Sherbourne Common South Makes the Waterfront a Little Greener
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Sherbourne Common South Makes the Waterfront a Little Greener

Yet another chunk of Toronto’s waterfront has received a people-friendly overhaul.

Earlier this morning, Waterfront Toronto held a grand opening for Sherbourne Common South, the southern half of a new waterfront green-space at the foot of Sherbourne Street, which Torontoist readers helped name. The northern half of the park is still under construction, and is expected to be finished before winter.
At 3.75 acres, Sherbourne Common South is spacious. A grassy lawn at the centre of the site is large enough for a game of catch, while a promenade around the park’s perimeter enables visitors to survey the waterfront, and also to keep an eye on the work being performed by the enormous cranes involved in the construction of George Brown College’s new Waterfront Campus, which is being built on the lot directly to the west.
“One of our fears was that the park would be here and sitting lonely here for many years as the development filled out,” said Greg Smallenberg—of the urban design firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg—who acted as Sherbourne Common’s landscape architect. “But the development is moving along. To have a college next to a park is probably about the best thing that a park designer could imagine.”
In fact, as we spoke, a group of guys in soccer jerseys was already busy kicking a ball around on the lawn.
“These guys are maybe planted here,” said Smallenberg. “I don’t know.”
Smallenberg told us that the park was designed to exemplify what he called the “three icons” of the Canadian landscape: woods, green space, and water. The water aspect, he said, is exemplified by the park’s built-in water management system, which will absorb storm water through a filtration bed and then pour it into Lake Ontario.
Water is also a major feature of the park’s public face. Terraced fountains dribble around little stands of reedy-looking plants, while elsewhere jets of water spurt from the park’s concrete splashpad, which was designed to convert into a skating rink in winter. There’s also a small pavilion, which will house a café.
The park is part of a master plan for the stretch of waterfront land between Jarvis and Parliament Streets. Waterfront Toronto has been assiduously shepherding local, provincial, federal, and private dollars into the area, which they’ve dubbed East Bayfront. The development includes not only Sherbourne Common and the yet-to-be-completed George Brown campus, but also Sugar Beach, the new Corus Entertainment office building, and several other mixed-use developments, still in various stages of planning.
At the podium, this morning, Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray stressed the economic benefit of waterfront development in Toronto, alluding to the waterfront’s industrial past with a Florida-esque turn of phrase. “This is part of the platform for a new economy,” he said.
Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, who gets out to a lot of park openings, took the microphone to remind the assembled crowd that roughly $25 million of Sherbourne Common’s approximately $30 million price tag was borne by federal tax dollars.
Doug Dent, the winner of Torontoist’s name-the-park contest, was also there, as a guest of honor. As a former Beaches resident who now lives in Alberta, he’d had to time a vacation to coincide with the opening, in order to attend. (He’d come across our contest on a Toronto Waterfront mailing list to which he belongs.)
“Sherbourne Common just ran tripping off the tongue,” he said. It struck him as a democratic name, redolent of places “not controlled by barons or anybody else.”
The Common will instead be controlled by the City’s division of Parks, Forestry and Recreation.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.