New designs for the Port Lands include less parkland on Cousins Quay to allow space for ships to dock.
The latest plans for Toronto's Port Lands have been unveiled, and they include a little less parkland and bit more industrial port.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, officials from Waterfront Toronto and the city said they believe they've finally struck a balance between the existing industrial uses of the 1,000-acre harbour site and the grand vision for a naturalized mixed-use neighbourhood.
"We're very, very happy with the results. We feel we now have an even better plan," said John Campbell, president and CEO of Waterfront Toronto.
Since then however Waterfront Toronto, the tri-governmental organization responsible for developing Toronto's lakefront, has been forced to tweak its designs due to objections from the Port Lands' existing industrial tenants that were voiced even before Councillor Ford's intervention.
The Lafarge cement plant sits on land that Waterfront Toronto plans to overhaul, and surrounding property is home to concrete and salt storage facilities. Redpath Sugar in particular complained that designs for a park jutting out into the harbour from Cousins Quay would leave no place to moor its ships.
As part of the new designs revealed on Wednesday, that park has now been trimmed back to allow the dock wall to remain. The result a net loss of nearly four hectares of parkland, bringing the total down to 10.4 hectares.
Waterfront Toronto's chief operating officer David Kusturin said that the new plans acknowledge the district will remain a functional shipping centre, even as the agency seeks to bring in 10,700 residential units and over 7.5 million square feet of retail and office space over the course of the 30-year project.
"We don't expect the port to disappear anytime soon," Kusturin said. "In fact the plans assume that it will be there for the foreseeable future, as will some very critical industrial uses required for the city to operate."
Area councillor Paula Fletcher agrees the new plans achieve an appropriate equilibrium between different uses of the Port Lands. Although there is less parkland, she lauds architect Michael Van Valkenburgh's decision to consolidate it next to the river. A previous incarnation of the plan put green space at the end of a quay instead.
"We've arrived at a very realistic place," Fletcher said. "We have restored the magic in the lower Don Lands design."
Other changes in the revamped designs include a schedule that would phase-in the development over four stages, instead of tackling the whole site at once.
The naturalization of the mouth of the Don River, which many nearby residents have cited as a key feature of the development, won't be completed until the final stage. When that will be depends largely on whether Lafarge cement plant relocates any time soon. The company owns part of the land that Waterfront Toronto envisions as a riverside park, and the government agency has no intention to buy them out.
"We're making an assumption that at some point in time the land is valuable enough that before La Farge invests a lot more capital in their plant, they decide to [sell the land to a developer and] move somewhere else," Campbell said.
Several more pieces will have to fall into place for the Port Lands revitalization to become a reality. Developers see planned LRT and bus rapid transit lines as a key condition for building, and with the city and province still deliberating about how to fund transit, there are no guarantees as to when rail and bus routes will materialize.
There is also the significant matter of how to pay for the project. It will cost roughly $447 to build transit and infrastructure for the first development phase alone. Key will be meeting the $65-million pricetag for the construction of a floodplain to divert storm water, without which no development can proceed.
Deputy city manger John Livey says that much of the money could be raised through land sales, city-wide development charges and a new, site-specific charge on developers building on the Port Lands.
A funding plan will be part of a broader Port Lands report that will go to Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee in September. Council is expected to consider it at its October meeting, and if approved it would go to the province for an environmental assessment, which is expected to take up to 18 months.