TORONTO – With its prime lakeside location, natural green spaces, and proximity to the Gardiner Expressway, Toronto’s “Port Lands” area has long been considered one of the city’s most high-potential areas for real estate development.
However, there’s a catch – the Port Lands’ valuable cache of property lies along the Keating Channel, which currently constitutes the only channel via which the Don River may empty into Lake Ontario. Because there is no properly-engineered floodplain along the channel, the Port Lands has been susceptible to flooding since it was developed.
In an effort to bring modern development to the area, Waterfront Toronto has developed an ambitious plan to flood-proof the Port Lands, by developing an alternate (floodplain-equipped) route through which the Don River may flow to the lake.
Thanks to a recently-announced funding commitment of $32.5 million from the federal government, and $16.3 million from the provincial government (the latter of which is being matched by the City of Toronto), that plan is finally ready to enter its first stages of implementation.
“Since coming to office, [Mayor John Tory has been focused on getting this project going,” explained Tory’s press secretary, Amanda Galbraith, adding that Tory himself had submitted the request for the project’s first round of funding.
“This means we will finally begin the flood protection work necessary for development,” Galbraith added.
The city’s vision for a revitalized Port Lands includes not just housing, but complete communities, as well as an influx of newly-created jobs and workspaces.
Phase 1: Expanding Essroc Quay
Located along the south short of Keating Channel where it empties out into Lake Ontario, Essroc Quay will be the worksite for the Port Lands revitalization’s shovel-ready first phase. Beginning in 2017, the quay will be “lake-filled” in order to create new landmass for development, while stabilizing the shoreline (via replacement of an aged and unreliable dockwall).
Adding land-mass to Essroc Quay also sets the stage for Waterfront Toronto’s planned future realignment of Cherry Street, which will involve replacing the current Cherry Street Bridge with a higher one situated slightly to the west.
While funding has only so far been committed to the Essroc Quay portion of the project, this first phase is just one of a package of projects that will be required to make the Port Lands development-ready. As recently as 2014, Waterfront Toronto estimated that implementing the full project will take eight to 10 years, and accrue an estimated total cost of about $975 million.
Which project will be tackled second, however, is a decision that the provincial and federal governments are leaving with the city.
“It’s really up to local governments to prioritize and decide where they want to put their funds. It’s not up to us to say,” explained Kate Monfette, a spokesperson for Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi.
“We can’t commit to funding anything else in phase two at this moment.”