Queens Quay Streetcars Going East

This TTC image shows the proposed streetcar route on Queens Quay East, and the lake fill expanding green space at the Yonge Street slip.

Major changes are planned to continue streetcars along Queens Quay east of Yonge Street all the way to the Port Lands. YQNA, a stakeholder in the planning process, was recently invited to participate in a virtual meeting hosted by City Planning, Waterfront Toronto and TTC staff. A presentation of the proposed plans was followed by a Q&A. YQNA will announce an information session for the wider public to follow later this year. 

Expecting a large population growth in the Waterfront area, City Council approved the upgrading of the tunnel from Union Station to Queens Quay last year. The plans will also include a larger platform at Union Station, enhancement of the Queens Quay station, and a new tunnel heading east under Queens Quay. TTC is in charge of the underground work and has awarded a design contract to Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions.

The surface tracks on Queens Quay East will be designed by the City and Waterfront Toronto. The previous 2010 Environmental Assessment (EA) study dealt with a shorter streetcar line ending at Parliament Street. The EA must now be updated for a longer transit service ending at Cherry Street.

A key issue in this multi-year construction project is the location of the tunnel portal. In 2010, it was recommended to bring the line to the surface around Freeland Street. A large sewer outfall at the foot of Yonge Street has since been identified, and to run the tunnel beneath it would add many millions of dollars. The cheaper solution would be to build a shorter tunnel with the portal just west of Yonge Street.

The streetcar track and the proposed portal would be located on the south side of Queens Quay, which would block the access driveways to the ferry docks and the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, and also remove the existing taxi and bus parking areas. The suggested solution is to fill in part of the Yonge Street Slip and create a new link to the ferry laneway and the hotel driveway. The new landfill could also hold the taxis and some tour buses (see illustration).

The new streetscape would build on the design of Queens Quay West, with improvements to the cycle path and the tree planting beds. Wave decks or other features may be added to the slips along the way at Jarvis and Parliament, for example. 

Key concerns about the portal location and design were raised by YQNA and others, particularly representatives of 10 Queens Quay West, who questioned their access to drop-off and theparking garage in their buildings. YQNA felt that the portal would create a dead zone on the street between Bay and Yonge, as well as adding another unsightly feature to Queens Quay like the portal between York and Bay streets.

Several people asked about co-ordination with other work in the area, such as the future redevelopment of 11 Bay (the Westin conference centre), the Toronto Star site and the Ferry Docks.

Other questions showed worries about closing the streetcar and bus service and road closures during a lengthy construction period that is so far unknown. TTC did not pinpoint the method of building the tunnel, but an open cut is most likely and would be most disruptive.

The line along QQE could be built first, along with the portal and an east-west tunnel. That would enable through service on Queens Quay while the rest of the tunnel to Union is completed. 

So far there is only partial funding for this phase of the project. Land owners along the route such as Redpath Sugar still have to be consulted. Staff are looking at a report to Council at the end of 2020 to seek approval of the design so far, and further funding to 100% design, which would take 12 to 18 months. Actual construction of the on-street section could take 3 years, and the underground works perhaps longer. 

Conclusion: we are a long way from streetcar service on Queens Quay East.

News from YQNA

A north view of the proposed condo towers at Lower Simcoe and Harbour Street, designed by Wallman Architects for the developer Diamondcorp. 

The lake is still a magnet that draws people from the GTA, even if COVID-19 has cut back on most public events and attractions. Tour boats are busy again, and just sitting in a Waterfront park or sauntering on the boardwalks is a treat during hot summer weather. Through it all, YQNA continues to keep an eye on new developments. Our July Zoom meeting had over 100 participants (see the Draft Minutes), and here are some issues we discussed.

✔  Guest speakers Steve Diamond and Lauri Payne spoke about the proposed redevelopment of the parking garage at 200 Queens Quay W at Lower Simcoe (actually facing Harbour Street). The site was sold by the federal crown corporation Canada Lands, allowing for two towers of 45 and 55 storeys, to Diamondcorp and Lifetime Developments. Mr. Diamond presented the plans by Wallman Architects for towers that are 41 and 71 storeys. He justified the significant added density by pointing to the similar height of other buildings in the area. The developers claimed that the height would minimize impacts on the neighbourhood in regard to parks and flight paths, which was received with some scepticism. The current unsightly garage that fills the entire site would be replaced by two buildings with increased setbacks from the property line, which would allow for ample sidewalks, parking and lanes for biking, and a small parkette on Lower Simcoe Street. Requests for connecting this building to the PATH system would be considered, said Diamond.

The Waterfront BIA is concerned about the loss of this large parking facility on the Waterfront. The new project offers 441 parking spots, with half of them commercial spaces. The towers — if built in 3-4 years as proposed — would have 1482 condos, including 10% affordable units. The main concern for the neighbouring Waterclub condo residents is crowding. The 71-storey tower would be overwhelmingly tall and block the views from many condos. An additional 3,000 residents would greatly increase traffic and services, and make the car access to Queens Quay a real bottleneck because it leads to a mere two-lane street. Mr. Diamond listened to residents and intends to keep meeting as the project evolves.

Work on Love Park at Queens Quay and York St. will begin in November, first by cleaning up the site by removing the bents (concrete pillars), then by cutting down most of the mature trees. Only five will remain, and 38 new trees will be planted. The heart-shaped pond will be home to an old Catalpa tree, and above it will be an illuminated pink heart. To the delight of dog owners: the dog corner will be enclosed and become an off-leash area.

A large military Hercules 4-engined turboprop passed very low by the Harbourfront high-rises on July 8 in an extremely close and hazardous maneuver. It was completely unprecedented, and many residents and passers-by wrote to YQNA that they expected a crash. A formal YQNA request to the commander of the Canadian Forces Base Trenton for an explanation has so far met with “it’s business as usual”. The investigation continues.

The prospect of e-scooters on our already busy sidewalks has been postponed until next year, pending reports from cities that have experience with health and uncertain insurance related to injuries. The Waterfront is largely pedestrian and may not be suitable for motorized scooters.

Dig We Must

Waterfront Toronto’s image of the future park on Queens Quay at Rees St.

Enwave’s pipe system, which delivers cold water from Lake Ontario to cool Toronto’s high-rises, is in need of repair. The 112-year-old Cross Harbour Tunnel that runs from Muggs Island to the John St. Pumping Station will be reinforced, starting in August and finished in June next year. An important part of this project happens in our neighourhood under the City-owned parking lot at Rees Street and Queens Quay. 

Work will take place in a hoarded construction site, from 7 am to 7 pm during the week and during extended hours as needed, says Mae Lee, public consultant for the City. Vehicle beepers will be removed and replaced with white noise technology, and overnight work will be restricted to below ground to minimize noise. Enwave’s access to the site will be from Lake Shore Boulevard. During construction, the parking lot will shrink by 40%, and Queens Quay will apparently not be affected. 

The much larger project of constructing a new shaft for the Central Waterfront Wet Weather Flow System will eventually fit underground on the same site, but that won’t hinder the beautiful new park from being built, designed by Waterfront Toronto.

YQNA Meets in Cyberspace

Angelo Bertolas chairs the meeting from his home office.

YQNA answered an urgent need to meet with Waterfront residents in a Zoom meeting on May 12 (see the draft minutes here). Co-chairs Angelo Bertolas and Carolyn Johnson managed a packed agenda and large crowd in our first cyberspace adventure. No need to remind anybody how much our lives have changed with the pandemic. A number of speakers told us about the restraints we face this summer, with the Waterfront reduced to a nature retreat from the usual cultural centre with millions of visitors. This will last until we recover. Still City Councillor Joe Cressy was concerned about too many people flocking here too close together. Both he and MPP Chris Glover and MP Adam Vaughan worried about people who are affected by the weakened economy. They hope to move the homeless from tents along the Waterfront into permanent housing with government help. They pointed out other needs for government funding for food and income security, small businesses, childcare centres, affordable housing, TTC, the airline industry and so many more.

Harbourfront Centre has cancelled all events. Tour boats might resume sailing in July, reported Mariposa. Meanwhile, kayaks, canoes and private boats are plying the lake. Some uplifting news came from Bryan Bowen of the Waterfront Secretariat. He explained elaborate plans for the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood, now under construction. Lynn Robinson of the Toronto Island Community Association reported that water levels in Lake Ontario have peaked, so flooding is probably avoided this year, but efforts continue to find permanent safety for our vibrant waterfront communities. Also good news from Enbridge Gas, which needs to install pipelines here from east to west: it will not be on Queens Quay, but on Lake Shore Boulevard. We thank everybody who reacted to YQNA’s request to keep Queens Quay intact.

This meeting attracted a good crowd and a prominent line of speakers, so we are planning another Zoom event in the middle of July. Look for the invitation!

Are We Ready for Flood 2020?

A packed Toronto Flood Forum, held by the Toronto Island Community Association (TICA) and YQNA took place in the Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre on March 3, 2020. Many experts on the subject and speakers from three levels of government gave much needed information to anxious residents, who came from the Waterfront at large.

Current high water levels in Lake Ontario point to the strong possibility of flooding this spring, a repeat of 2017 and 2019. The Islands and the city of Toronto face serious risks to property and infrastructure, should lake levels go even higher than before. Flooding would affect residences, condo basements and hydro, combined storm sewers backing up, vital roadways, the extensive park system, major redevelopment, the Billy Bishop airport, water treatment plants, Waterfront businesses, boating clubs and our health.

City Councillor Joe Cressy, MPP Chris Glover and our MP Adam Vaughan agreed that better preparations and new plans to stem flooding were needed. So far, flood mapping and flood planning are in process, as well as mitigation projects for Waterfront parks.

Councillor Cressy pointed out that the old 2014 flooding plans were already outdated in 2014. “We need a complete rethink,” he said. He also pointed out the necessity of having at least one GTA member on The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board that controls outflows from Lake Ontario.

A video of the event, with additional footage, can be found at the United Shorelines Ontario Facebook page.

Lynn Robinson
Member of TICA