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Reclaiming Toronto’s Waterfront

Contest produces new visions for the city's lakeshore lands.

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Scene: Toronto in the year 2114. Most of the Gardiner Expressway has been removed, leaving behind a few stumps. The neighbouring former rail corridor has been transformed into an extensive park system that’s the perfect place for an afternoon stroll—unless you prefer a walk by the water, in which case you could take a turn along one of the seven channels of water stretching north from Lake Ontario to its former shoreline along Front Street.

This vision of the city a century from now is inspired by Inundation, one of the winners of the Urban Land Institute Toronto’s inaugural Urban Ideas Competition. The victors were announced Wednesday night during a ceremony at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The contest, run by the land-use think tank’s Young Leaders Group Initiative, invited competitors to submit designs for the reclaiming of Toronto’s waterfront—and join, as juror and former City of Toronto chief planner Paul Bedford joked, a discussion that’s been ongoing since York’s founding in 1793. The competition was split into two streams, one focusing on an overall vision for revamping the lakeshore lands between Bathurst and Cherry streets, and the other on a site-specific plan to remake the Gardiner ramps at Bay and York streets. Submissions came from as far away as Seoul and Vancouver.

Inundation captured the “Overall Vision” award, while RevAMP won the “Site Specific” plan. Jurors admitted they were immediately drawn to the idea of the York Street loop ramp being transformed into a circular wooden park evocative of the WaveDecks along Queens Quay. The “People’s Choice” prize, voted for via Facebook, went to Green Deck City, which reimagines the waterfront as a series of elevated decks.

Other designs presented fanciful schemes ranging from a TTC gondola service near the Gardiner to a giant Ferris wheel. Thirteen of the submissions are currently displayed in the lobbies of the office towers at the Eaton Centre—half at 1 Dundas Street West, the remainder at 250 Yonge.

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