Waterfront Toronto’s announcement on Friday of a new, privately funded “Waterfront Innovation Centre” development in East Bayfront near Sugar Beach was a big and buzzy to-do. It’s hard to resist Menkes Development’s renderings of the shiny, glassy, 350,000-square-foot proposed edifice (even if, as design critic Lloyd Alter pointed out, chamfered flying corners are pretty much the new black). Promises that the space, designed by Sweeny & Co Architects, would attract more than 2,000 jobs—along with Mayor John Tory’s breathy proclamation of the centre as a “job-creating jewel”—perked ears and turned heads. It also left us scratching ours. What exactly is an innovation centre, anyway? A new startup incubator, a la MaRS? A hot-desk meeting hub for the tech sector? A synergy factory?
Try an office building.
“It is targeted at existing companies from a broad range of industries that wish to be situated in a prime new downtown neighbourhood like East Bayfront, with its ultra-high-speed broadband infrastructure,” says Nisa Ahsan, a spokesperson for Menkes Development. “We anticipate tenants will come from the creative arts, film and television, digital media, R&D, and technology sectors.”
The job creation component, according to Ahsan, is less a guarantee than a prediction. “It is anticipated that some of the tenants moving to this location will be companies that are growing and who are looking to expand their operations and hire new employees.” The building’s construction will, however, create jobs in that sector.