Parallel Port Land Plans: No reason to abandon Waterfront Toronto

As part of this week’s Posted Toronto Political Panel, Chris Selley does that thing where he tries to get everyone to just calm down a little bit and consider the other side:

Look, the Fords’ hair trigger on big ideas is obvious. But the major impact of these staff recommendations would concern yet-to-be-begun projects that are contingent upon a $634-million flood-protection plan. There’s no money for it. “It appears,” say City staff, “that Waterfront Toronto is not in a position to co-ordinate a comprehensive revitalization program … that would allow for significant development within the next 10 years, at a minimum.” If developers are willing to foot some of that bill — which is, at least, far more realistic a prospect than the Sheppard plan — in exchange for building something that actually exists outside the Waterfront Toronto Holodeck, then I think it’s entirely worth exploring. Why not judge any ensuing development plans on their own merits? Also: What the hell is wrong with Ferris wheels?

via Political Panel: Exploring the port lands through the power of imagination | Posted Toronto | National Post.

In answer to his last question: nothing, but why ferris wheels? That seems to be little more than a me-too gesture from a city that is already too often criticized for trying, with various gimmicks, to look “world class.” We might as well throw up an Eiffel Tower replica, too. Maybe  a little Statue of Liberty holding a Tim Hortons coffee cup.

On Selley’s larger point, there is some merit to what he’s saying. Port Lands development is slow with a capital SLOW, and there’s a large unfunded liability for flood protection. But as guest panelist and noted luminary Steve Murray says, wouldn’t the prudent move be for the city to work with Waterfront Toronto to push forward timelines and find investors? Why not make an effort to work within the established framework — that is producing results in the East Bayfront and the West Don Lands — before you decide to go out on your own with a whole new plan?

Is it still true now, as it was a few months ago, that Rob Ford has never attended a Waterfront Toronto board meeting? And what about the question of motive: is this about building an amazing waterfront neighbourhood or making a quick buck through a fire sale of land that’s currently only suitable for ramshackle tourist attractions, big box stores and parking lots?

The Fords very much seem like the types who are prone to overturn the board and all the pieces the minute they find themselves looking at a stage of the game they don’t like. They did it with Transit City, and they’re doing it now with the waterfront.

More waterfront tidbits:

  • One of the fun undercurrents to the story as it develops is that it’s becoming difficult to determine which parts of the waterfront Doug Ford is actually talking about. Is it the Port Lands, the Lower Don Lands, the East Bayfront or all of the above? As the Toronto Star’s Robyn Doolittle notes, “This ‘wishy-washy’ language that is typical with the Ford administration has left no one sure what’s being proposed, said one individual involved with waterfront redevelopment.”
  • Ford has tried to present his plan as something that could work in concert with the other work being done by Waterfront Toronto, but his proposed monorail — which would require a clear right-of-way, plus stations, plus vehicle storage and probably a maintenance yard — would likely require changes to any and all current plans for everything east of the Corus Building.
  • Doug Ford isn’t the first politician to present an out-of-the-blue, comprehensive and unworkable plan for Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront. In 2004, Liberal MP Dennis Mills ran an election campaign at least partially centred on such a plan. You can still view most of his ideas on the plan’s website; they include things like an aquarium and a campus for the United Nations University for Peace. There was also talk he was looking at casinos, backed by companies who would step it and contribute funds to the project. Mills was defeated in his riding, Toronto-Danforth, in the 2004 Federal Election by a former Toronto City Councillor by the name of Jack Layton.

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