Farewell to John Campbell

John Campbell (r) with his wife Margie and Bob Fung (l), his predecessor at Waterfront Toronto, enjoying the lively farewell party.
John Campbell (r) with his wife Margie and Bob Fung (l), his predecessor at Waterfront Toronto, enjoying the lively farewell party.

John Campbell is stepping down after 12 years as CEO of Waterfront Toronto (WT). He has navigated many beautiful projects through choppy waters on the Waterfront, and has prepared for new developments as far as the Port Lands. John’s tremendous business skills and diplomacy made him a perfect leader of what is North America’s largest urban renewal project. His popularity reached into the Waterfront communities, where he engaged residents and businesses in the planning of parks, streets, WaveDecks, Queens Quay redesign, boardwalks and new buildings in precinct plans. Our ideas were welcomed, as we soaked up lots of knowledge during hundreds of hours in committees and public and private meetings.

YQNA decided to throw a farewell party for John on a warm September evening on the pool deck of the Radisson Admiral Hotel overlooking the lake. Five other neighbourhood associations joined as hosts – from Gooderham Warts, West Don Lands, St. Lawrence, Toronto Islands and Bathurst Quay – as well as the Waterfront BIA. A large crowd of residents, business owners, planners, civil servants, politicians, architects and developers paid tribute to John.

The Waterfront BIA’s popular Singing Ambassadors performed “T.O. the Waterfront,” a song dedicated to John Campbell. Michael Colgrass (centre) wrote the music, Anna Prodanou the lyrics.
The Waterfront BIA’s popular Singing Ambassadors performed “T.O. the Waterfront,” a song dedicated to John Campbell. Michael Colgrass (centre) wrote the music, Anna Prodanou the lyrics.

Among the gifts was a new song, “T.O. the Waterfront,” created by local artists Michael Colgrass and Anna Prodanou. It was dedicated to John and performed by the WBIA’s Singing Ambassadors. Hear the song with Waterfront clips on YouTube. Another gift from residents was a one-of-a-kind book of images, collected from many sources to capture the Waterfront transformation under John’s tenure. The party was a heartfelt send-off for a person who is well-liked and will remain in Toronto’s history as an important city builder. The new CEO of WT was not yet announced at this writing.

Queens Quay Reborn

This summer our new and stunning Queens Quay was revealed. The long-anticipated promenade is completed between Bay St. and Spadina Ave. In a final flurry of activity, the construction and fences disappeared after three years of heavy work below and above ground. Thousands of people took part in the opening ceremony on June 19, 2015. Residents and business owners along the Waterfront stood along several blocks waving a huge blue ribbon, which was finally cut by finance minister Joe Oliver. John Campbell, CEO of Waterfront Toronto, and local representatives of the Waterfront BIA and YQNA spoke to the cheering crowds.

Queens Quay is a central part of the massive urban renewal plans for the Waterfront. It has already changed the ambiance and use of the Harbourfront area. The Central Waterfront has always drawn large crowds for recreation, boating, entertainment and sheer beauty, but for the first time the promenade and boardwalks give people room to move — on foot, on bikes and by transit. Car traffic has been reduced to two lanes, and tour buses are accommodated by lay-bys along the way. This type of urban space is common in Europe, but it is a first in Toronto. A few glitches and confusion about traffic patterns are being ironed out, and people are enjoying the luxury of especially designed benches, granite pavements, sleek light posts and wide promenades. Hundreds of newly planted trees will eventually add character and shade to Queens Quay. What seemed like three years of construction chaos has turned into a beautiful boulevard that is already a favourite destination.

New Ferry Terminal and Park

International designers are competing to do a much-needed facelift of The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park along the lake. Waterfront Toronto has chosen five finalists, whose preliminary designs will be on public display at City Hall’s Rotunda from Monday, March 16 to Friday the 20th.

The exhibit opens at noon on the first day with general viewing, followed by a presentation of the five designs from 6pm to 8pm. Comments from the public are welcome. A group of residents have already met with the designers to give necessary information and requests to suit the neighbourhood. The Ferry Dock is a crowded and rather bleak place that serves a million customers going to the islands each year. The adjacent Harbour Square Park is basically undeveloped and needs to be more attractive and practical for visitors and residents alike.

This project is part of the transformation of Toronto’s Waterfront, which is getting attention around the world for its size, complexity and fine execution by Waterfront Toronto. It is the subject of lectures at Harvard University and other prominent institutions. When Queens Quay opens this June as a beautiful pedestrian promenade, it is hoped that Toronto’s citizens and mandarins also will recognize the Waterfront as unique and worth protecting.

Citizens Seek Independent Airport Studies

<strong>Flocks of geese at the Island Airport create danger of bird strikes, even worse if the geese are sucked into jet engines. (Photo: Ron Jenkins)</strong>
Flocks of geese at the Island Airport create danger of bird strikes, even worse if the geese are sucked into jet engines. (Photo: Ron Jenkins)

Numerous neighbourhood associations and community groups, including YQNA, have recently formed the Greater Waterfront Coalition. The Coalition has requested funding for independent experts and consultants to study certain issues arising out of the Porter Airlines proposal to expand the Island Airport to allow jets.

The request for funding and covering letter over the signature of lawyer Ed Hore (also YQNA’s new co-president), both dated December 8, 2014 can be seen here.

Jets require 200 metre extensions of the existing runway at both ends. The governing document, the Tripartite Agreement between the City of Toronto, The Toronto Port Authority and Transport Canada, however, does not permit jets, so Porter Airlines asked that the Agreement be amended. That requires the approval of City Council.

After some rushed studies and a staff report, Council passed a resolution in early April, 2014 requiring among other things that the Toronto Port Authority, owner and operator of the airport, conduct an Environmental Assessment of the effects of expanding the airport to allow jets. The City resolution also called for robust public consultation. Toronto Port Authority is now embarking on just such an Environmental Assessment, and wrestling with how to make it thorough enough to satisfy the City.

The Coalition formed because community groups shared concerns that they cannot provide real public input into the EA without their own independent experts and consultants. The issues are extremely complex. There is a widely-held concern that TPA experts and consultants will not represent or seriously consider the public interest, but rather will act as hired guns whose job is to make expansion of the airport happen.

If the Coalition receives funding to hire arm’s length experts and consultants, their mandate is to examine the complex issues from a public interest perspective. The request focuses on two areas seen as particularly in need of independent analysis: aeronautical safety, and the economic benefits and costs of expansion.

The aeronautic safety issues include: Will the Marine Exclusion Zone expand if the runway is extended? What are the effects of blasting jet engines near boats. What effect will aeronautical safety regulations have on new building development around the Harbour and in the Port Lands, and what would happen in an emergency? The economic questions include: Would jets at the Island Airport really bring travellers into Toronto, over and above those who would come anyway through Pearson? And what would be the economic cost of jets, for example, if they cause a reduction of tourism in the Waterfront, lower real estate values or restrict new Waterfront developments?

Representatives of the Coalition met with Toronto Port Authority on December 15, 2015, and we are waiting to hear if TPA will grant us intervener funding.

Ed Hore
Co-Chair of YQNA

Public Meeting: Jets and the Environment

The Toronto Port Authority (TPA) is scoping an environmental assessment (EA) of Porter Airline’s proposal to introduce jet aircraft and extend the main runway at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport by 400 meters.

A public meeting will provide information on the purpose of the EA; review the areas to be studied and the process of creating an EA; explain how the public can participate throughout the EA process by provide a forum to ask questions.

Meeting Details:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
6:30 – 9:30pm
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, Room 107
255 Front Street West

After this meeting, the EA will be delivered in two steps — first to determine the scope of it, and secondly to implement it. Consultation with the public and stakeholders will be an important part of both steps.

Swerhun Inc., the independent facilitation team, will document all public feedback on the EA regarding a jet expansion. The TPA and its technical consultants assures that a transparent feedback throughout the process will be made available to the public.

This meeting is not the first step to “the sure road to jets,” but a pivotal forum to hear public concerns about the validity of this EA.