Public/private funding is key as Toronto’s waterfront lags behind other urban centres

Great Waterfront/Great City, a report by Creative Class Group on the future of Toronto's waterfront (CNW Group/Creative Class Group)

Ontario Construction News staff writer

A new report published by the Creative Class Group, underscores the vital role Toronto’s waterfront can play in revitalizing the city’s economy, particularly as the downtown core struggles with the shift to remote work.

Building it into a world-class waterfront will require a mix of public and private funding and Toronto must “overcome its reluctance towards private capital and to stop deterring foreign investment, both of which are critical for developing and maintaining attractions and green spaces.”

Great Waterfront/Great City: The Waterfront and Toronto’s Future, written by urbanist Richard Florida, compares Toronto’s waterfront to global cities including New York, London, Singapore, Chicago, Stockholm and Sydney. While noting progress, Florida concludes Toronto’s waterfront falls behind on several key indicators.

Urban waterfronts serve as major attractions, drawing visitors regionally and globally. With downtown offices seeing reduced occupancy due to remote work trends, these visitors are crucial for maintaining activity in urban centres. Waterfronts, with their potential for major attractions, can activate adjacent neighborhoods and support downtown economies.

According to the report, successful urban waterfronts thrive on diverse activities and uses, integrating parks, iconic buildings, mixed-use neighborhoods, and cultural institutions.

“They have great parks and iconic buildings. They have mixed-use neighbourhoods with much-needed affordable housing and sports stadiums, museums, art galleries, music venues, and academic complexes,” Florida said.

Successful waterfronts are interconnected with the city via pedestrian bridges, bike paths, trails, transit, and water taxis. A vibrant waterfront showcases a city’s best aspects while boosting its economy by attracting locals, business travelers, and tourists.

Key findings from Florida’s report:

Economic future:

The waterfront is crucial to Toronto’s economic future, necessitating a comprehensive approach that blends mixed-use development, housing, cultural sites, parks, hotels, restaurants, stadiums, museums, and other attractions to create bustling destinations for residents and tourists.

Benchmarking data

Detailed benchmarking shows Toronto’s waterfront lagging behind other global leaders.

Eastern waterfront potential

The Eastern Waterfront could become a hub for Toronto’s high-tech industry and future arts and cultural developments, offering a world-class mixed-use neighborhood with affordable housing.

Ontario Place redevelopment

The planned redevelopment of Ontario Place is highlighted as a potential entertainment and visitor hub for the Western Waterfront, benefiting adjacent urban areas.

Billy Bishop Airport

The report underscores the importance of retaining and expanding Billy Bishop Airport as a sustainable urban alternative to traditional airport infrastructure.

Findings  emphasize that a dynamic and accessible waterfront is essential for Toronto’s economic revival and long-term success, making it a focal point for urban planning and development efforts in the coming years.


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