly hosted by architect Ken Greenberg, the near five-minute video describes the Lower Donlands’ past, present, and potential future.


  1. There was also an open house for the latest plans for the Lower Don Lands on Saturday. For me, the only cause for complaint is that it’ll be so long before all this is completed. The plans are great and are a major improvement both over what’s there today and over other newly-built areas of the city.

    In your post, I’m not sure why you wrote “ostensibly hosted”. It looks like the video is from the Jane’s Walk that Ken Greenberg did this year. I took last year’s walk and yes, he really did host it. He’s very knowledgeable about the area and the plans but also very approachable.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Matt. I agree about the timelines for completion, but I’ll be happy if it takes a long time so long as it is done well.

    I said “ostensibly” because I wasn’t actually on the walk, so I wasn’t sure if Ken Greenberg was leading the whole tour or just speaking to a part of it; it wasn’t meant to be a criticism of his approachability or his knowledge of the area. Thanks for the clarification, it looks like it would have been a good walk.

  3. Thanks, Ian. It was an interesting tour, though the current Port Lands may well qualify as the least walkable area featured on a Jane’s Walk.

    I tend to jump to the defence of Waterfront Toronto because co-ordinating waterfront planning in this city is an especially thankless task. (“Ostensibly” is just one of those words that sounds like something sinister is going on, so I’m glad I could report that wasn’t the case.) In my experience, their public updates are pleasantly free of PR stunts and “spin”, and they’re more genuinely open to feedback than many other agencies in the area. But no public participation process can reach everyone, so in part I’m eager to see things actually built because only at that point will some people start to pay attention.

  4. What really bugs me is that good projects like the new waterfront or Transit City take so long. Past bad projects like the building of the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Vally Parkway happened so much faster when one compare the timeframe with good projects.

  5. I agree with you, Matt: Waterfront Toronto definitely seems to be a leader in the tricky science of public involvement.

    W.K.: hopefully the extra time with projects like Transit City and Waterfront redevelopment means that the organizations overseeing these plans are putting more thought into the long-term implications of their projects, which might not have been the case in the more quickly completed projects you mention. But it’s definitely tough to have to wait decades to see these projects implemented.

  6. I think it’s great what Waterfront Toronto is doing to the city of Toronto. It’s about time that the lower east end of the city be revived and there is just so much land in that area that I have seen to be rotting away through time. I’m all for the project to build and renew the lower east end of Toronto!

  7. My name’s Sheri DeCarlo from Waterfront Toronto and we’ve had some exciting news about the Lower Don Lands project: President Clinton’s Climate Initiative has named this project as one of 16 founding projects of its Climate Positive Development Program.

    Everyone at Waterfront Toronto is thrilled with this news as it validates our approach to sustainable city building.

    You can read the entire news release at the following link:

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