Doug Ford’s waterfront vision is (slowly) being revealed—now with 100 per cent more Australians
Apparently there is something resembling a plan behind Doug Ford’s glorious vision for Toronto’s waterfront. The rumour bouncing around city hall all week—courtesy of the Toronto Star’s Royson James—was that one of the companies sniffing around the Port Lands is the Australian firm Westfield, Inc. The company owns several malls in Australia (although we wouldn’t necessarily call any of them “jaw-dropping,” which is exactly how Ford described the re-envisioned waterfront earlier this week), and it appears to be itching to get in on the action in Toronto. The full reveal is said to come during an executive committee meeting on Tuesday, but more details are starting to emerge in the meantime.
The concept, which will be unveiled to city council’s executive committee on Tuesday, further raises concerns about foreign developers’ plans for the coveted waterfront real estate overtaking the public’s interest – replacing the already approved expanse of urban green space on the lakefront with retail. The privacy of the talks, derided this week as “backroom planning,” has also angered critics.
Drawings of the new designs have not been made public, but a copy of a “preliminary structure plan” prepared for the Toronto Port Lands Co. and obtained by The Globe and Mail shows a wider mouth for the Don River following the path of the existing Keating Channel, the stagnant waterway where the river now ends. A finger of parkland would also run south along the west side of the Don Roadway to provide flood control into the shipping channel for the river.
As a general rule, we’re wary of plans that include this much secrecy—good ideas tend not to need a lot of smoke-filled rooms to be accepted. The thought that councillors have been working on this project for months but never bothered to tell the public—much less consult it—is worrying. That said, the planners hired for the Port Lands work are genuine professionals (Sweeny Sterling Finlayson and Co. has certainly done a lot of good work—even if its website makes it hard to browse intelligently). We think it’s still possible for the waterfront to avert disaster, but so far Ford hasn’t done a great job of putting the public at ease.