The first step in ensuring that the West Don Lands will be a neighbourhood, was taking a comprehensive community-wide approach to planning.
The West Don Lands Precinct Plan is the overarching guideline for the development and servicing of the area. It defines the location, scale, character and function of all public spaces, streets, buildings and facilities to be provided and developed within in the West Don Lands community.
The first precinct plan tabled by Waterfront Toronto, the West Don Lands precinct plan was the result of the collaborative effort of many individuals and organizations. Precinct planning began in 2003 and was led for Waterfront Toronto by Urban Design Associates.
For more than a year, the community, concerned citizens and organizations, and government stakeholders were engaged and consulted. The West Don Lands Steering Committee and the Stakeholder Roundtable provided invaluable insight and community priorities.
The planning process examined the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the area. The analysis investigated both hard and soft data. Hard data included information on such things as the physical condition and attributes of the site, connections or lack of connections to adjacent neighbourhoods, transportation patterns and surrounding land use patterns. Soft data included the perceptions and aspirations of stakeholders, residents, public officials and other interested parties, as well as the history of the site and past planning efforts.
The overall planning process was open, inclusive and transparent, and designed to result in a consensus-based final plan. An extensive collaborative public consultation process that included numerous public and stakeholder meetings and a week-long design charrette informed the development of the draft precinct plan. A sustainability audit was also undertaken to determine how the sustainability aspects of the draft plan could be improved.
The West Don Lands Precinct Plan was approved by Toronto City Council in May 2005. It has guided the development of the area since.
Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto won a 2004 Public Sector Quality Fair award for the Precinct Planning Public Consultation Process in West Don Lands and East Bayfront.
The West Don Lands Precinct Plan received the Award of Excellence in the Vision and Master Plans category in the City of Toronto’s 2005 Architecture and Urban Design Awards.
Waterfront Toronto also developed Block Plans to provide more detailed resolution to the recommended pattern of streets and development blocks as created in the West Don Lands Precinct Plan. The Block Plans are intended to: uphold the tenets of the West Don Lands Precinct and to refine the overall vision for the West Don Lands in accordance to new information and current conditions; bridge the gap between the master planning ideas envisioned in the public process and the eventual built product; and provide guidelines for implementation that assure a high degree of design latitude without compromising the overall intent of the Precinct Plan.
The West Don Lands was subject to several environmental assessments (EA).
The Lower Don River West Class Environmental Assessment was undertaken to examine alternative flood protection systems, and their environmental effects, for the elimination of the flood risk along the Lower Don River. The study, which was done by Toronto and Region Conservation on behalf of Waterfront Toronto, was conducted in accordance with the Conservation Authority Class EA for Remedial Flood and Erosion Control Projects and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Waterfront Toronto, in cooperation with the City of Toronto, also carried out a Class Environmental Assessment Master Plan Study concurrently with the precinct planning exercise. The purpose was to address water, sanitary servicing, stormwater management, and transportation needs, including transit.
Transit service in the West Don Lands was also subject to extensive environmental assessment planning and resulted in the innovative design for Cherry Street Transit.