Toronto

How the $1.2 billion dollar injection will kickstart the Port Lands

A day after all three levels of government committed to funding the flood-proofing and redevelopment of Toronto's derelict Port Lands area, the man designing the district's first neighbourhood says it won't become a play place for downtowners.

The investment in flood protection is like 'housekeeping before the party'

The plot of land directly south of the Gardiner Expressway and the Keating Channel was chosen for the location of the first neighbourhood because of 'various technical reasons.' (Urban Strategies Inc.)

A day after all three levels of government committed to funding the flood-proofing and redevelopment of Toronto's derelict Port Lands area, the man designing the district's first neighbourhood says it won't become a play place for downtowners. 

"The potential is to create another great new district of the city," said Joe Berridge in an interview on Metro Morning. 

As a partner with Urban Strategies Inc., he has been involved in planning the waterfronts of Singapore, London and San Juan and now Villiers Island which is slated to be the first Port Lands area to be developed and populated.

Today, the site of Villiers Island is largely industrial. (Urban strategies Inc.)

The 800 acre plot located directly south of the Gardiner Expressway and south of the Keating Channel, is roughly the same size of expanse from College Street, south to the water and as wide as the area between Spadina Avenue to Jarvis Street. 

"All of these old ports offer huge, flat acreage and every big city is taking advantage of them," said Berridge who has seen similar developments pop up in Australia and with the London Docklands. 
The London Docklands are a similar project but unlike the Villiers Island project in Toronto, it's further away from the city centre. (Urban Strategies Inc.)

But the difference and advantage Toronto has in comparison is the proximity of the Port Lands to the downtown core.

"This is an opportunity for Toronto to seize its future," Berridge says, adding that it will also be a prime location for a music venue or any "symbolic buildings" to look out onto the harbour. 

Flood-proofing the Port Lands

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for a $1.25-billion plan to flood-proof the Port Lands on Wednesday, something Berridge equates to "housekeeping before the party." 

The low-lying land is prone to flooding which isn't as devastating for the current make-up of the land that largely includes industrial yards, parking lots and gravel pits.  

The money will also go toward rehabilitating the mouth of the Don River which empties into Lake Ontario.

The idea is to have it flow into the Keating Channel and wrap around Villiers Island, which could alleviate flooding of the Don River and potentially further beautify the waterfront. 

Berridge recognizes that accessibility will be of utmost importance to ensure that Villiers Island doesn't just become a hotspot for downtowners. 

"It's too big to be just for downtown," he said.

Another plan is also to create an artery for cyclists and walkers to Villiers Island by connecting it to the waterfront trail, which will be located at the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway and include lots of transit connections. 

The artery will likely serve a large portion of the Port Lands development that is slated for affordable housing.