For a project as large as the proposed naturalization of the mouth of the Don River and the accompanying redevelopment of the Port Lands, Mayor John Tory feels that taxpayers expect officials at all three levels of government to do their homework.
Reducing the spectre of cost overruns is a key factor in the due-diligence study on the next major phase of waterfront redevelopment, which was announced at a press conference yesterday featuring representatives from all three levels of government. The City will spend $5 million to finance the study, which will explore the extent of risky cost factors such as the amount of soil remediation required. Once the study is completed, the federal and provincial governments will set their funding levels for what has been dubbed “Waterfront 2.0.”
Currently estimated to cost $975 million, the project’s visual centrepieces will include parkland and Villiers Island, a new mixed-use community built on an island formed from a new, naturalized Don River mouth which will flow into the harbour north of Polson Street (see the gallery for renderings). Flood-control measures will be designed to protect residents and properties on 715 acres of land in a current flood plain stretching from the Port Lands to Leslieville from the after-effects of hurricane-strength storms. Federal Minister of Finance Joe Oliver views the project as a means to save money in the long run, citing the cost to Ottawa of covering flood relief efforts in Calgary in 2013.
Economic benefits of the redevelopment plan were touted throughout the press conference, especially the First Gulf/Unilever site at the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway. “Toronto’s success as a leading global city depends on its attractiveness to attract talent and investment from around Canada and around the world,” noted Mark Wilson, chair of Waterfront Toronto’s board of directors. “Revitalizing the Port Lands, enabling development of this area, will not only attract billions of dollars in investment, but it will cement our city’s reputation as one of the best places in the world today.”
With the due-diligence study scheduled to be finished by the end of this year, Tory hopes to see shovels in the ground by the projected 2017 start date. He wants to see work on the Don and the new waterfront areas completed, alongside his pet transit project SmartTrack (which would have a hub in the First Gulf/Unilever site) finished quickly. “I will be impatient as the mayor of Toronto, as the people of Toronto would expect me to be,” Tory said. “We need those things sooner than later.”