A Flashy New Waterfront is Headed Our Way
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A Flashy New Waterfront is Headed Our Way

Six years in the making, Waterfront Toronto announces the beginning of construction on Queens Quay.

It’s been six years since a design competition selected West 8+ DTAH’s winning vision for Queens Quay and the East Bayfront between Spadina Avenue and Parliament Street, and over three since Waterfront Toronto confidently declared that construction on the project would begin in 2010. Today, in a small media gathering, Waterfront Toronto announced the definitive start of the three-stage revitalization process; construction is expected to wrap by the end of 2014.

So, why the delay?

“The construction plan has taken a while to work out,” admits John Campbell, President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto, noting a prolonged environmental assessment approval process and negotiations surrounding relocation of existing businesses and residences along the strip. However, Campbell is adamant about the need for revitalization to happen.

“In every category you look at, it doesn’t measure up,” he says of Queens Quay’s current state. “I think what we want to do is [establish] a great, beautiful, world-class street that becomes the marquee for Toronto’s waterfront.”

The undertaking isn’t a small one. The construction area extends 1.5 kilometres from Yo-Yo Ma Lane to Bay Street, and involves widening and extending sidewalks into luxe granite promenades, in addition to demolishing, realigning, and rebuilding the TTC corridor with new streetcar track beds and rails, as well as putting in new turning lanes, lay-bys, and updating the street’s traffic signal phasing. Considering the project’s scale, it’s little wonder that the construction staging plan is, according to Waterfront Toronto Vice President of Planning and Design Christopher Glaisek, on its 11th iteration. (Steve Munro has a nice summary of the new timeline on his blog.)

Stage One of construction—which Torontonians will contend with over the next year or so—will involve the installation of new telephone cabling between Rees and York Streets, the construction of new storm sewers in that same stretch, and also see Toronto Hydro constructing new splicing chambers between Yo-Yo Ma Lane and Yonge Street. (This, of course, will likely lead to some hellish traffic situations. Advance notice of rerouting and detours will be provided weekly via Waterfront Toronto’s website.)

“We hope that people will get the word that there’s work going on on Queens Quay, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come down and experience it,” says Glaisek of the construction-induced obstacle course to come.

Seems that old adage about pain and beauty applies to our waterfront as well. But if this project pans out, it just might be worth it.

Waterfront Toronto will be hosting a public meeting at the Harbourfront Centre on June 6 from 7 to 9 p.m., and an open house at 20 Bay Street on June 9 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m., with more information on the project.