York Quay Neighbourhood Association covers Toronto’s iconic Central Waterfront, with members in every building. YQNA is actively engaged in what shapes our neighbourhood – traffic, transit, planning, cultural and social events, policing, environment, noise, businesses, and the great urban renewal transforming Queens Quay. YQNA welcomes all residents to participate, share their ideas and enjoy our events.
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.
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!
The election in May brought significant changes to the Waterfront, among them Chris Glover as our new member of Provincial Parliament. He was among the candidates who presented their platform at the spring YQNA meeting, and was swept into office on an NDP wave that covered the entire downtown. Chris went from school trustee to MPP for the Spadina-Fort York riding. He lives in a Waterfront condo, and as a former teacher who just received his PhD, he is keenly aware of the need for more schools in our densely populated area, where children are a growing part of the demographics.
Chris sees his role in the opposition party to Doug Ford’s majority PC government as the conscience and watchdog of Parliament. He met with YQNA’s Planning Committee on a beautiful summer day to hear our concerns for the Central Waterfront and proved to be a good listener. His agenda is very similar to ours: more transit and expanded LRT on Queens Quay, affordable housing, more protective measures for condo owners and renters, better help for the disabled and finding employment for them. We look forward to working with Chris and hope to see him as our frequent guest in YQNA.