50 Reasons To Love Toronto: No. 13, Sherbourne Common is changing the waterfront

50 Reasons To Love Toronto: No. 13, Sherbourne Common is changing the waterfront

No. 13, We make sculptures of sewage plants
(Image: Hudson Hayden) 

For years, Toronto’s eastern waterfront has been a bit like Amy Winehouse—full of potential but deeply troubled and rife with toxins. Sherbourne Common, which will open this summer at the foot of Lower Sherbourne Street, is a promising sign that we can finally stop complaining and start enjoying the waterfront. The new public space is still surrounded by the grim relics of the city’s industrial past—factories, parking lots, the Gardiner—but things are changing fast. Sherbourne Common is only the first development in a community that will replace the grit with office towers, apartment buildings and a third George Brown campus. Designed by Vancouver architecture firm PFS, the park has a babbling brook, wild grasses and maple, oak and beech trees. It’s also functional. Underneath the verdant plains (and the zinc-clad pavilion that looks like it crashed down from outer space) are the neighbourhood’s stormwater collection and treatment facilities, which purify pollutant-filled waste water before sending it back into Lake Ontario. Water is dramatically pumped nine metres into the air by three concrete fountains, falls into the park’s brook, and runs under a series of bridges and into a marsh-like biofilter before flowing into the lake. It’s an ingenious blend of utility and beauty, and an inspiration for the rest of the city’s rough edges.