Is the city about to junk the Waterfront Toronto process in exchange for a huge Ferris wheel?

Is the city about to junk the Waterfront Toronto process in exchange for a huge Ferris wheel?

The temporary, not-world’s-largest Ferris wheel at the CNE (Image: Jae Yang in the Flickr pool) 

The Iron Rule of Toronto politics seems to be that no grand plan survives the city’s incredible ability to choke somewhere down the line. The Iron Rule was reinforced last Friday afternoon when news broke that city staff will be recommending that Toronto pull a large parcel of land out of the Waterfront Toronto process. The 1,000 acres in question are in the old Port Lands; apparently the mayor and his brother are getting fed up with the expense and slow pace of the Waterfront process.

According to the Toronto Star:

The city’s major concern, as expressed by city manager Joe Pennachetti, is with the flood protection plan council endorsed in 2010.

Development on the land cannot proceed without a flood protection strategy.

The current plan is estimated at $634 million, but no funding has yet been committed to it, Pennachetti notes. He also argues the plan would “have the effect of limiting development potential” by separating the land into three parcels.

Pennachetti’s proposal suggests that the city “explore private sector and other options” for flood protection.

Meanwhile, the Globe (which, unlike the Star, can actually get calls returned from Rob and Doug Ford) says that Doug Ford has big plans for the Port Lands, including malls, hotels “and possibly the world’s largest Ferris wheel.” At first blush, this sounds an awful lot like Ontario Place: an attraction that’s going to be unused for six months of the year. We’re particularly confused by Doug Ford’s assertion that “we’ve got to get this city booming.” Has he somehow missed out on the headlines about Toronto’s real estate market or the city’s placement on all sorts of international lists?

We can get over the Fords’ apparent disinterest in the city they’re leading, but there are also more substantial (read: financial) concerns about this move. If it’s not managed properly it has the real potential to be a big hit to city coffers, with property dumped on the market at fire-sale prices—exactly the problem that Waterfront Toronto was set up to prevent.

Toronto Port Lands Company – Revitalization Opportunities for the Port Lands []
City wants to seize port lands project [Toronto Star]
Ford office aiming to take over Port Lands development [Globe and Mail]