A well-funded publicity campaign is underway to extend the life of the Island Airport beyond the end of its Tripartite Agreement in 2033. PortsToronto is operating the airport, which has leased the 210 acres of prime Waterfront land since 1983. Federal regulations now require major expansions into the harbour to renew the lease, so the pressure is on. The extended runways could cost a staggering $130 million and disrupt recreational use of the bay.

PortsToronto claims it is a successful business and essential to Toronto’s economy. Neither is true, according to experts in a new YouTube video from Parks not Planes. They document a steady decline in commercial flights from the Island Airport, with heavy financial losses year over year. This trend accelerated when Porter Airlines changed its business model away from the island and now flies mainly out of Pearson Airport. So far PortsToronto’s efforts to find other airlines have not succeeded.

The huge building and population spurt in Toronto’s downtown set the Island Airport in new perspective. The core is critically short of green space. If Toronto aspires to be a successful city, this has to change. The convenience of using the Island Airport rather than taking the UP Express from downtown to Pearson, should not supersede the needs of thousands of condo dwellers in search of public green spaces and recreation. 

Would New Yorkers prefer an airport to Central Park? If this question sounds preposterous, it is very much what Toronto’s City Council is facing now. Let the facts guide City Council to vote on the side of the general public and not for this business on the Waterfront. 

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YQNA welcomes the new leadership in City Hall. Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow has strong ties to the Waterfront, and Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik is city councillor of our own Spadina—Fort York Ward. We look forward to progress in the financial stability and development of Toronto under their leadership.

Councillor Malik wrote:

“I am incredibly honoured to be appointed first Deputy Mayor of Toronto by Mayor Olivia Chow and my fellow councillors.

I love Toronto. It’s my home. And I believe that everyone should be able to imagine a future here.”

YQNA is also honoured to have your and Mayor Chow’s support in keeping the Waterfront beautiful and open to the public.

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Steve Munro, Toronto’s expert voice on transit, was YQNA’s guest speaker in the spring. He focused on Waterfront East Transit that we all hope to see completed in support of rapid developments along the lake.

by Steve Munro for YQNA

Better transit has been promised to Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront for years, but beyond preliminary plans, we have little to show. Developers, residents and businesses expecting fast, frequent transit might be forgiven for wondering just how they should make do with infrequent, unreliable service on the Bay, Sherbourne, Parliament and Pape buses.

Recent consultation sessions by the City, TTC and Waterfront Toronto left the feeling that this project will not see the light of day for many years, if ever. That is a product of the fascination with new rapid transit in the suburbs, ballooning cost estimates and the fiscal limitations all transit spending faces.

A quick review of the proposal: In the full build-out, the Waterfront East line mirrors the existing Harbourfront route running west from Bay Street with a new, east-facing portal, and a redesigned Queens Quay running to the realigned Cherry Street. The line would run south and east via Cherry and Commissioners to loop just west of the realigned Don River, and a branch would connect north to existing tracks on Cherry at the Distillery.

Although this looks impressive, the project would not be finished until sometime in the early 2030s, and that assumes funding will materialize. A few key elements have disappeared from the plan, or been “deferred” pending future developments and, of course, more money. These include:

• Expansion of Queens Quay Station to handle two streetcars in each direction at once
• Addition of east side entrance capacity through a planned building at 11 Bay (NE corner)
• Improved connection to the Ferry Docks
• Decorative covers of the existing west and new east portals

Construction staging will be a challenge. The project is planned in three segments: the underground portion from Union Station to Queens Quay, the Queens Quay East reconfiguration including the transit right-of-way, and the Port Lands section including a connection to Distillery Loop.

Rebuilding the tunnel and station is a major piece of work, and streetcar access to Union Station will be lost while this is underway. Feedback at consultations has strongly pushed for the service suspension to be as short as possible, but it is far from clear if the Queens Quay East segment will be started early and be in place for a temporary east-west service from Cherry westward. Even that requires a shutdown to rebuild and extend the underpass at Bay Street with a new east portal.

The redesign of Queens Quay east will likely be the first work undertaken because it does not depend on other major transit changes including Union Station and a new Cherry Street connection to the Distillery. That will bring a new streetscape, but not much transit.

One key question in the plan is whether the new line will be served initially with buses or streetcars with a temporary loop near Queens Quay and New Cherry Street. This has implications not just for Queens Quay East but for the existing western leg. The ominous term “BRT” (Bus Rapid Transit) appears on some drawings where we once saw “LRT” (a streetcar on its own right-of-way). Without access to a loop at Union, any through east-west service must use a common vehicle.

This project shows just how bankrupt the City’s claimed support of Transit Oriented Development really is. The Waterfront has grown, and plans for many more buildings are in the pipeline, but the transit service is nowhere to be seen. A transit line on a map is an excuse for high density development, but the actual transit service is only a dream.

An update on the Waterfront East projects was expected at Toronto’s Executive Committee on June 6 but was deferred to the fall. It will make its way through both the TTC and Council afterwards. This exercise will only drive home how badly delayed planning and the City’s financial position have strangled growth in a so-called “transit first” area.

See Steve Munro’s full article here.

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Love is in the Air

Ribbon cutting at the opening ceremony. The three people to the left are the park’s designer Claude Cormier, our City Councillor Ausma Malik and Stephen Diamond, chair of Waterfront Toronto’s board.

Love Park at Queens Quay and York Street got off to a flying start on June 23, 2023 with all the creators of the park, city officials and a large excited crowd on hand. People were clearly impressed. Comments like “Oh, I didn’t expect it to be so nice” and “Look at the red mosaic edge around the pond”, were in the air. A string quartet was playing and refreshments were handed out. People enjoyed a scavenger hunt, and soon a big black dog paddled around the pond. In fact, many dogs came to check out their own off-leash enclosure. After speeches and ribbon cutting, two weddings were officiated — probably the first of many in Love Park .      

This two-acre park cost $15 million and was delayed by COVID and a temporary shortage of building materials. Like most Waterfront Toronto projects, the materials are first-rate, every detail is carried out to perfection, and even the big Catalpa tree in the pond cooperated by blooming the day before the opening. All worth waiting for! Here is a photo report from the day. 

Click the pics:

Photos: Neal Colgrass

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Enthusiastic crowd at Sugar Beach celebration. Photo: Waterfront Toronto

Efforts are underway at City Hall to expand Toronto’s nightlife until six o’clock in the morning. We have nightclubs downtown that let out at 3:30 a.m., but the vision of the City’s Night Ambassador, Councillor Michael Thompson of Scarborough, is to boost the economy further in areas of music, fashion, film, literature, visual and performance arts.

YQNA was invited to a Nighttime Economy consultation hosted by several City departments that deal with culture, tourism, zoning, bylaws and safety. A dozen other neighbourhood associations participated, with only one from the suburbs. We learned that changes in zoning and licensing for establishments will be needed to create all-night entertainment “…while balancing the need to address potential community nuisance and public safety issues,” said City staff.

No research or economic projections were offered, nor suggestions for how so many cultural sectors can work through the night — and do they even want to? Nightclubs seemed to be the driving force in this night vision, and they are strongly supported by Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC). That caught YQNA’s attention, because the Waterfront already offers a vast choice of entertainment — at Harbourfront Centre, Scotiabank Arena, Rogers Centre, Second City, Fleck Theatre, Powerplant Theatre, tour boats, outdoor arenas, festivals and events in parks. It’s enjoyable, safe and ends around midnight. It is also an economic engine for Toronto.

Big nightclubs had their time on Queens Quay. The Bamboo Club and The Guvernment both created many problems in this densely populated area. The forces in charge of noise control and safety at nightclubs can barely manage the job now, so opening the doors all night would probably make it worse.

We enjoy living and working in this vibrant recreational place by the lake. It can also be loud and challenging, so the prospect of adding entertainment throughout the night is just not acceptable. YQNA let City Councillor Ausma Malik know our decision in preparation for the Nighttime Economy proposal going before Council this year.

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