2010 Hero: Waterfront Toronto
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2010 Hero: Waterfront Toronto

Illustration by Jeremy Kai/Torontoist.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

If someone were to attempt the task of mapping the exact locations of “good news” stories in Toronto over the course of the past year, the downtown waterfront would be an absolute forest of push-pins. So much positive stuff happened on our city’s watery edge in 2010 that it would be impossible to lionize individually every one of the various players involved. But at the centre of it all was Waterfront Toronto, the arms-length governmental corporation tasked with making sure public and private lakeshore development dollars go exactly where they’re needed. And so if we have to pick a single “hero” to credit for everything going on down there, it has to be them.
Last year we got around the whole who-to-credit problem by naming the very concept of “waterfront development” a hero, but Waterfront Toronto has, without a doubt, earned its own spot on the list in 2010.
This year’s achievements for the corporation included the grand openings of two of its projects. Both were public parks, and both were financed almost entirely with federal dollars. The first, Sugar Beach, at the foot of Jarvis Street, was an instant hit with locals looking to sun themselves on a sandy shore. Sure, the sand was imported from Ohio and the beach’s considerable height above the surface of the lake, not to mention its close proximity to the Redpath Sugar plant, preclude any possibility of swimming there for the foreseeable future. But public consensus seems to be that the place is very beautiful, conveniently located, and a damn sight better than the patch of asphalt that preceded it.
The other public area that opened this year under Waterfront Toronto’s guiding influence was Sherbourne Common South, the southern half of a spacious and environmentally friendly green space that, yes, our readers helped name. The two-acre park’s grassy fields and artificial stream will be all the more appreciated once George Brown College finishes building its new waterfront campus next door—yet another project that Waterfront Toronto helped nudge into existence.
This was also the year that Waterfront Toronto, in partnership with Infrastructure Ontario, began ramping up design and preparation for the redevelopment of the West Don Lands. The site will serve as the athletes’ village during Toronto’s Pan Am Games in 2015, after which it will become a mixed-income residential neighbourhood.
Waterfront Toronto is able to do what they do because of their governance structure: they were created jointly by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments, and are funded by all three. With this endowment, they oversee public projects (like the parks), but they also use their influence to develop broader strategic plans for large tracts of formerly industrial waterfront land, and then, on the basis of those plans, attract appropriate public and private investment. This is why, this year, Corus Entertainment moved into a glassy new lakeshore office building owned by the Toronto Port Lands Company, a City agency, and why, in coming years, private developers will be building entire new communities all throughout the area, on tracts of land both City-owned and not. The projects cited here are just examples; the full list of things underway is too long to get into. But another great thing about Waterfront Toronto is that their website is beautiful, and it has the details on a lot of what they’re doing.
Waterfront Toronto is an effective mechanism for attracting the type of outside investment into Toronto that so many of us would love to see more of. They do public-private partnerships the way they ought to be done, with a little something for everyone, including nice amenities for average schmoes like ourselves. For that they are heroic.