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.
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 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!
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.
Member of TICA