Much of the designated waterfront area includes prime downtown Toronto locations in West Don Lands, East Bayfront and the Port Lands, nearly three-quarters of which are owned by the City of Toronto. As the rest of the city built out, these areas remained largely undeveloped for a variety of reasons, including their industrial past.
Waterfront Toronto’s mandate involves renewing these areas in a manner that better positions the Toronto region for the intense urban competition and realities of the 21st century. This includes providing for the cultural and recreational needs of an ever-growing city and revitalizing these strategic properties in a manner that enhances the economic potential of the region, a key element of which is leadership in showcasing sustainable communities, as outlined in Waterfront Toronto’s commitment to social responsibility and sustainability.
Already, Toronto’s new waterfront offers the quiet joy of strolling along wetlands, picturesque boardwalks and promenades and the excitement of dragon boat races, public concerts, festivals and marketplaces. In addition to vibrant new public squares and a network of beautiful parks and natural heritage areas, Toronto waterfront renewal represents a tremendous economic development opportunity in the areas of employment, assessment revenues, new construction, tourism, cultural and commercial development.
The initial seed money of $1.5 billion from the federal, provincial and municipal governments has created significant public infrastructure investments (such as environmental remediation, roads, public transit and parks), as well as more than $2.5 billion in new development. To 2013, the project has also generated $3.2 billion in economic output for the Canadian economy and $622 million in revenues for the three levels of government.
Over the 25 to 30 year life of the waterfront renewal project, it is anticipated that approximately 5 million square feet of commercial development and 30,000 residential units, including affordable housing, will be built in the West Don Lands, East Bayfront and Lower Don Lands neighbourhoods, and much more across the wider designated waterfront area. New cultural facilities, parks, public space, transit as well as a full range of community services and amenities will support the new communities as well as the city at large. To date it is estimated that waterfront renewal has generated 16,200 full-time years of employment and, upon buildout, that it will generate enough space to accommodate as many as 40,000 permanent jobs. Waterfront renewal is also expected to generate a significant annual increase in visitors as well as an increase in TTC ridership.
In its pivotal role in enhancing the economic, social, cultural and recreational life of the Greater Toronto region, Toronto’s waterfront renewal is creating a blueprint for growing focused, sustainable and inspiring cities in Canada. It is a demonstration of brownfields legislation in action, a showcase of innovative approaches and technologies and one of Toronto’s greatest opportunities to enhance and celebrate civic pride.