Jack Layton Ferry Terminal

The ferry terminal was re-named in honour of Jack Layton, the former Toronto city councillor and federal NDP leader who died in 2011. (John Rieti/CBC)

More than a million visitors flow through the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal each year on their way to or from the Toronto Islands. But it's now more than 40 years since the terminal was built, leaving the space overdue for a makeover. 

This week five design teams are presenting for public input their proposals to remake the space. All five plans are available for viewing here on Waterfront Toronto's website, but they can also be seen in person in the City Hall rotunda until Friday.

The goal of the design competition is to create a unifying and inspiring master plan for the terminal and its surrounding area that can be phased in over time.

Christopher Glaisek of Waterfront Toronto spoke about the project in an interview Tuesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning

He said the design competition is the first step toward addressing a number of long-standing shortcomings of the current terminal, including:

  • Poor traffic flow for passengers, particularly on busy summer days when demand greatly exceeds the terminal's capacity.
  • An improved aesthetic to move away from the current "cattle pen" feel and chain-link fence perimeter. There are also few places for passengers to sit while they're waiting for the next ferry. "You feel like you're in prison and you're about to go to the most liberating place in the city," said Glaisek.
  • Better integration with both the lake and Bay Street. Right now the terminal isn't easy to locate, a problem for tourists. 

So what's the process?

Glaisek said he's hoping the design competition and public input will create a "big-picture idea" of what the new ferry terminal should look like. There is currently no money allocated to the project, but he said if support forms around some solid design ideas, that could spur forward the terminal's makeover. 

"Until you have an idea, it's hard to get money," he said. 

The five designs will be evaluated by a master jury and recommendations will go to Waterfront Toronto and begin a master planning process. 

Here's a quick look at the five designs:

Cloud Park
Name: Cloud Park

Details: Click here

Design team: Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston) + nARCHITECTS (New York City) + ZAS Architects (Toronto)

Key feature: A star-shaped terminal building with a ceiling that allows natural light to filter in.


Glass Palace
Name: Jack Layton City Terminal Park

Details: Click here

Design team: Clement Blanchet Architecture (Paris) + Batlle i Roig (Barcelona) + RVTR (Toronto and Ann Arbor) + Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc. (Toronto)

Key feature: A raised walkway into the terminal that will connect the site with the bottom of Bay Street. 


Civic Canopy

Name: Civic Canopy

Details: Click here.

Design team: Diller Scofidio+Renfro (New York City) + architectsAlliance (Toronto) + Hood Design (Emeryville, CA)

Key feature: An eye-catching open-air roof that resembles a wave.


Harbour Landing

Name: Harbour Landing

Details: Click here.

Design team: KPMB Architects (Toronto), West 8 (Rotterdam), Greenberg Consultants (Toronto)

Key feature: Terminal building would be located under an undulating natural roof covered with grass. 


Quadrangle terminal

Name: Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park

Details: Click here

Design Team: Quadrangle Architects (Toronto), aLLDesign (London), Janet Rosenberg & Studio (Toronto)

Key feature: In addition to a large terminal building overlooking the ferry slips, this design calls for an elevated pathway across the site.