The Blue Belt
In many ways, cities can be seen as the intermingling of colourful swaths of an abstract painter’s brush: bold strips – or dare I say “belts”? — of green, grey, white, red and as discussed at length in this issue, yellow. On canvas, they certainly make for a pastiche of vibrant rainbow hues, but when it comes to the fine art of city building, developers and land use planners may not see it as such. In so many ways the rules governing how and even if building can happen in these colourbelts do not reflect how cities are evolving in the modern area, as Stefan Novakovic vividly illustrates in his cover story.
As we all know, the Greater Toronto Area has many of these resplendent swaths coursing through its boundaries, and as powerful as certain colours like green and yellow are, another is certainly the blue belt: meaning, its waterfront. And while many of the land-locked colour belts provide endless headaches for developers trying to build in the city, there is no other belt as immovable as the waterfront.
In recent years, the GTA had difficulties transforming waterfronts from industrial-use into livable communities. Patches are being transformed, some to better effect than others, and big moves are still being made, with all eyes and ears trained for updates on the headlining-grabbing evolution of Sidewalk Labs. Other projects are underway as well, and while not as glitzy have the potential to be even more impactful in the long run. For example, this winter Waterfront Toronto begins excavation on a new kilometre-long river valley, a natural spillway and new mouth for the Don River, part of a $1.25-billion, seven-year infrastructure project that will unlock 290 hectares of underused waterfront land for revitalization.
Straddling Toronto’s western border another project is underway, and one I will be paying very close attention to. The site of the former Lakeview Generating Station in Mississauga has sat unused since the coal fired power plant was shut down in 2005. After 43 years as an industrial site, almost 200 acres of lakefront real estate sits mostly empty. Earlier this year, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) sold the land to a consortium of developers collectively known as Lakeview Community Partners Limited (LCPL) to remediate the former industrial lands and create a new mixed-use waterfront community called Lakeview Village.
LCPL executives sat down and showed me the details: in a nutshell, Lakeview Village will create as many as 7,000 new homes, including townhouses, mid-rise, and high-rise buildings, along with 600,000 square feet of employment space and 200,000 square feet of cultural space. There will also be a 26-hectare conservation area and a pier that extends into Lake Ontario (and keep an eye out for what they have in mind for garbage collection!).
You don’t get an opportunity to deliver a truly transformational project on the waterfront like these every day, and the potential to “eff” it up is incredible. But the need to get it right is even more incredible. Which is why we will be watching.