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We're Committed to Being Open and Accountable

Being open and accountable is one of our top priorities. It is how we have earned the trust and confidence of the public and the governments that fund and oversee us. We strive to operate in the most transparent way possible, including providing details on our activities to our government partners and responding to all questions about waterfront revitalization in a timely manner. This page is where we will make public the answers to information requests received, excluding any responses that contain commercially sensitive information. 

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Q: Queens Quay revitalization project budget and schedule

Earlier this year, Waterfront Toronto was asked by a City Councillor about the Queens Quay revitalization project: How much did Waterfront Toronto originally allocate to the Queens Quay revitalization project? How much is it now and is it on time and on budget?

Normally, Waterfront Toronto would respond to this request within 30 days, but the situation with the Queens Quay budget was different – and here’s why: It was not appropriate for Waterfront Toronto to disclose the budget until several claims from contractors and subcontractors working on the project were settled. These types of claims are common on large, complex construction projects – such as Queens Quay – when labour costs go up because crews are required to remain on site longer or when disruptions happen that reduce crew efficiency. Contractors submit claims to ensure they are fairly compensated for the extra time and effort required to meet their obligations. These claims – which were submitted starting in May of this year – must typically wait until a project nears completion before a fair value on the overall delay and disruption impacts can be calculated.

Given that the Queens Quay project is being funded by public money, had Waterfront Toronto disclosed any budget information during these negotiations, it could have compromised our negotiating leverage and impeded our ability to reach fair settlements of the claims without incurring additional costs – like trying to fairly negotiate the purchase of a house when the owner knows how much money you have to spend.

However, with the majority of the known claims settled, we are now in a position to make the Queens Quay Revitalization budget public. The budget for the Queens Quay revitalization has increased from $93.2 million to $128.9 million – an increase of $35.7 million, or 38.3 per cent – but the project remains on schedule for completion in June 2015.

We’d like to describe the project, explain how and why the budget increased, and outline how we reviewed the entire process to ensure we learn from the experience. 


Why Revitalize Queens Quay?

Queens Quay is one of Toronto’s most important streets and public spaces – its position as a window onto the city and as a waterfront boulevard makes it a unique potential asset to our city. Queens Quay has always been a particularly poor stretch of the waterfront – a street that suffered from decades of ad hoc development, poor planning, uninspiring public spaces and a lack of cohesive pedestrian connections across the waterfront.

As one of Toronto’s most important tourist destinations, Queens Quay was not fulfilling its role as an economic driver; it lacked the infrastructure and facilities to make it a truly excellent waterfront street and to ensure that the street was friendlier to, and safer for, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. It needed to be a more welcoming, more beautiful and more enjoyable space for visitors – whose spending directly benefits the area’s economy.

These challenges and opportunities are why we chose to revitalize Queens Quay. The revitalization of Queens Quay is transforming 1.7 kilometres of Toronto’s main waterfront street into a showpiece waterfront boulevard with improved pedestrian, cycling and transit facilities that will serve local residents, area businesses and the many tourists who visit Toronto. It is a big, bold step that will present the waterfront’s new face and send a signal that Toronto values its waterfront. The project is a complete rebuild of the street both above and below ground, where new and upgraded municipal storm and sanitary infrastructure, designed to last a generation, is replacing the old services beneath Queens Quay.

Project Description

The revitalization of Queens Quay is one of the largest, coordinated street reconstruction projects in Toronto. In addition to work we are undertaking for Toronto Water and the TTC, we are also coordinating and working with many partner utility companies who are taking advantage of the opportunity to upgrade their infrastructure within our construction zone. They include several telecommunications providers, Enbridge Gas and Toronto Hydro.

In order to avoid the problems associated with other recent street reconstruction projects in Toronto – where roads are ripped up repeatedly with no coordination and lots of disruption – we made sure that all underground utility was identified in advance and coordinated with the street-level landscape and road work. The goal of this coordinated approach was to ensure that the project included all required infrastructure upgrades in order to limit future disruption to the residents and businesses in the area. In fact, once construction is complete, there will be a five-year moratorium on underground work on Queens Quay.

Major construction began in the fall of 2012 and the project is on schedule for completion spring 2015, in time for the Pan Am Games and the many visitors expected to come to Toronto for the games.  

Project Details

The project’s $128.9 million budget includes, but is not limited to:

  • A rebuilt and separated TTC streetcar right-of-way including a turning loop. The Harbourfront streetcar corridor was at the end of its lifespan and the streetcars were on a “go slow” order prior to construction. The rebuilt streetcar platforms have been widened and meet new accessibility requirements and the requirements of TTC’s new streetcar fleet – which is in service now on Queens Quay.
  • A new and separated Martin Goodman Trail, providing – for the first time – safe off-street cycling infrastructure through the Central Waterfront.
  • A granite pedestrian promenade with a new tree canopy using over 4,000 square metres of underground silva cells designed to provide each tree with the soil volume and irrigation it needs to mature and thrive.
  • Close to 200 new street lights, TTC poles and traffic lights.
  • Realigned traffic lanes with laybys for on-street parking (including tour bus parking) to serve shops, businesses and charter boat marinas on Queens Quay.
  • New granite sidewalks and landscaping next to shops and residences on the north side of the street.
  • Substantial upgrades to Toronto Water infrastructure: 1200 metres of new storm sewers and catch basins and 700 metres of new sanitary sewer lines.
  • Support for upgraded Toronto Hydro infrastructure that includes more than 30 large hydro chambers (where electrical lines connect to residential and commercial buildings).
  • Coordination with several telecommunications companies in order to install 5000 metres of new telecommunications lines for phone, cable and internet service.
  • Integration of 750 metres of new and upgraded natural gas lines.

The entire project is being built while continuing to provide access to Queens Quay for the thousands of local residents, businesses, cultural attractions and marine uses in the area. This means a more complicated project: organizing the construction over three years while also allowing for local auto traffic, TTC service, tour buses, charter boats and ferry service, deliveries pedestrians and cyclists.

Public Consultation & Accountability

Before a construction project of this nature and magnitude could proceed in the most heavily used section of our waterfront – which is both a neighbourhood and active tourist destination – Waterfront Toronto had to undertake robust and significant outreach with local stakeholders. When planning for construction, Waterfront Toronto worked very closely with the Waterfront Business Improvement Area, local residents and neighbourhood associations to make sure we understood the concerns and specific needs of residents and businesses. A key request from stakeholders – particularly from local businesses – was to minimize long-term business impacts by staying on schedule and finishing the project by spring 2015. For this reason, we made a commitment when planning for construction that we would keep to the 2015 schedule, and despite the complexities of the project, we are on track to do just that.

Our engagement with local residents and businesses continues throughout construction. We provide a variety of ways for people to give feedback to Waterfront Toronto, including monthly Construction Liaison Committee meetings attended by representatives of condominiums and businesses in the area. We also answer questions from our Queens Quay info telephone line, email address, Facebook and Twitter. We distribute weekly construction updates, monthly project updates and progress reports. Waterfront Toronto also required that our Construction Manager employ a full-time Construction Liaison Officer who is available to local residents and businesses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions and resolve issues.


Working on such a complicated project has been made more challenging by the fact that the project is taking place entirely on fill (or reclaimed land), as everything south of Front St. – including Queens Quay – has been built on what used to be Lake Ontario. Waterfront Toronto has had to manage the many challenges that come with almost all construction adjacent to Toronto Harbour and older areas of the city: particularly unstable soil; high water levels; outdated and inaccurate as-built drawings (the technical drawings of the locations of services and infrastructure underground); buried obstructions; and failing infrastructure, which requires unforeseen work and has the potential to delay the construction schedule unless measures are taken to manage these issues. To learn more about the overall project, please visit our Queens Quay project page or have a look at this video that explains the challenges of working underground on Queens Quay. 

2011 Project Budget

Waterfront Toronto follows – and exceeds – the industry standard process for budgeting large-scale construction projects. This includes establishing the parameters of what will be built, making assumptions about how the project will be built, and setting a contingency to address typical uncertainties and unknowns. For the Queens Quay project we had multiple budget estimates undertaken by professional third-party cost estimators and our Construction Manager.

In 2011, before construction started, Waterfront Toronto estimated the Queens Quay revitalization budget at $93.2 million. Given our experience with waterfront construction, we anticipated that underground issues might present some challenges. The extent of these challenges could not be fully assessed until we broke ground, exposed the unforeseeable obstacles and issues and understood the impact they would have on the budget.
As construction progressed, and once the nature of the underground conditions was fully assessed in late 2013, Waterfront Toronto management informed the Board of Directors and prepared an increased budget for the project. The Board approved a recommended increase to the project budget in February of 2014 to $128.9 million, to complete the project on time while addressing the following challenges: 

  • Subsurface Conditions: The issues related to underground construction on Queens Quay far exceeded typical waterfront construction. The as-built drawings provided from the City of Toronto and information from various utilities did not identify the location, or – in some cases – the existence of underground pipes and utilities. Construction crews working underground encountered conflicts with existing utilities, unknown structures, abnormally high water levels and very poor soil conditions in well over 100 separate locations. This led to a ripple effect on the construction site. Each time a piece of infrastructure was uncovered where it wasn’t supposed to be, construction had to stop to allow an investigation to proceed. Additional design or engineering work was required to work around the unexpected underground conflict. In addition, more extensive dewatering (removing water from the soil) was required to address site conditions and our dewatering costs further increased when the City of Toronto had to cap the volume of water that could be discharged into the sanitary sewer as a result of the significant flood which hit Toronto on July 9, 2013. All of this additional work led to increased construction costs. In total, subsurface conditions accounted for 16.5% of the increased budget, or $5.9 million.

  • Toronto Hydro Impacts: Due to a delay in Toronto Hydro receiving Ontario Energy Board approval of its funding for the Queens Quay project and subsequent delays in starting its construction, both Hydro and Waterfront Toronto crews had to share the construction site at the same time. This compressed the schedule for Waterfront Toronto and Hydro work, which essentially required four years of work to be accomplished in three years. It also resulted in increased costs for our construction, as we had to develop new staging plans that allowed our crews to work around Hydro crews. All this had to be done without jeopardizing the June 2015 completion schedule. In addition, because Hydro’s new underground infrastructure was not complete, Waterfront Toronto was required to work around underground infrastructure that was supposed to be decommissioned before our crews began. We also had to pay increased premiums for extensive traffic management changes, overtime and winter work not originally anticipated. Hydro delays accounted for 9.2% of the cost increase, or $3.3 million.
  • Staging and Traffic Management Costs: Issues related to the subsurface conditions and Hydro delays outlined above also required Waterfront Toronto to change how the construction was sequenced in order to keep the project on schedule and keep the street open. We invested more in traffic management than originally planned, due to more temporary signals, the use of paid duty police officers and the moving of barriers and traffic facilities around parts of the project to allow construction to proceed in other areas while conflicts with utilities were resolved. Extensive premiums were also required for winter work due both to the conflict issues mentioned above as well as the extreme cold weather encountered last winter. These costs accounted for 19.6% of the cost increase, or $7 million, and were required to ensure the spring 2015 completion schedule was not jeopardized.  


  • Granite Paving Stones and Curbs: Competitively procured tenders for granite – our largest commodity on the project, as it covers most of the pedestrian areas – came in much higher than the estimates provided by our professional third party cost-estimator in 2011. This was mostly due to rapidly-increasing market prices for granite because of Toronto’s high-growth construction market. The total paved pedestrian area required for the project also increased to address the project’s western transition zone (from Yo Yo Ma Lane to Dan Leckie Blvd.) which was revised in consultation with City transportation. Design details were also modified to improve durability and reduce future maintenance costs for the City. This accounted for 12.3% of the increase, or $4.4 million. 
  • Third Party Work: The scope of work Waterfront Toronto was requested to do on behalf of third parties (TTC, Toronto Water and others) increased significantly throughout the project. While this work was planned and budgeted as part of the larger Queens Quay revitalization project, it was not included in Waterfront Toronto’s initial construction budget because contractors for other agencies were expected to undertake the work. Once construction was underway, it was more efficient and economical for Waterfront Toronto’s contractors to perform some of these tasks rather than use an additional contractor. Some examples of significant work undertaken by Waterfront Toronto contractors include the Spadina streetcar loop rebuild, which was added to the project following the 2011 project estimate, and several other changes along the TTC corridor, including modifications to TTC poles, and the addition of shelters and electrical infrastructure. Toronto Water also required more new and upgraded storm and sanitary sewer infrastructure than originally contemplated in the 2011 estimate. Changes to the scope of the third party work accounted for 30.8% of the increase, or $11 million. A portion of these costs will be recovered by Waterfront Toronto from these agencies, and Waterfront Toronto is assuming these recovered costs will contribute to funding the increase in the project budget. 
  • Non-Construction Costs: All of the conflicts mentioned above, as well as the site conditions and scope changes required substantial additional design and engineering work. In addition, increased non-recoverable HST and post-construction maintenance costs had to be accommodated within the project budget after the original estimate was prepared. Non-construction costs accounted for 11.5% of the increase, or $4.1 million.

To get a visual sense of some of the above-mentioned challenges, check out this collection of Queens Quay construction photos.

Although the final project cost will not be known until the project is substantially completed, Waterfront Toronto is confident that the current budget will not be substantially changing.

The increased budget for Queens Quay is funded from Waterfront Toronto’s long-term plan. The additional funding is being covered by land sale revenues and any recovered costs. Governments are not being asked for any additional funding. Because of the importance of the Pan Am and Parapan American Games, the expected influx of tourists to Toronto this summer, and our commitments to local residents and businesses, completing Queens Quay on time is a clear priority for us.

The increased budget will be reported in the 2014-15 long-term funding plan, which is currently under development and which will be reported to the City in the upcoming Council budget process.

Waterfront Toronto’s Track Record and Lessons Learned

Although this project cost more than our original budget estimate, we have outlined and explained the reasons why the budget increased.

The larger context to this issue is reliable project and financial management. Waterfront Toronto has a strong track record for bringing projects in on time and on budget when we control and manage the projects directly from start to finish. To date, Waterfront Toronto has delivered 19 projects with a total budget of $249 million. These 19 projects have been delivered at 3.4 per cent below budget on average – or for approximately $241 million.

We are constantly trying to improve, and have made sure to apply the lessons we learned on Queens Quay to current and future projects on the waterfront.

After the approval of the increased project budget in early 2014, the Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee of Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors engaged a third-party expert to review the Queens Quay budget increase and ensure that the revised budget was adequate to complete the project on time and on budget and that the appropriate internal controls were in place and effective. The resulting report recommended strategies to mitigate the risk of similar issues for future large-scale projects. The report confirmed that the cost estimates Waterfront Toronto undertook for the Queens Quay project were fair and based on proper assumptions, and that the contingencies in the budget were based on the known complexities and uncertainties for the project. It also confirmed that the factors that led to cost increases on the project were largely beyond Waterfront Toronto’s control.

In addition, a Risk Oversight body – comprised of Board members, management and independent third-party advisors – has been established. Its job is to make sure that additional risk management and control processes and procedures are in place, and are monitored and measured on a timely basis for the Queens Quay project, and for any large-scale projects involving a high level of risk and uncertainty going forward.

Q: Waterfront Toronto's spending on consulting contracts

In early July, we received a request from the Mayor’s office for all consulting contracts awarded by Waterfront Toronto since we were created in 2001. We responded on August 15. While this is beyond the 30-day deadline we have set for responding to information requests, this request required a substantial amount of review and research to ensure that all 13 years of contract information (several years of which predated our current accounting system) included a fulsome description of what the contract was for. In many cases, this required that we pull the original paper contracts from storage.

In answering this question, an important consideration was providing an accurate and transparent accounting of our consultant costs, as we report to three levels of government and each level of government defines and tracks external spending – like consulting and professional services – in a different way. We have used the City's definition to reply to the Mayor's office to allow for a consistent analysis by the City.

The City defines a consultant as: “Any firm or individual providing expert advice/opinion on a non-recurring basis to support/assist management decision making.” This is distinct from the definition of professional services, which refers to services provided by someone who has a professional designation (such as a lawyer, engineer, accountant or architect).

In our response to the Mayor, we went back to the earliest contracts we put out when Waterfront Toronto was formally known as the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC) and when our office staff numbered less than 20 people. Between the creation of TWRC in 2001 and the present, Waterfront Toronto has spent $9,930,561 on consultants – as defined by the city. The detailed list of consulting contracts is divided up into categories related to specific areas (like the West Don Lands) or programs (such as sustainability or building Intelligent Communities). We applied a consistent definition of consulting and we also followed the city’s guidelines in not detailing any contracts under $50,000; instead we added up the total value of these contracts and provided a total for each category.

As Waterfront Toronto grew from a handful of staff (from four in 2002, to 49 in 2006 and 66 currently) into a mature organization and as we moved from doing more planning and design and into construction projects, the number of consultants we hired has declined. 

spending in context

In our view, reporting on consulting costs – using the City’s definition – is not an adequate or meaningful reflection of what we do and how much we invest.

Professional services, as defined above, are a much larger cost for Waterfront Toronto. Most of our professional service contracts are, for example, awarded to the many civil, geotechnical, environmental, structural and transportation engineers, surveyors, planners and architects used to plan, design and build our projects: Parks and public spaces, transit, flood protection and other infrastructure and ensure that residential and commercial development and investment follows. Therefore, we spend a lot of time and money on surveying, soil and water testing, planning, designing, engineering, environmental assessments and then constructing. Since we were created in 2001, we’ve built roads, sewer lines, stormwater management facilities, bike paths, flood protection infrastructure, transit facilities, landscaping, bridges, boardwalks, parks and public spaces, and public art.

In order to be more transparent and to place Waterfront Toronto’s spending on consulting into a more meaningful context, here’s a general breakdown of our spending from 2001-2014 (excluding our operating costs such as salaries and administration):

  • Consulting (as defined above): $9,930,561
  • Professional Services (as defined above): $165,000,000
  • Construction (the cost of building projects): $475,000,000
  • Planning, design and construction of projects managed by third-party public agencies (for example, $135 million to the TTC for the second subway platform at Union Station and $40 million to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to build the Mimico and Port Union waterfront parks): $430,000,000
  • Funding to third parties (for example, Waterfront Toronto funds that have been allocated by governments to other projects, such as $130 million for GO Transit rolling stock and $25 million to Metrolinx for the Union-Pearson Express): $250,000,000

Of Waterfront Toronto’s total spending thus far of $1.38 billion, consulting contracts account for less than one per cent and professional services contracts account for 12 per cent. The $165 million spent on professional services has and will continue to directly support $1.9 billion in total planned investment (Waterfront Toronto’s seed funding of $1.5 billion, plus land sales and additional funding). The investment to date is directly responsible for attracting $2.6 billion in private sector investment in Waterfront Toronto precincts and $9.6 billion in private sector investment in adjoining neighbourhoods. 

Looking at the two Waterfront Toronto precincts where residential construction has started, the combined development in East Bayfront, West Don Lands and adjoining neighbourhoods, when fully built out, will yield more than 26,600 residential units and will accommodate 21,700 permanent jobs. Construction activity alone is expected to add $12.9 billion to the Canadian economy, more than 137,900 years of full time employment and revenues of nearly $4.9 billion to the federal, provincial and municipal government. Once construction is complete, the City of Toronto will receive $252 million in development charges to fund future infrastructure and $105 million annually in property taxes.

new initiatives for transparency

Waterfront Toronto is always looking at ways to be more transparent. Recently, we have decided on two new initiatives that are aimed at providing more details on our spending:

  1. Following the evolving best practices in procurement procedure, we are changing the way that we report on contracts awarded through a Request for Proposals. In the past we reported these contracts on our website with a value category (e.g. Category A ($50,000-$249,999); Category B ($250,000 - $999,999); Category C ($1 million+). Going forward we will be posting the specific monetary value of all contracts awarded over $50,000.
  2. Similar to the above mentioned list of all awarded consulting contracts, we will develop a list of all of our professional services contracts since inception that we will make public before the end of the year. We think this more comprehensive list will provide a better understanding of the contracts we award.

This level of proactive disclosure, we believe, is not matched in most public agencies reporting to the City. And we believe both of these initiatives will be of greater value to those who are interested in a full understanding of what we invest and why.

Q: Communications & Marketing Department

Waterfront Toronto recently received a request from a Toronto City Councillor for the titles and salaries for staff who work in Waterfront Toronto’s Communications & Marketing Department. The same Councillor also requested the full staff list for Waterfront Toronto. In response to the first question, we have six people working in the Communications & Marketing Department:

  • Director of Communications and Marketing
  • Communications Project Manager (two positions)
  • Social Media Project Manager
  • Communications & Marketing Specialist
  • Communications & Marketing Coordinator

Every year, the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors’ Human Resources and Compensation Committee reviews the staffing requirements of each department to ensure it has the right positions and number of staff to fulfill its mandate. 

The mandate for the Communications & Marketing Department at Waterfront Toronto is broad; it delivers a wide range of services, including:

  • Ongoing public communications around waterfront projects
  • Waterfront Toronto’s website and social media platforms
  • Public consultations and meetings
  • Construction Liaison Committees
  • Public and stakeholder inquiries (approximately 1,500 enquiries yearly)
  • Media relations
  • Marketing waterfront areas for development and investment
  • Tours and presentations
  • Event planning and execution
  • Internal communications and strategic communications advice

And we have lots to communicate. Our activities reflect Waterfront Toronto’s overall responsibility to keep the public informed of and engaged in what we are doing. Public consultation is fundamental to how we plan and design everything from new neighbourhoods to community parks (in fact, we’ve even won awards for public consultations we’ve doneconducted: the Public Sector Quality Fair Certificate of Excellence for the Precinct Planning Consultation Process in Toronto’s Waterfront and an IABC Award of Merit for community relations for the Rename Sherbourne Park Contest).

Because we are engaged in one of North America’s largest waterfront revitalization projects – which will deliver new communities for over 40,000 people, new commercial and employment space, 300 hectares of parks and public spaces and a downtown waterfront that will be a destination to live, work and play – we spend a lot of time and resources on making sure the public can find out what we are doing and can give us their feedback and engage in the process of shaping their city.

staff salaries

In responding to the request to disclose our communications and marketing staff salaries, under the Ontario Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (PSSDA) Waterfront Toronto makes extensive annual public disclosure of the names and compensation of all employees earning more than $100,000. This is commonly referred to as the “Sunshine List”, and is available from the Ontario Ministry of Finance website.

However, in advance of publication in next year’s Sunshine List, the Director of Communications and Marketing has consented to making his salary public; he has a current yearly salary of $130,000. No other members of the Communications & Marketing Department appear on the Sunshine List.

legal & privacy concerns around disclosing staff compensation

The Councillor’s request for staff compensation information has raised legal concerns about privacy rights. We sought a legal opinion, and were advised that Waterfront Toronto should not disclose compensation information beyond that which is required by the PSSDA because:

  • Disclosure of such additional information will likely result in the breach of common law privacy rights of Waterfront Toronto employees and could result in potential litigation against Waterfront Toronto. Our legal advisors have advised that, except where disclosure is required by the PSSDA, employees have a legal right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in their compensation information – which is considered to be one of the most sensitive types of personal information. Even if this is information provided without names attached, and because of the small number of employees in the communications department, it would be easy to link the compensation information to individual employees, thereby resulting in a breach of individual privacy rights;
  • From a human resources perspective, it would be inappropriate for an employer to disclose compensation information of individual employees to a third party, except for purposes related to the employment relationship (such as benefits, pension and employee assistance programs).

Therefore, we have provided the number of employees that work in the communications area and the associated titles. We have also provided an organization chart which includes the names of all executives and all director level staff (all of whom are on the Sunshine List) and position titles for the rest of the staff. View Waterfront Toronto's Organizational Chart as of July 31, 2014.

In considering our response to the requests, we also reviewed the City of Toronto’s July 21, 2014 Privacy Policy for staff and City’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council, both of which require staff and members of Council to respect privacy rights of individuals. We believe our response is consistent with those requirements and those of the PSSDA.

comparison to city agencies

How does Waterfront Toronto compare to other City of Toronto agencies? As a comparison, we reviewed the compensation disclosure policies of city agencies Build Toronto and the Toronto Port Lands Company (TPLC).

Since 2012, the City has required Build Toronto and TPLC to disclose executive compensation to the City and to obtain consent from the executives for that disclosure. We note that the executive compensation provided to the City this year by TPLC included information for three individuals (the President & CEO, the Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer and the Corporate Secretary & General Counsel); the executive compensation disclosure provided by Build Toronto included only information for four individuals (the President & CEO, the Senior Vice President -Development, the Senior Vice President -Corporate Development & Residential Projects and the Senior Vice President & CFO). We note that the public disclosure of compensation by Waterfront Toronto under the PSSDA already exceeds the limited disclosure of only executive compensation by Build Toronto and TPLC.

Q: Canada's Sugar Beach

As you may have seen, Canada’s Sugar Beach has been in the news recently. We think it is important to make the facts about this public space readily available to you and to encourage a fact-based conversation around our mandate, our projects and how the federal, provincial and municipal governments oversee our operations.

On August 13, 2013, Waterfront Toronto received a request from a Toronto City Councillor about the cost of the park’s umbrellas and its two oversized granite rock outcroppings. We responded to that request on September 3, 2013. We also received a follow-up request (on July 2, 2014) about the cost of the park’s sand and the air emissions study we undertook before building the park. We responded to that request on July 25.

Canada’s Sugar Beach was designed and developed to be an iconic gateway to East Bayfront, a new waterfront community in a formerly industrial part of Toronto’s waterfront. What was once a derelict parking lot, with no public access to the water’s edge, is now a beautiful public space. Here are the facts:


There are 36 umbrellas in the park – and they’re not your average garden variety patio umbrella. They’re made to last through Toronto’s four seasons for up to 20 years, in the same way that playground equipment is designed to handle the impact of prolonged use throughout the year. The umbrellas are designed for rain, snow or shine in an urban park setting with very high winds. They are 3 metres (just over 9 feet) tall with a 3.3 metre (just over 10 feet) wide canopy. As we designed the park, we learned lessons from the City of Toronto’s HTO Park (in a similar waterfront location further west on Queens Quay), whose umbrellas were made up of a number of different pieces with mechanical fasteners. These made them less wind resistant and susceptible to sun and water damage. The canopy for the Sugar Beach umbrellas is made of a seamless piece of fibreglass formed around a structural steel frame. It is designed to withstand hurricane force wind in all seasons. This helps extend their overall life span which is similar to a fibreglass boat or jet-ski. The umbrella also has a 90 mm stainless steel post anchored into a concrete pier with a spread footing that is 1.5 metres below the surface. Because it’s important to make the beach safer at night, we also integrated ambient lighting into each umbrella. That means the umbrella is more than an umbrella – it’s also a light fixture. Each umbrella/light cost just over $11,000 to build and install. To put that in perspective, a standard city light pole costs $5,000 before it’s fitted out with additional equipment.


There are two oversized granite rock outcroppings in the park measuring:

15.5 metres (50+ feet) long x 12.5 metres (40+ feet) wide x 1.6 metres (5+ feet) high
6.5 metres (21 feet) long x 6 metres (19+ feet) wide x (3+ feet) high

These large pieces of granite were sourced responsibly from a quarry in northern Quebec. The rocks were quarried, cut, transported to the site and installed using a 165-tonne crane. The rock was reassembled on site and red and white stripes were applied to cover the seams using DuraTherm™ technology, a flexible and durable thermoplastic that is inset into the surface of the rock. The rocks cost just under $500,000. In addition to their inherent beauty, the rocks are actively used as seating for the many concerts and events held in the park and as a natural play environment. The design for Sugar Beach, which included the rock and umbrella, was selected through an international design competition and included consultations with the public in order to make sure the park would meet the needs of its users. The design and specifications of all park elements were overseen and approved by the City of Toronto parks department in advance of any construction. And as always, governments approved the budget and project.

air emissions study

Due to the nearby Redpath Sugar Factory, the City of Toronto’s zoning by-law required that an Air Quality Emissions Study be undertaken before a park could be built at the Jarvis Slip. The 2008 report concluded that: “There are no anticipated air quality-related adverse impacts from Redpath operations on the proposed Jarvis Slip Park. All predicted air quality and dust concentrations from Redpath operations are well below their applicable Ministry of Environment standards.” The report also provides information about “fugitive dust impacts”. In the case of Redpath, “fugitive dust impacts” are odour and dust from the sugar unloaded at the factory. According to the report, (sugar) “dust fall impacts are not expected the vast majority of the time.” However, if a sugar dust fall did occur, the sand beach and grassy areas of the park would allow for sugar dust to wash into the soil/sand and should not, for example, make the sand sticky. Since opening in 2010, Waterfront Toronto has not received any complaints about sticky sugar dust from the park. In fact, people often comment about how wonderful it is to watch sugar boats come in and out of the slip.


The sand at Canada’s Sugar Beach is “bunker” beach sand. It is different from more typical sand playground sand in a few ways: it’s not abrasive to touch and therefore better for park users, especially children; it has the ability to retain water while also allowing for proper drainage of the park; and the heavier nature of the sand means it is less likely to blow away and into nearby buildings.

Again, a comparison to nearby City of Toronto HTO Park is useful, as we wanted to apply any lessons learned to the design of Sugar Beach. The sand at HTO Park is a volleyball court sand, which is harder and more abrasive, less able to retain water and more likely to blow away in strong winds. The sand for Sugar Beach was competitively tendered and awarded to a local company (The Lakeshore Sand Co.) based in Hamilton. The company in turn, competitively sourced the sand from northern Ohio. The total cost of the sand was $337,500 and includes the cost of transportation and installation.

There is an important aspect to how the sand was transported to Sugar Beach that speaks to Waterfront Toronto’s sustainability policies. Rather than have it trucked in – which means using dozens of dump trucks and the associated emissions – the entire load of sand was placed on a barge and delivered from Ohio directly to the park, thus eliminating considerable greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, the sand for HTO Park was trucked in from Huntsville, Ontario.

In looking at a larger comparison between Sugar Beach and HTO Park, the cost breaks down as follows:

HTO Park
Amount: 1,200 cubic metres of sand
Cost $180,000 (approximately $150 per cubic metre including installation)

Sugar Beach
Amount: 1,500 cubic metres of sand
Cost: $337,500 (approximately $225 per cubic metre including installation)

That means, when you compare the overall cost per cubic metre, the sand for Sugar Beach cost approximately $100,000 more than the sand at HTO Park. However, it’s a better quality sand, there is less migration (which means it doesn’t need to be replaced as much), it drains better and provides a much better overall experience for those visiting the park.

park budget

The overall budget of the park was $14.2 million and was approved by the levels of government that funded it. The federal government provided $13.4 million – the majority of the funding – and the City of Toronto funded the remaining $700,000. The Park was delivered on time and on budget and built to City specifications and subject to City construction approvals.

The $14.2 million budget included $1.5 million in soft costs and $12.7 million in hard costs. 

Soft costs included design, planning and rezoning applications, permits, engineering and project management.

Hard costs are the cost of the materials and labour required construct the park and install all its features. Those hard costs included the umbrellas, rocks and sand, as well as the park furniture (benches, Muskoka chairs, bike racks, garbage bins, etc.), lighting and electrical work, paving, trees, additional landscaping and irrigation systems, the water feature and the underground mechanical vault to run it. Because of the park’s location on a former waterfront parking lot, there were additional costs for repairing the badly deteriorated dockwalls at the Jarvis Slip, as well as environmental remediation and monitoring for the site.

park operations

Once Sugar Beach was completed, it was handed over to the City of Toronto to operate and maintain. We have received questions about maintenance of the umbrellas and other features of the park – we direct these questions to the City’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. Park revenues: Since Sugar Beach opened, it has been a popular location for events, film and photo shoots and other activities that require a park permit. Because these permits require payment to the city, the park generates revenue that goes back to the city. Since 2011, over $60,000 in permit revenues have been returned to the city.

  • 2011: $4,161.54
  • 2012: $21,571.08
  • 2013: $9,200.35
  • 2014: $29,507.50
  • Total: $64,440

In addition to being widely used for concerts, events, film and photo shoots, the park has also won five prestigious national and international design awards.

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