west don lands
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 approximately 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.
Work is underway throughout the area bringing Waterfront Toronto’s award-winning West Don Lands Precinct Plan to life. The community’s main parks are open drawing visitors from near and far, and the first phase of redevelopment is nearing completion.
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.
Following remediation, construction of a massive 8-hectare (20 acre) flood protection landform unlocked the area’s development potential. The flood protection landform removed the flood risk to 209.6 hectares (519 acres) of Toronto’s downtown east end and a portion of Toronto’s financial district. This critical piece of infrastructure also provides the foundation for Corktown Common, the area’s signature park.
Development of the community has been accelerated because a portion of site was 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. Residents moved in to the first phase of the award winning development by Urban Capital in early 2014. Construction of the second phase is well underway with some tenants already moved in, and RC3, the third phase of the four-phase project, was released for sale in 2014 and is expected to break ground in the fall of 2015.
The area’s first affordable housing development, constructed by Toronto Community Housing, was completed in 2015 and residents have moved in. The 243-unit development provides affordable rental housing for families and seniors in three buildings. The complex received its LEED Gold certification in August 2015.
canary district / athletes’ village
The West Don Lands served as home to the 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Athletes’ Village. The project is unique in that the Village was overlaid onto a community that was designed and well underway when chosen as the site for the athletes' village by the Province of Ontario. Our precinct plan laid out a pedestrian-friendly, riverside community that included a community centre, affordable market and student housing, vibrant retail and commercial at-grade, all complemented by improved transit and transportation with beautiful streets and public spaces.
Following a competitive procurement process, Dundee Kilmer Developments was awarded a fixed-price contract to design, build and finance the Athletes’ Village site. What’s unfolded in the Athletes’ Village is true to our vision.
Branded the ‘Canary District’ by Dundee Kilmer as a nod to the Canary Restaurant that served the area for decades, the 14-hectare (35-acre) area includes a new 82,000 sq. ft. YMCA recreational facility, George Brown College`s first ever student residence, two affordable rental housing buildings and the Canary District and Canary Park Condominiums.
The Canary District condominiums were launched by Dundee Kilmer in spring 2012. The development features 805 units of market townhomes and condominiums, and extensive ground-floor retail that will bring a unique urban modernism to the area.
As with other waterfront areas, the West Don Lands’ main parks were built in the first phase of redevelopment.
Underpass Park - is a uniquely urban space located beneath a series of overpasses. The first phase opened in summer 2012 and the second phase opened in 2015.
Corktown Common, the signature park in the West Don Lands, has fast become the centrepiece of the new community. Innovatively positioned atop the area’s massive flood protection landform, Corktown Common is a dynamic 7.3 hectare (18 acre) public space that is drawing visitors from near and far. The western side of the park opened to acclaim in 2013. The eastern side of the park will open in phases beginning in 2015.
unique features / design elements
The area features a number of striking design elements, and is a stunning mixture of old and new. The five historic buildings in the West Don Lands, located on Eastern Avenue and Cherry and Trinity streets, have been preserved. They are being adaptively reused and incorporated into the new community, giving the new neighbourhood an organic, developed-over-time feel.
Woonerfs - an innovative new street design for Toronto - have been developed for some of the area’s local interior streets. Woonerfs 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. Woonerfs typically slow traffic and encourage drivers to be more aware of pedestrians and cyclists. Commonly found in Europe and elsewhere, the West Don Lands is the first place they will be used in Toronto.
The community was designed with people in mind. Blocks are short and new streets enhance north south connections to adjacent neighbourhoods to encourage walking and cycling. The scale of building heights is in keeping with that of surrounding communities, with a mix of mid-rise buildings and higher tower buildings in strategic locations. The new Front Street Promenade is enhanced by carefully curated shops and cafes and a linear park that will draw people to Corktown Common.
The neighbourhood has also been designed with sustainability in mind. The West Don Lands 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.
Enhancing connections and improving transit was a key feature of the plan for the West Don Lands. The new Cherry Street streetcar line runs 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.
Public art enhances the vibrancy of public spaces. Waterfront Toronto’s Public Art Strategy for the West Don Lands is the first community scale comprehensive master art plan in Canada. Art is displayed throughout the West Don Land’s parks and open spaces, creating an outdoor public gallery to provoke, delight and entertain residents and visitors.
In this digital age, connectivity is a crucial factor in attracting and retaining talent and enhancing and enriching the lives of residents. The West Don Lands will be among the most connected in the world. As part of Waterfront Toronto’s intelligent community initiative, the West Don Lands will have a global leading ultra-high-speed broadband community network.
planning the west don lands
The first step in ensuring that the West Don Lands would be a vibrant 21st century neighbourhood was taking a comprehensive community-wide approach to planning that examined the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the area.
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 West Don Lands precinct plan was the first precinct plan tabled by Waterfront Toronto. It was the result of the collaborative effort of many individuals and organizations over a two year period. Planning began in 2003 and was approved by Toronto City Council in May 2005.
For almost two years, community members, a variety of organizations, and government stakeholders were engaged and consulted. The West Don Lands Steering Committee and the Stakeholder Roundtable provided invaluable insight and shared community priorities.
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 also received the Award of Excellence in the Vision and Master Plans category in the City of Toronto’s 2005 Architecture and Urban Design Awards.
west don lands block plans
Waterfront Toronto also developed Block Plans to provide more detailed resolution to the recommended pattern of streets and development blocks 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; bridge the gap between the master planning ideas envisioned in the public process and the eventual built environment; 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, in partnership with Toronto and Region Conservation, 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.
From Parliament Street to the Don River, King Street to the Rail corridor
- 32 hectares (80 acres)
- 6,000 new residential units
- 9.3 hectares (23 acres) of parks and public space
Proximity: 15 minute walk to downtown, immediately east of the Distillery District
Sustainability: Stage 1 LEED ND GOLD certification under the pilot program established by the U.S. Green Building Council
Public art: Mirage in Underpass Park; No Shoes in Corktown Common; Peeled Pavement on Mill Street; Untitled (Toronto Lamp Posts) on the new Front Street Promenade; The Water Guardians on Front Street East; Site Specific on Sumach Street; and Garden of Future Follies on Front Street East
- Precinct Plan and Block Plans: Urban Design Associates and DTAH
- Public Realm and Urban Design Teams: The Planning Partnership, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, and &Co.
- Public Art Consultant: Jill Anholt
- Heritage consultants: ERA Architects