A fictional image of Therme’s glass structures with pools and palm trees, proposed at Ontario Place. No buildings are transparent. Public space is reduced to a sliver around the 10-acre site.

Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America and has a serious lack of green space. A revitalized Ontario Place is part of Waterfront developments that include parks and public spaces along the downtown lakeshore. It is now in serious danger of becoming a profit-driven destination at the invitation of Premier Doug Ford. What was intended as public space, could now require high-price tickets to enter a massive tropical spa proposed by the Austrian company Therme. It features 10 acres of palm trees and pools under glass. Entry is expected to be $40 plus extras for treatments and services.

The U.S. company Live Nation is contracted to run the upgraded open Budweiser Stage. Frequent concerts would block off a large area to the public that had not bought a high-priced ticket. A third development party, Ecorecreo of Montreal, has apparently dropped out of the Ontario Place bidding. The details of the provincial government’s negotiations to commercialize Ontario Place are not available, since they were made behind closed doors and without public consultation. They were never mentioned in the run-up to the provincial election.

The future of this precious Waterfront site looked very different in 2012, when Mayor John Tory was chair of the Ontario Place Revitalization Panel. He wrote recommendations for bringing Ontario Place into the 21st century with an expanded public park to celebrate its connection to Ontario and the lake. The original iconic floating structures designed by architects Eberhard Zeidler and Michael Hough remained protected. This grand scheme would require public-private partnerships to create a revenue stream to realize the 55-acre park site in the west end of Ontario Place, always with the public in mind. That was then, this is now. Premier Ford has declared John Tory as ‘strong mayor’ with veto power, unless the council vote goes against provicial interests. That makes the city-owned land at Ontario Place easy pickings for the province, whether council likes it or not.

YQNA invited Ken Greenberg, leading urban designer in Toronto and many other world cities, to present the threats to Ontario Place. Here is his gripping presentation, Sept. 13, 2022. He urges the people of Toronto to join the growing protest against the commercialization of Ontario Place. It requires action from people like us, so join the campaign spearheaded by the citizen’s group Ontario Place for All at https://ontarioplaceforall.com to see the multiple ways you can participate.

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Our interim City Councillor, Joe Mihevc, wasted no time in contacting YQNA and other downtown neighbourhood associations to discuss a staff report headed to the Mayor’s Executive Committee on June 8, 2022. The subject was “Advancing City Priority Transit Expansion Projects – Eglinton East Light Rail Transit and Waterfront East Light Rail Transit.” With a long history on City Council and sitting on the TTC Board, Joe was quite familiar with these transit projects. He was seeking community support for his motion of pushing for more funding to get the Waterfront LRT studies completed sooner to a higher level of design, so that construction funding could be secured.

YQNA sent a supportive letter to the Committee, as did several of our neighbours. At Council on June 15, 2022 Joe’s motion was adopted:

1. City Council direct the City Manager to determine potential undertakings to expedite the budgetary and design processes for the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line. 

2. City Council direct the City Manager to engage with officials of the Provincial and Federal Governments to identify and secure funding to advance the Waterfront East Light Rail Transit line as expeditiously as possible.”

YQNA sits on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) for this project. We received an update on the status of the study on June 20, 2022 following the report to Executive Committee and Council. Further public consultation is planned for Fall 2022.

The design work of the LRT is at the 30% stage. This means that the basic route and concepts are established, and preliminary costs can be estimated. However, many details remain to be worked out, and the current focus is on “value engineering”, which means eliminating parts of the project to save money. YQNA expressed concerns with some of these proposals, such as deferring the canopies over the tunnel portals and reducing the improvements to the Union and Queens Quay stations.

The tunnel construction for the LRT is under TTC’s control, while the surface sections of Queens Quay East and Cherry Street are done by Waterfront Toronto, as is so much of the successfully completed Waterfront. A new tunnel under Queens Quay East will be built so that streetcars can run continuously along Queens Quay, even as the tunnel to Union is being renovated.

City Staff were seeking authority to review what can be constructed in light of other projects along the LRT route. They expect to report back with a new cost estimate and a funding, financing and implementation strategy next year. The City’s own report on the Next Phase of Waterfront Revitalization is also expected next year.

YQNA continues to monitor this study and to work with staff and the Councillor’s office to ensure the best possible outcome for our wonderful Waterfront.

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The Waterfront is teeming with people – both residents and visitors. To keep us safe, a new Neighbourhood Community Officer Program was introduced by Toronto Police last May. Our community now has four officers from 52 Division, working in teams of two, who will be visible and accessible to the community seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. They will generally be walking or on bikes.

The idea is for neighbourhood community officers to connect with the community, developing solutions and mobilizing resources to “reduce crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour.” Part of their job is to enforce bike safety on the Martin Goodman Trail.

The officers assigned to the Waterfront neighbourhood have a wealth of experience with an average of 33 years’ experience. Each officer brings varying skills and experiences to the community. It is hoped that they will remain in this post for a minimum of four to five years.

For the past few weeks, they have been introducing themselves to the businesses in the neighbourhood. Should you want to interact with them, here are their names and contact information:

• PC Barry Bates — 647-302-7548 [email protected]
• PC Mark Ferreira — 647-309-4692 [email protected]
• PC John Wood — 647-309-8805 [email protected]
• PC Paul Vanseters — 647-286-3136 [email protected]

The 52 Division set the boundaries for this policing program from Wellington Street West to the North, Spadina Avenue to the West and Yonge Street to the East. The lake is the South boundary for what must be the most beautiful police beat in Toronto.

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Enbridge Gas construction on Lake Shore Boulevard near Lower Simcoe Street.

Enbridge Gas is busy digging a 4.5 kilometre gas pipeline from Cherry Street in the east to Bathurst Street in the west. The company invited the public to view their plans more than two years ago. They had three potential routes, digging open trenches either along Harbour Street, Lake Shore Boulevard or their favourite choice: Queens Quay!

YQNA urged members to write their objections to tearing up the entire length of Queens Quay, and nearly 200 did. A few YQNA members also asked to meet with Enbridge executives. They welcomed our views, and we learned that they had expected the Queens Quay bike lane would be an easy route to dig up for the pipeline. That would have caused damage to the trees and granite-paved sidewalks on this prize-winning pedestrian boulevard that Waterfront Toronto had completed a few years earlier at the cost of $130 million. Businesses and tourist activities would also have suffered.

Enbridge Gas listened and made the reasonable decision to dig the trench in Lake Shore Boulevard instead. That is now underway. This photo shows the current pipeline construction site under the Gardiner Expressway near Simcoe Street. It is not hard to imagine the damage such a large worksite would have done to Queens Quay. A similar Ontario Hydro dig on Queens Quay for new power cables was also averted, thanks to local opposition. We are fortunate to have such engaged citizens and a system that allows us to work with City agencies.

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Noise exposure limits — the NEF — are drawn by Transport Canada with the aim of protecting citizens from excessive noise. The red contours on this map are from 1990, and the blue lines from 2008. The contours continued to vary slightly over the years, but problems persist.

The Waterfront is an attractive and wonderful place to live and visit. On the minus side it has frequent noise pollution, mainly due to planes taking off from the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, commonly known as the Island Airport. Landings are less loud, but departing planes that fly low past the condo towers, parks and Harbourfront Centre have a ruinous effect on the area, which functions as cottage country for much of Toronto.

As vacation travel has revved up at this airport after COVID, so have festivals and events attracting millions of visitors to the Waterfront and the Islands. They are next to the flightpath, and many locations suffer from debilitating noise, which might be much louder than federal regulations allow. But first the problem must be identified, and that process is ongoing in meetings that include YQNA’s expert Hal Beck. It should be simple to confirm, since noise can be measured by high-end equipment or even inexpensive phone apps. But Transport Canada in Ottawa has a 90-page book of regulations on the subject that baffle even its own staff. They only accept measurements from acoustical engineers. Their aim is to keep excessive noise inside a NEF (noise exposure forecast) contour around an airport and away from residents.

The Island Airport NEF contours were drawn in 1978, neatly avoiding all development lands. At that time the Waterfront was industrial with hardly any commercial air traffic or large aircraft. Jump to today, when the Waterfront is densely populated as part of the largest urban development in North America, and industrial uses have been replaced by high-rises and high-tech companies. This new world needs a new NEF contour that protects the Waterfront from noise.

Noise is not the only problem at this airport. It still operates with heavy financial losses, although it must be self-sustaining as part of Ports Toronto’s right to exist. To keep it going, the Feds funnel our tax dollars to the airport in various ways. It is promoted as essential for Toronto, but that is not the case since the UP Express Train to Pearson Airport opened in 2015.

Even if information and complaints from residents carry little weight in this noise debate, you can satisfy yourself by measuring sound on a phone app. When a plane approaches, check out whether it tops 70 decibels. Any noise exceeding 70 dB is considered disturbing, and above 85 dB can cause harm over time. Then you will have the answers directly from the aircraft engines to your ears. Waiting for the federal bureaucratic system to sort it out could take a long time. You can also lodge a noise complaint with the Island Airport.

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