Waterfront Toronto releases new vision for 12 acres abandoned by Sidewalk Labs
Waterfront Toronto is unveiling a fresh, “landmark” vision for the derelict patch of east-end waterfront previously slated to host Sidewalk Labs’ ill-fated smart city development.
The 12-acre Quayside project will be largely residential, but with retail, office and institutional components, Stephen Diamond, the chair of Waterfront Toronto, said in an interview. A plan for the neighbouring public space at the foot of Parliament Street featuring lakeside pools and fine dining on a floating restaurant was unveiled on Monday.
Sidewalk, an affiliate of tech giant Google, had envisioned a community built “from the internet up.” But it was met with local opposition and its scope was scaled back after negotiations with Waterfront Toronto. Sidewalk eventually pulled out last May, citing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Diamond said Waterfront Toronto is launching an international competition — a “request for qualifications” will be issued Wednesday to seek qualified bidders interested in meeting Waterfront Toronto’s goals for the site. A request for proposals will follow.
The site is one of the last large undeveloped parcels of land near the downtown core, and includes eight acres of developable land across five development blocks.
The agency’s vision includes market and social housing, a low carbon profile and facilities that allow people to “age in place.” A building might have long-term care facilities on its lower floors, a higher level of care above that and condos above that. Diamond said they are also hoping for a seven-day institutional presence to draw visitors, such as a discovery centre.
“We all have worked hard to create a plan that will create an iconic landmark project while at the same time providing for important social initiatives to support both our physical and mental well being,” said Diamond, who is also CEO of DiamondCorp.
“This will be a game-changer and an important catalyst for innovation and growth to help support Toronto’s economic recovery” in the post-COVID era, he said.
Sidewalk’s massive Master Innovation and Development Plan had envisioned a sweeping real estate development spanning nearly 200 acres of the city’s eastern waterfront, far more than Waterfront Toronto’s original RFP contemplated.
Sidewalk touted plans to use manufactured wood to build environmentally friendly buildings and other, higher-tech, features, such as garbage robots that would monitor public spaces for waste, but critics immediately seized on the “land grab” aspect of the proposal, and the suggestion that governments heavily subsidize the development.
Diamond said the new project is substantially different from Sidewalk’s plans — and far more specific.
“That was part of the problem — we were never 100 per cent sure what we were going to get,” he said.
On Monday, Waterfront Toronto also unveiled plans to convert the Parliament Slip — an underused area of lakefront property at the foot of Parliament Street — into a world-class tourist destination.
“What became apparent from a lot of public consultation — and looking at where we were with the pandemic — was that the opportunity to provide important open spaces to support people’s physical and mental health became paramount to what people wanted to see,” Diamond said.
“And so we felt in order to provide some excitement and enthusiasm and something that would reorient our city to the water, the idea came up to purchase the slip and to provide for recreational facility on it, which we’ve done.”
Drawing inspiration from the beautiful scenery dotting the waterways of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo, the group came up with a vision they hope will make the lake a destination for families and friends.
In addition to the floating restaurant, which would serve customers year-round, plans call for multiple swimming pools — one for adults and a smaller one for children — kayak and canoe launches, open-water swimming and a waterfront amphitheatre from which to sit back and take it all in. The agency hopes to turn the pool into a skating rink when temperatures drop or cover it with a bubble to allow the public to continue to swim through the winter months.
“We’ve taken what we think is the best from a lot of waterfronts around the world and tried to emulate them and hopefully to even exceed their standards in terms of access for people to be able to use the water,” Diamond said. If everything goes to plan, the site could be operational in three to four years.
Source: National Post
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