Revitalization

Mixed-Use Toronto Waterfront Coming Together

By Ben Bull
Published March 13, 2008

The Star reports today (thanks to Jason Leach for bringing this to my attention!) that George Brown college in Toronto is looking at leasing some space along the waterfront.

If this happens - and I hope it does - it will be an important step in the ongoing development of this blighted landscape.

To date the Toronto waterfront has a number of development proposals on the go: There's the Jarvis Slip [PDF link], the Pier27 condo at the foot of Yonge, and the Corus entertainment complex at the bottom of Jarvis.

More recently, plans have been approved for a low-rise condo development and beachfront promenade between Yonge and Cherry.

But now, with the prospect of college students strolling around by the lake, it feels like the pieces are really starting to fit together.

I have always found the Toronto waterfront to be an interesting exercise in urban planning. As an aspiring urbanist - an amateur urbanist, I think I should be called - I am forever seeking out ways to improve our urban surroundings. Of particular interest to me is understanding what makes a good neighbourhood.

I recall asking an Urban Planner at a party some time ago, what the number one rule of urban planning is. She replied, without hesitation, "Density."

But as you walk west from the foot of York, along Queens Quay towards Bathurst, you quickly realize that density is not everything. Huge condo towers sprout from every nook but cast your eyes back to ground level and you ask yourself one question: where are all the people?

The key, of course, is multi-functions. As Jane Jacobs proclaimed in her famous book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, "The district must serve more than one primary function."

The additional of the George Brown Health Care campus would give us that. With these components in place, you could easily envision a vibrant boulevard (reducing the Lakeshore to one lane with extended streetcar transit wouldn't hurt either) with students and residents and shoppers and workers strolling around, mingling on their way to work, school, bed - wherever.

It's what a neighbourhood should be. It's what I hope Toronto's Lakeshore will be.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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