We created the city’s first Design Review Panel in 2005 to promote design excellence on the waterfront. The Panel includes some of Canada’s most accomplished city-building professionals; together, they seek to engage designers, developers, and government agencies in a public dialogue about the future of our waterfront.
The Panel is an independent advisory body that complements the City of Toronto’s regulatory approval process. Their work guides and informs all projects proposed within the Waterfront Design Review District, which lies within the larger Designated Waterfront Area established in the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Act of 2002.
The Panel strives to add value to every project by providing expert advice that is professional, fair, and constructive. Its role is to promote design excellence, improve environmental performance, and ensure a cohesive approach to waterfront revitalization. Their mission is to set new design standards across the waterfront and help Toronto achieve worldwide recognition as a centre of creativity and design excellence.
How it works
All new projects – whether on private or public land – are expected to go through design review to fulfill community planning and urban design expectations. The Panel meets monthly and provides input at key stages of a project’s design process. There are two different review streams: Stream 1 for lands that are privately owned, and Stream 2 for lands that are publicly owned. Stream 1 entails two or three review sessions (called stages) at the Panel, and Stream 2 entails three or four review stages.
At the first stage, the Panel provides high-level comments on initial sketches. Starting at the second stage, the Panel votes to determine whether the project has full support, conditional support or non-support. If the Panel supports a project, then the project moves onto the next phase. Projects with conditional support or non-support must consider the Panel’s feedback and return to the Panel at a later date for further review.
View the Waterfront Design Review Panel Handbook for the full guide of the review process and for details on getting on the agenda.
The Design Review Panel Handbook
The Handbook guides all aspects of the review process, from getting on the agenda, to submitting materials, to scheduling a follow up debrief.
This step-by-step guide to the entire design review process is an essential tool for anyone appearing before the Design Review Panel.
The Design Review Panel Biennial Report
The Biennial Report summarizes the Panel’s activities over the past year and demonstrates how the Panel strives to add value to every project it reviews. This inaugural Report encompasses the projects reviewed in the past three years, from 2019 to 2021, and the 2022 Waterfront Design Review Panel Awards.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about the Design Review Panel? Please see below for some frequently asked questions.
Our Panel is chaired by Paul Bedford, Former Chief Planner of City of Toronto. Visit our Design Review Panel Members page to read bios and learn more about the members of the panel.
Most city-building initiatives across the central waterfront appear before the Panel, including improvements to public and private lands, design projects and site plan approvals, and planning projects and planning act approvals. For more information, including exceptions, read the Design Review Panel Handbook [PDF}.
The Panel is administered by Waterfront Toronto, and has formal by-laws that govern its composition and membership. View the By-Laws for Waterfront Toronto’s Design Review Panel.
Panel members are governed by the Waterfront Toronto Code of Conduct and comply with the conflict of interest procedures.
Design Review by the Numbers
Here are some statistics related to the Design Review Panel Process
- number of meetings held to date (2005-2022)
- number of projects reviewed
- number of projects completed review by the Panel