A visual journey through Doug Ford’s Port Lands

Future Bird's Eye View

As was widely expected, the Executive Committee today took the first procedural step toward seizing a wide swath of land in Toronto’s Port Lands from the purview of Waterfront Toronto. The item will now go to City Council on September 21, where the fate of these lands will ultimately be decided. More on that later.

The meeting also saw the unveiling of a new “vision” for the Port Lands, as created by the Toronto Port Lands Company, and a handful of development partners from CivicArts, &Co and LEA. Because TPLC’s presentation is as of yet only available online in the form of a one gigabyte Quicktime movie file, I’ve pulled out some choice screenshots so people can get a better sense of what we’re looking at.

Before we get to the pictures, let’s address the pivotal question: is this thing any good? The only fair answer to that is sure, of course it is. It’s a decent enough vision for the neighbourhood with some fun features. It also has some flaws. But there’s not a ton to complain about in terms of built form.

Setting that aside, however, it’s important to remember two things: first, this isn’t a plan at all. We’ve been told it’s a ‘vision.’ Which means detailed analysis hasn’t been done: no costing, no detailed engineering, nothing. It’s fantasy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. City-building fantasies are fun to look at and can be useful in contributing good ideas. But until there’s an actual design and process behind them, they’re not real.

The second thing to remember: this whole Port Lands debate isn’t about comparing two competing visions — these visions aren’t competing at all — but rather deciding whether there’s a reasonable case to be made for taking land away from Waterfront Toronto and selling it to the private sector. I still don’t think anyone from the mayor’s office or the executive committee has made that case.

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