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toronto | october 1–3

Facing change and guiding Ontario into the next quarter century

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MW11: The History, Planning and Development of Toronto’s Railway Lands

October 03, 2019

10:30AM - 1:30PM

What we call “CityPlace” today was originally part of the natural area of Toronto’s harbour.  After the initial approval by the City of a waterfront-related park promenade south of Front Street between Bathurst and Spadina streets in the mid 19th century, a different plan was almost immediately approved by City Council which permitted instead a new rail corridor along the entire waterfront frontage.   The harbour edge was then filled with landfill and debris to build the new rail corridor south of the downtown where it could be related to an extended harbour. And so it was to be for 100 years. The first modern plans to revitalize these lands came in the 1960’s when the Metro Centre Project was proposed by the land owners, of which by the late 1970’s only the CN Tower and parkette were completed elements. In the early 1980’s the City of Toronto itself took up and guided redevelopment planning of the overall area to create a new comprehensive mixed-use plan with the landowners that was urbanistically based upon extending the city’s street, block and open space pattern south over the land, so as to normalize and connect with the newly developed Harbourfront development to the south.  East-west, the Plan was centred upon a major new east-west boulevard (Bremner Boulevard) connecting these lands with historic Fort York in the west and Union Station in the east.  The Plan was amended to incorporate and permit the construction of the Skydome in the late 1980s and convention facilities under extended under the new “Roundhouse Park” in the early 1990’s.  Completion of the Air Canada Centre/Scotiabank Arena followed in the late 1990s. With the acquisition of the lands west of the Skydome by Vancouver’s Concorde Adex in the late 1990’s, modifications were made to the Plan to recognize and facilitate residential intensification in the form of tall point towers over space-configuring low and mid-rise development.  The Railway Lands Urban Design Guidelines were published in 1999 to guide the architectural development of these lands. Today, in their entirety all these lands (commonly referred to as “The Railway Lands”) are home to the soon-to-be largest mixed-use area of development ever built in Toronto. In this mobile workshop, join Bousfields’ partner Robert Glover for a presentation on the history of these lands, following by a guided walking tour of this dynamic area to understand the history of the planning ideas and development of these lands, the relationship between the plans and built results, and why after 160 years we may actually get a park along Front Street.