Will Toronto Choose to Trash its Pioneering Waterfront Master Plan?

An award-winning master plan for Toronto's Lower Don Lands, completed only five years ago by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, may be gutted if the Ford administration has its way, reports Alex Ulam.

As recently as last September, the mixed use master plan, "which was chosen as one of 16 founding projects of a Clinton Climate Initiative," fended off attempts by Mayor Rob Ford and his brother, City Councillor Doug Ford, "to build a tourist-oriented development on the site that would have featured a megamall and a Ferris wheel."

Now comes news that the river reclamation and development plan for the 308-acre industrial section of Toronto's waterfront is facing a new assault. According to Ulam, "critics charge that the Ford administration is working on another attempt to gut the 2007 Van Valkenburgh master plan, this time in conjunction with Waterfront Toronto," the joint federal, provincial and municipal development agency in charge of developing the city's waterfront. 

Signals point to a new approach to the site that will, "do the minimum we have to for flood proofing in the form of an engineered channel; strip out what, in their view, is all of the extra parkland; and put the land on the market for developers," said Ken Greenberg, a prominent Toronto-based urban planner who worked on the Van Valkenburgh master plan. 

"Officials with Waterfront Toronto counter that they are not, in fact, changing the objectives of the Van Valkenburgh plan, but rather developing new ideas about how to finance it."

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