Love is in the Air

by YQNA
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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The York Quay Neighbourhood and its surrounding wards sit at the heart of the most active urban development in North America. The construction planned for the area over the next 10 years has no precedent. Anticipating large scale disruption to our neighbourhoods, the Federation of South Toronto Residents Associations, FoSTRA was created in 2021 to collectively advocate for good urban design.

FoSTRA currently supports YQNA and its neighbours in 24 south Toronto residents associations and four neighbouring wards. It is driven by a belief that neighbourhoods must be comprehensively planned at the street and block level. Development must go hand in hand with transportation and infrastructure investments, and unavoidable neighbourhood displacement and disruption requires thoughtful planning and close collaboration with residents. Networks of walkable public spaces, whether they be parks, open spaces or strategic tree plantings should be non-negotiable.

FoSTRA has established four key working groups focusing on intensification, affordable housing, parks and the environment. The association has submitted opinions to planners and politicians on close to 20 issues ranging from the Strong Mayors Act to co-ordinating construction scheduling to reducing the impacts on residents, employees, businesses and commuters. Participation in these working groups is open to all YQNA members.

If you are interested in helping to support neighbourhood associations in their advocacy for good urban design, or if you are interested in reading any of FoSTRA’s submissions, please go to fostrato.weebly.com.

Written by Mary Hirst,
Vice-chair of FoSTRA and YQNA member

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Harbourfront Centre’s skating rink has been an iconic feature on the Waterfront for decades. Generations of skaters had their first steps on the ice here, and their memories of the beautiful setting by the lake remain strong. When Harbourfront Centre suddenly announced January 10 that the rink was closing for good, response was swift. A petition to restore this Waterfront gem got over a thousand signatures right away. Strong opinions followed on TV, newspapers and websites, pointing out that the rink had disappeared without public consultation.

Harbourfront Centre CEO Marah Braye said the board had made an irreversible decision and that equipment was ready to start demolition. The rink, which becomes a paddle pond in summer, could not be restored due to lack of funds, she explained. The Federal Government had recently donated $20 million for repairs on the ten-acre Harbourfront site, which includes the skating rink. But those repairs proved too costly, so it was scrapped. 

YQNA Chair Angelo Bertolas told CP24: “The skating rink is a wonderful place to spend some outdoor time getting exercise and fresh air along the water’s edge. The Waterfront desperately needs winter activation for the many condo dwellers, visitors and tourists.” Kevin Vuong, MP for the Waterfront, heard the outcry and called for a town hall meeting February 3rd. It took place in the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre and confirmed public anger over the demise of the ice rink. Plans to turn it into “a completely updated new plaza” for staging events met with scepticism, because Harbourfront already has several outdoor event spaces. Vuong had talked with a corporate donor who was open to supporting the skating rink, news that was warmly received.

Bertolas says, “Harbourfront Centre is a crucial component of Toronto’s Waterfront, which attracts millions of tourists to the city and is a gathering place for residents from the entire GTA.” YQNA is the voice of the community, so he is establishing a Community Liaison Committee with Harbourfront to keep open communication that will protect gems like the skating rink and other attractions that draw the broader public to the Waterfront.

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The Second City Toronto actors celebrate their new location at 1 York St. Photo: Arthur Mola

Second City fans, rejoice: Canada’s most storied comedy institution is now on the Waterfront at 1 York St. And its new facility is a shiny space with three bars, three stages, glimmering lights and food plates from Oliver & Bonacini — a far cry from their early days at The Old Fire Hall!

The massive 28,700-foot-venue also boasts a big bar area and nine studio spaces for adult/teen classes, which include acting, writing, improv for anxiety and improv for autism. Even online classes are available.

Find it all at secondcity.com/toronto or call (416) 343-0011 for tickets, which range from $29 to $101 for sketch/comedy shows.

“The old place had a thick smell of blood, sweat, tears, fear and joy,” quips Carly Heffernan, creative director of The Second City Toronto. “And the new smell is bright, shiny and exciting. It might be paint fumes. We did just open.”

Get a whiff of the excitement and kick off the new year with a laugh.

Second City fans are ready for a night of comedy. Photo: Arthur Mola
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