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.
An attractive new GO bus station has opened inside the first phase of the CIBC Square on Bay St. across from Union Station. This ambitious development will have two office towers with a distinctive glass diamond pattern, rising 49 and 50 storeys. Connecting the two will be an elevated park across the railroad tracks, which is bound to become a popular meeting place.
The GO bus station replaces the sketchy old bus station just south of Front St. It used to send buses rumbling through city streets and had people lined up outside. Now, the buses enter from the Gardiner Expressway via Lakeshore Boulevard and no longer clog city streets. Passengers use the well-marked entrance on the north side of Lakeshore between Bay St. and Yonge St. When CIBC Square is completed in 2024 there will be more entrances added.
Arriving buses drop their passengers at ground level, then take the ramp upstairs to the departure level. Passengers can find their platform on travel screens in the comfortable hall, while waiting to hop onboard their GO bus. Clear signage makes it easy to navigate the levels via escalators, find washrooms and even a vending machine offering masks.
This is an excellent example of how a public facility can be completely integrated into an office tower. International developers Ivanhoe Cambridge and Hines deserve high praise for their vision, not only for the bus station, but also the elevated park, retail and other public amenities in CIBC Square. They are adding vibrancy to both their buildings and the city.
The work of three international architectural firms—WilkinsonEyre, Adamson Associates and EVOQ Architecture—will make CIBC Square a Toronto landmark. The first tower is near completion at 81 Bay St. The second tower began recently with the excavation north of the tracks. Urban Toronto offers more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.