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.

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.

Aquarium Opens Near Waterfront

One of the spectacular tanks with sturgeons in the Aquarium.
One of the spectacular tanks with sturgeons in the Aquarium.

The great new Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada opened recently to high praise from the public and the Ontario Government, who partly funded the new downtown attraction. More than 13,000 aquatic animals and 450 species are on display in the attractive, low-slung building that extends east of the CN Tower on Bremner Avenue. It took two years to build and cost $130 million.

Mayor Rob Ford said, “This is a beautiful aquarium, and it stimulates our economy.” Around 600 jobs are expected to be created and more than $50 million generated yearly in revenue.  Among the attractions are interactive displays that offer learning for both children and adults as they watch the gorgeous creatures — both small and large — swim close by them in dramatic tank environments.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for youth and $10 for children, so it adds up to a fairly expensive family outing though unique and exciting. It is in line with attending other attractions that are clustered in our neighbourhood — the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, the Toronto Railway Museum and Air Canada Centre. With the Aquarium so close to the Waterfront, which already attracts millions of visitors to hugely popular festivals, boat tours and concerts, there is no doubt that we live in a great cultural and economic hotspot of Toronto.

On opening day, the gleaming white Aquarium stood out against thunder clouds over the Financial District.
On opening day, the gleaming white Aquarium stood out against thunder clouds over the Financial District.

A Great Planner Leaves Downtown

Al Rezoski speaks at the opening of a new pedestrian promenade in our neighbourhood.
Al Rezoski speaks at the opening of a new pedestrian promenade in our neighbourhood.

Our wonderful urban planner, Al Rezoski is moving away from downtown to become manager of planning in North York. It is a big blow to us, because so much of what YQNA has accomplished in the last decade was due to Al. He has been our source of information about what is being developed (or not!) in our neighbourhood. We would pore over complicated plans of huge buildings, streets, public spaces and the PATH in his office, while he explained everything patiently in his soft-spoken manner. He sat us down with architects, developers and politicians and showed us how we could influence the decisions made in City Hall. In fact, he turned us into activists for a better neighbourhood and expected us to step up to the plate. What an exceptional guy! We wish him a great future in North York and hope to see him on his bike around the Waterfront.

Every walk-about with Al Rezoski on the Waterfront was a lesson in urban planning.
Every walk-about with Al Rezoski on the Waterfront was a lesson in urban planning.

Al sent us this generous email:

“During the last 12 years I have been blessed to work with 5 progressive downtown City Councillors, amazing colleagues and many wonderful neighbourhood associations such as the YQNA. I am very sad to leave City Hall. We have accomplished so much. I owe much of my passion to the YQNA. You helped inform me how terrible the streetscapes were in the Central Bayfront. You set the bar high for developers and had a clear vision for how the central waterfront should be developed. Together we produced 6 downtown pedestrian promenade plans that guide development and pedestrian improvements. Thank you for your diligence in reviewing development applications and being involved in the planning process. Please carry the torch. I’ll miss working with you. Keep up the great work. You are making Toronto a much better City!”

— the same to you, Al.

Ulla Colgrass, YQNA Planning Committee