The West Don Lands is Toronto’s next great neighbourhood, a community that is people focused, family friendly, environmentally sustainable and beautifully designed for living.
The 32 hectare (80 acre) site is being transformed from former industrial lands into a sustainable, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, riverside community. The revitalized West Don Lands will feature 6,000 new residential units, ample employment and commercial space, at least one elementary school, and two child-care centres, all surrounded by nearly 9.3 hectares (23 acres) of parks and public spaces.
Largely owned by the Provincial government, the West Don Lands occupies a unique site at the original mouth of the Don River. The area was a challenging brownfield site in the flood plain of the Don River that required remediation and flood protection before any redevelopment could occur. Construction of a massive flood protection landform, is unlocking the area’s development potential and it is also providing flood protection to 209.6 hectares (518 acres) of Toronto’s downtown east end.
Work is underway throughout the area, bringing Waterfront Toronto’s award-winning West Don Lands Precinct Plan to life. Municipal infrastructure such as roads and a stormwater treatment system are under construction. The community’s main parks are taking shape and the first phase of redevelopment projects are coming to life.
Development of the community has been accelerated because a portion of site is being developed for use as the Athletes’ Village for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. The Provincial government chose the West Don Lands to host the Athletes’ Village to leverage the work that was already underway by Waterfront Toronto.
River City, the community’s first private sector development, is setting a new benchmark for sustainable urban design in Toronto. The first phase of the award winning development by Urban Capital is nearing completion and occupancy is scheduled for early 2013. Sales for the second phase are well underway.
The area’s first affordable housing development is being constructed by Toronto Community Housing’s. The development will provide affordable rental housing for families and seniors in three buildings. Occupancy is slated for 2013.
The Pan/Parapan Am Games athletes’ village project includes the construction of a new YMCA recreational facility, George Brown College`s first ever student residence, two affordable housing residential buildings and two market residential development sites, as well as the surrounding infrastructure and roads. These facilities will be built prior to the 2015 Games and used as the Athletes’ Village.
Dundee Kilmer Developments was awarded a fixed-price contract to design, build and finance the Village site. The Canary District, the market condominium portion of Athletes’ Village site, was launched by Dundee Kilmer in spring 2012. The development features 805 units of market condominiums and ground-floor retail that will bring a unique urban modernism to the area. After the Games, as part of the contract, Dundee Kilmer will build three additional market residential development sites.
Boundaries: From Parliament Street to the Don River, King Street to the Rail corridor
Proximity: 15 minute walk to downtown, next to the Distillery District
Sustainability: Stage 1 LEED ND GOLD certification under the pilot program established by the U.S. Green Building Council
The West Don Lands main parks are being built in the project first phase. The first half of Underpass Park, a novel park located beneath and adjacent to a series of overpasses that cut through the neighbourhood, opened in the summer 2012. The remaining half of the park will open in 2013.
Also due to open in 2013 is Don River Park, a dynamic 7.3 hectare (18 acre) public space that promises to be the centrepiece of the new community. The park is innovatively integrated into and built on top of the flood protection landform.
Take a look at the construction currently occurring in the West Don Lands and artistic renditions of what it will look like.
Learn more about the West Don Lands from Christopher Hume on The Star.com
Visit our webcam and watch construction unfold in the West Don Lands.
Guiding the development of the area is the West Don Lands Precinct Plan and Waterfront Toronto’s sustainable approach to development. The neighbourhood has already received Stage 1 LEED ND GOLD certification under the pilot program established by the U.S. Green Building Council and all development in the area must adhere to Waterfront Toronto’s Minimum Green Building Requirements.
Developed through extensive public consultation, the Precinct Plan outlines Waterfront Toronto’s vision for the area and defines the location, scale, character and function of all public spaces, streets, buildings and facilities in the community. The Plan was approved by Toronto City Council in 2005 and recognized with the 2005 Toronto Urban Design Award of Excellence in the Vision and Master Plans category.
The new streets in the community will enhance north south connections to adjacent neighbourhoods and the extended Mill and Front Street promenade lead to Don River Park. The West Don Lands will feature a mixture of mid-rise buildings and higher tower buildings in strategic locations, all required by Waterfront Toronto to meet LEED Gold certification. The scale of building heights is in keeping with that of surrounding communities.
Transit is a key feature of the West Don Lands. The new Cherry Street streetcar line will run within its own right-of-way between King Street and the rail corridor, with transit available within a five minute walk from homes and businesses. The streetcar line is expected to open following the 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games.
The area will feature a number of striking design elements, and will be a stunning mixture of old and new. The five historic buildings within the West Don Lands site, located on Eastern Avenue and Cherry and Trinity streets, have been preserved and will be adaptively reused and incorporated into the new community, giving the new neighbourhood an organic, developed-over-time feel.
Woonerfs - an innovative street design - will be used for some of the area’s local interior streets. Woonerfs, or living streets, are pedestrian-oriented roads that blur the boundary between sidewalk and street and provide a common public space shared by pedestrians, cyclists and low-speed motor vehicles. Commonly found in Europe and elsewhere, the West Don Lands is the first place they will be used in Toronto.
Waterfront Toronto’s Public Art Strategy for the West Don Lands is first community scale comprehensive master art plan in Canada. Art will be displayed throughout the West Don Land’s parks and open spaces, creating an outdoor public gallery to provoke, delight and entertain residents and visitors.
The West Don Lands will be will be among the most connected in the world. It is part of Waterfront Toronto’s intelligent community initiative and will have a global leading ultra-high-speed broadband community network.
Historically, the West Don Lands was part of the Old Town of York, established by John Graves Simcoe in 1793.
“The Park,” as it was referred to on early maps, extended from Berkeley Street to the Don River as far north as Queen Street. It remained intact until the 1830s when it was subdivided and sold to finance the new provincial hospital. The Park was connected to the larger Garrison Reserve to the west by a shoreline promenade known as the Walks & Gardens. The only evident industrial uses dating to this period were the earliest brickyards.
The first non-government building on the West Don Lands portion of the park reserve was Gooderham’s 1832 windmill that evolved into the Gooderham & Worts Distillery. Associated uses followed such as cattle byres, harness making, and cooperages. Enoch Turner’s brewery on Taddle Creek near Parliament was an employer that attracted a considerable work force, and housing was quickly established in the surrounding area.
The arrival of the railways in the 1850s hastened the industrialization of the eastern waterfront. Maps from this period show gasometres, rail yards, roundhouses, work yards, abattoirs, foundries, lumber yards, and a large number of houses.
Over the years, the Don River which ran through the area was straightened, Taddle Creek was buried, marshes were filled in and land was levelled.
The 20th century brought refineries, rail yards, cement works, scrap yards, steel fabricators, salt storage, varnish factories, foundries, lumber yards, and automotive uses. With the pressure of railway expansion in the area, most of the residential uses left the site. As the city continued to expand, many of the industries relocated to the suburbs, or closed, leaving behind a number of buildings that are recognized today for their heritage value and large amounts of open space.
The provincial government took title of the West Don Lands in 1996.