Toronto’s Waterfront: How to Reach its Full Potential
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23 February, 2022 Toronto’s Waterfront: How to Reach its Full Potential
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23 Feb 2022
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February 2022
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February 23, 2022

Toronto’s Waterfront: How to Reach its Full Potential

Chairman: Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada; Vice-President, External Affairs & Professional Learning, Humber College

Moderator
Myriam Eddahia, Journalist, CBC/Radio-Canada

Panelists
Ana Bailao, Deputy Mayor, Chair, Planning and Housing Committee Toronto, Councillor Ward 9, City of Toronto
Dr. Gervan Fearon, President, George Brown College
George Zegarac, President & CEO, Waterfront Toronto

Distinguished Guest Speaker
Tim Kocur, Executive Director, Waterfront BIA

Introduction
It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau. Literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Kelly Jackson, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon fellow directors, past presidents, members, and guests. Welcome to the 118th season of the Empire Club of Canada. My name is Kelly Jackson. I’m the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada, and Vice-President External Affairs and Professional Learning at Humber College. I am your host for today's event focused on, “How Toronto's Waterfront Can Reach its Full Potential.” Today, we will hear about the plans to build new communities, with improved transit, affordable housing, and access to green space, all in this key part of one of North America's largest cities.

I'd like to begin this afternoon with an acknowledgement. I am hosting this event within the Traditional and Treaty Lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. In acknowledging Traditional Territories, I do so from a place of understanding the privilege my ancestors and I have had in this country, since they first arrived here in the 1830’s. As farmers in Southwestern Ontario, I imagine they felt a deep connection to the land, and yet likely did not recognize how that connection was built on the displacement of others. Delivering a land acknowledgement, for me, it's always an important opportunity to reflect on our human connection, and responsibility to care for the land; and to recognize that to do so, we must always respect each other, and acknowledge our histories. We encourage everyone tuning in today to learn more about the Traditional Territory on which you work and live.

The Empire Club of Canada is a non-profit organization. So, now I want to take a minute to recognize our sponsors, who generously support the Club, and make these events possible, and complimentary, for our supporters to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsor, The Waterfront BIA. Thank you, also to our season sponsors, the Canadian Bankers Association, LiUNA, Waste Connections of Canada, and Bruce Power.

Before we get into today's conversation, just a few housekeeping notes. I want to remind everybody who is participating today, that this is an interactive event. So, if you're attending live, I encourage you to engage, by taking advantage of the question box you can find below your on-screen video player. We have reserved some time for audience questions towards the end of the discussion. We also invite you to share your thoughts on social media, using the hashtags displayed on-screen throughout the event. And if you require technical assistance, please start a conversation with our team, using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. To those watching on-demand later, and to those tuning in on the podcast, welcome.

It's now my pleasure to call this virtual meeting to order. I'm delighted to welcome our guest speakers today to the Empire Club of Canada's virtual stage for the first time, Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao, who is the Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee for Toronto, and Councillor for Ward 9 in the City of Toronto; Dr. Gervan Fearon, who is President of George Brown College; George Zegarac, who is President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto; and our moderator today, who is Myriam Eddahia, journalist at CBC/Radio-Canada. You can learn more about our speakers today by scrolling down your screen, and there you will find their full bios on the page, below the video player. I'd like to now hand it over to Myriam to get the discussion started. Myriam, a big welcome and over to you.

Myriam Eddahia, Journalist, CBC/Radio-Canada
Thank you so much, Kelly. Good afternoon, bon après-midi. My name is Myriam Eddahia. I am pleased to be here with you today. I'm a bilingual journalist, based in Toronto, and I myself have lived on the waterfront for a few years, so I have some great friends there as well. Je m’appelle Myrian Eddahia. Je suis journaliste, basé à Toronto. J’ai mois même habité dans la quartier waterfront, à Toronto, et j’ai garde très bon souvenirs. I keep great memories from the waterfront. I'm very excited to also learn more about the waterfront together. Let's start, and jump right into it with George, let's start with you. How has the waterfront evolved over the last 20 years?

George Zegarac, President & CEO, Waterfront Toronto
Thanks Myriam, and as I said before, we're hoping to get you back to the waterfront, so hopefully this presentation will interest you. So, our mandate 20 years ago was to focus on revitalizing the waterfront: creating affordable housing homes; creating opportunities to advance our environmental agenda, whether it's flood protection, or LEED buildings; we also created open space. And I think, to be frank, the mandate is as relevant, if not more relevant, today, than it was 20 years ago. The same issues, whether we talk about affordable housing—you know, during the pandemic, housing became a big issue—we heard about having more green space to be able to access. We have built a number of units, both affordable, and just private units, 3800; and then, about 600 affordable housing units, we'll be more than doubling that—I'll be speaking to that in a few minutes—we have 15 LEEDs buildings; we had, you know, 42, 43 hectares of park space. Those issues are still the issues of today. So, I would say that they're probably just become more urgent. And the ability of governments to deal with these individually is almost impossible, so the fact that we were set up as a three-government agency, I think, is more relevant, because the issues are so complex, no one level of government to deal with that.

So, if I go just quickly to a few slides, if you look back to where we were back in 2006, we had a little bit of skyscraper area, but quite a bit of space that still needed to be developed, and also contaminated soil needed to be addressed—because we couldn't build until we cleaned that up. We also needed to build some flood protection, to be able to build out the West Donlands and the Pan Am village. If we can go to the second slide, 2015, you can see the development. We have a lot more skyscrapers, we have a lot more green space being built. One of the key priorities that we heard from the public is to make sure we continue to have access to the waterfront. If we go to the next slide, you look at what this looked like back then; we had contaminated soils, we had industrial wastelands. We needed to actually address that, by advancing the development, but cleaning it up, and really making this a complete community. So, if you go to the next slide, you can see, we've actually built beautiful promenades. We built the Corktown Common, which is both a park, but it's also a flood protection zone. And then you look at, again, building out more public space was really important. So, I think we've evolved in terms of, you know, we've advanced things over the last 20 years, but I think the mandate is equally relevant, and probably even more important today.

Myriam Eddahia
And Dr. Fearon, George Brown College was one of the first institutions to take a big bet on the future of the waterfront and set up shop there. What potential did the establishment see in that part of town?

Dr. Gervan Fearon, President, George Brown College
Thank you for that question. And I think in many respects, what we saw as a potential was the opportunity to really contribute to the growth and future of Toronto, and that growth and future very much lies within the waterfront. I think as we have seen over the last 20 years or so, an incredible growth and development in the waterfront. As a result, George Brown wanted to be a part of that future of Toronto. And in some respects, it was a bet not only on the waterfront, it was a bet on Toronto. And I think it was the right decision. And we've grown and been a part of that growth since 2012, and it's been an amazing development since that period.

Myriam Eddahia
Deputy Mayor Bailao, how can the eastern part of the waterfront become a lively neighbourhood, and an area that is still very much industrialized?

Ana Bailao, Deputy Mayor, Chair, Planning and Housing Committee Toronto, Councillor Ward 9, City of Toronto
Well, I think that we're off to a good start. As George said, we have communities that are already being built. We are attracting leading education institutions like we have here today; we are attracting business. So, there's a reputation that the waterfront is a place where businesses want to be, where people want to be. So, I think it is imperative that we continue to invest in the infrastructure. I think that what led this was three levels of government believing in this revitalization, investing in it, and so attracting the development, the quality of development, and the quality of businesses and innovation that we see now in the waterfront. So, that's why we need to continue is, with good planning, focusing on our principles being, you know, reconciliation, affordable housing. Now that we need to build back our economy, how we have here, so much potential to bring innovation and to bring businesses in here. So, all this, with good planning and an investment in infrastructure, will be essential to unlock more than 700 acres. And in a fast-growing city like ours, I say, this is the big opportunity of our city.

Myriam Eddahia
George, tell us what are some of the current projects underway at the waterfront that you're also looking to develop in the next years?

George Zegarac
If we can show the next slide, you'll see really, three priorities that we've identified. Quayside, which we made a wonderful announcement last week, which Dream and Great Gulf will be advancing with their partners, with internationally recognized architects, more than doubling our affordable housing in the area, creating about 40% of the space to be dedicated to public space. So, that's exciting. Parliament Slip, which we announced a number of months ago, with regards to the opportunity to actually develop the water area, so that we would have the opportunity, like Chicago and some other areas, where we can have a restaurant on an extended pier. We would have bridges there, we’d have transit going to and from—not just to the island, but along the shores—so that you can actually use it as a public transit system. It would have two great swimming pools that could be used all year long, it'll have retail spaces, it'll be just a place to activate all year long, which is one of the things that we've looked at. We need to have people come down on the waterfront 12 months a year.

Now, the other piece that we're working on with Creatio in the city, is the island that we're building through the flood protection, which is called Villiers Island. And that will be another spectacular piece of property for development. And it's an opportunity for us to further advance our environmental goals, making it, just as we did for Quayside, one of our first carbon-zero communities, and advancing it with a lot more affordable housing—probably over 1000 units there. So, we've got lots on our plate, very exciting. And I think, as we proved with the number of proposals we got, everybody recognizes Toronto as a place to be, and I think we just want to raise the level of expectation of what we can do on the waterfront.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you, George. And as you know, in Toronto, finding affordable housing can be challenging, especially downtown. Deputy Mayor Bailao, what is being done on the waterfront to build more affordable housing for Torontonians?

Ana Bailao
Well, I think that the City of Toronto had a policy shift at the beginning of this term that was very significant. Some people might have not noticed, but we took a big shift from dealing with our lands—which, we had our real estate company, Build Toronto, that was very much on a transactional base, we would sell a lot of land, and get the money—to a city-building. So, we now have Creatio that develops land to city-building initiatives, and a lot of it affordable housing. So, the City is the major landowner in the Port Lands, in a lot of this land. So, working with the other orders of government, with Waterfront Toronto, I think we have a great opportunity here to use the value that is created through flood protections, through unlocking these lands, and getting some of that value to be used for the creation of affordable housing and complete communities.

And important is as well, to make sure that we're leveraging the affordable housing programs that all levels of government have available. If we do that, if we continue to work together on the waterfront towards our goals, and every government continues to say that housing affordability, affordable housing is a major key deliverable for all of them—and I think they say that because people are saying that during the elections, and people are saying that every day—they recognize that this is a great opportunity. So, if we leverage each others programs, if we use the land value, and ultimately if we have partners that are going to develop those lands, that believe in city-building—and I think we've been picking our partners well, they come with proposals, they know that we value that—what we've been seeing is they're responding to our calls to have more affordable housing, to have excellent design, to have excellent public spaces, and that is important. We need the partners in there, and we need the governments in there, and use the maximum value that we can take from that land.

Myriam Eddahia
And do you have an idea of how many affordable housing units can Torontonians expect on the waterfront in the years to come?

Ana Bailao
So, the City has committed to 20%, our plan currently says 20%. I know that we're trying to attain more, we're trying to get more. We are currently reviewing the plan, because the plan was done a few years ago, and so, city planning is having consultations—actually, let me plug it in, there's another one tonight—and so, people that want to make sure that they participate in the visioning of how these communities are going to be planned; we're doing those consultations. And we definitely want to do as much as possible, but there's a commitment on the table about 20%. But, you know, the density that we're going to have is going to be important, the kind of planning we’re going to have is going to be important, the value that we get from the land is going to be important. You know, we can't forget the transit. It is really important that when we talk about infrastructure, right now we've been focusing on the infrastructure that George showed on his slides, you know, the flood protection and the waters and the sewers. We need to now start thinking about the transit that we're going to need. And as we develop these communities, the public open spaces, the recreational spaces, these have to be done hand in hand. It can't be an afterthought, it had to be it has to be good planning. And that's why the work that we're doing now to consult, to work with our communities to create this plan, is extremely important. And with that, you know, planning is the first part; the second part is the commitment, with funding, from all three orders of government. We can go much, much farther, if we have three levels of government continue to invest into believe in the waterfront.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you. And let's go to Dr. Fearon. Let's talk about innovation and keep talking about growing the waterfront. How is the Waterfront Campus built for the future?

Dr. Gervan Fearon
Thank you for that question. And I think that a really good way to think of it is how we started. When we started off in about 2012, we only had about 2000 individuals, students and employees, here at the waterfront. Today, we're already at 8000. We have grown in terms of our footprint here, with more than almost 650,000 square feet in terms of footprint. We're building a new location here at the waterfront, Limberlost Place, that will add 175,000 square feet. And all of this build out is because we really think that it's important to have educational institutions, like George Brown, contribute not only to a city-building and community-building, but also have a sense of the idea that the waterfront can be a place where people live, where people play, but also where they learn and grow. And in that context, what we've been doing at the waterfront already in terms of our programming, in terms of design, in terms of technology, in health, are all areas that are part of the future skills and talent base of Toronto. Consequently, we feel that the work that we're doing at the on the waterfront will really contribute to the skill space, and attracting and retaining talent in Toronto, and that makes it a really vibrant place for investment, and for retention of capital and economic growth and prosperity.

So, in that respect, I think that when I think about the future of George Brown College at the waterfront, is adding to the prosperity of Toronto, and as well as to recognize that with what we're doing on the waterfront is not only for the waterfront, but really relates to people right across Toronto and across Ontario, meaning that’s major attraction for the city. And as we think about our needs, in terms of adding to that growth that we've already had as a post-secondary educational institution, at the waterfront, we're paralleling and championing the ideas of the City in terms of the need for transportation. Our students also need affordable housing; we currently have about 500 residents in the general catchment of the waterfront, we're hoping to build that out into the future as well. Culinary arts, what we do with culinary arts, being able to add to the kind of restaurant and retail outlets that are here, and with our partners as well. But broadly speaking, to make George Brown, the campus that we have here, become a vibrant part of the general community. So, that means that individuals who live in the community can come and access our facilities, and engage with our facilities, and that means that we're making that contribution to all Torontonians, and in fact, to Ontario as well.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you for your answer. And George, how do we connect these people? How do we connect the waterfront to the rest of the city, and how important is it that we build transit early in the development of the East End?

George Zegarac
It's very important. So, connecting, as I talked about, the eastern waterfront to the rest of the downtown core, it's extremely important. We built out transit on the west side of the waterfront, we now need to do that on the east side of the waterfront. There is no reason to build out affordable housing, job, employment opportunities, if people can't get there, so we need to build that early. And the benefit is, if we announce it early, actually the three levels of government will benefit from the fact that we’ll get a higher price for the land when it's announced, so that's an important part.

We've also—you will have seen three of our four bridges that have come down to Villiers Island. They're spectacular; they are an important part of connecting the island to the rest of the city. And I think one of the other things that I'll just mention, building not just on the LRT discussion, but how do we connect people to the waterfront. You know, we are also looking at what we're creating by how we're creating it, and if you would have saw in the Quayside announcement, 20% of all the construction hours are going to Indigenous and other equity-deserving groups, and we're also creating jobs for them at the end of the day; we have our first MOU with Mississaugas of the Credit. So, I think part of this is making sure everybody is part of the solution at the waterfront as well.

Myriam Eddahia
Deputy Mayor Bailao, the City of Toronto plans to build an extension of the waterfront light rail transit east through Port Lands. That plan is not funded yet. Can you tell us, how involved is the City in this project?

Ana Bailao
The City has been very involved. I mean, the City has been working with Waterfront Toronto, with the TTC, on getting the all the waterfront transit plan underway. Like you said, it's not funded. I don't know how many times I've already mentioned three levels of government need to be at the table. So, I will keep saying that, because the reality is that these are the kinds of projects that we need the three levels of the government. Because, you know, let's be honest, I mean, at the end of the day, this is an opportunity for the city. But, you know, Toronto is the economic engine of the country, and if we're asked to continue to attract investments, and the jobs, and the talent, it is imperative that we all build these investments, and the governments that receive all the income taxes, all the sales taxes, everything, is actually the provincial and federal governments. So, you know, we still have a system that the City of Toronto has very limited revenue tools. And so, it is imperative that we have this co-ordinated approach to take the most, and to deliver on our goals, because I think the governments are very aligned on all the goals, and as George said, it makes perfect sense that we announce this funding sooner rather than later, because we're all going to benefit from that, and the land is going to be worth more. The market, the people will see that the governments are committed to it, so the quality of proposals, the partners that will come to the table, will be significantly different. And that's what’s made the difference, the market, the business, the academic institutions, they've seen the commitment from all three orders of government. We need to continue to have that, in order for us to go out and to have the same kind of partnerships that we've been having to this point.

Myriam Eddahia
To go back to Dr. Fearon, can you tell us how will George Brown College expand in the waterfront in the next few years, and what can students and members of the community expect?

Dr. Gervan Fearon
So, in fact, we have a few slides that can really demonstrate this. Our most recent announcement is Limberlost Place, and we're really pleased as well, that we've had major partners that's been a part of these developments, as well. So, I'd like to really thank Jack Cockwell for his recent donation to the College of 10 million dollars—that's going towards Limberlost place now. And what's material about Limberlost Place? It's a mass timber facility, one of the largest ones for institutional use in Canada. The technology being used in the building means that we'll have zero net emissions. As well, we'll be integrating into the waterfront cooling system and heating system that goes right across the entire waterfront, Enwave as well, which makes it a really efficient building.

We have some new technologies—if you go to the next slide as well—that we’ll be using, in terms of what's called a solar chimney. And the idea, if you take a look at the slope of that roofing system, that allows us to have airflow system and cooling the building. And what it does, is provide the waterfront with a showcase of what can be done in terms of environmental responsibility, in terms of sustainability, in terms of mass timber. So, as a result, when we think about this building that will be available to our students and to our researchers. We'll also have the Brookfield Sustainability Institute within that building. What we're hoping to do is to not only have this as a Teaching and Learning Centre, but to attract individuals from around the world to the waterfront, to take a look at what can be done with mass timber, what can be done in terms of sustainability, and how post-secondary educational institutions can be very much a part of city growth, and city building, and community-building. So, the work that we're doing not only contributes to our students, it also contributes to showcasing Canadian technology, and showcasing it here right at the waterfront, and in Toronto.

Of course, one of the key items for us is ultimately the people, and part of what that means then, is that we very much champion the work that's been done by the City, as well as by Waterfront Toronto in terms of transportation needs. And we, too, would say, the earlier we get those announcements and commitments, the better it is for the kind of development that we're hoping to contribute here at the waterfront. We're already, as mentioned, at about 8000 people at the waterfront most days, coming down—adjusting for COVID of course—we're almost 800,000 square feet. But that is a tip of the potential that we can do, and others can do, in partnership at the waterfront, with the right transportation, the right network, and in the region as well.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you so much. And last question before we go to the questions of the audience—because there are many—George, is there a waterfront you've been inspired by, and would like Toronto to learn from, to emulate?

George Zegarac
Well, one of the things we did is actually look at kind of the top 10 waterfronts across the world to say, what brought them up to the top 10? And what we learned is, you can't get by on six or seven attributes. You need a number of cluster of activities, just as Gervan said; we have the Innovation Centre, we have George Brown, MaRS is coming down, U of T. It's important to have cluster of activities, cultural activities—everybody thinks of the Sydney Opera House, but there are many cultural signature projects on the waterfront. So, that's what the board looked at, and if we can put the slide up of the four signature projects that are in our five-year plan. We need to upgrade Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. That was built for a time with far fewer people using the terminal and needs to be upgraded; we're working with the City, and they're having discussions with future developers around that. We look at a signature cultural piece, that's probably not going to be the Sydney Opera House, but it has to be something that can activate. And we have a great number of cultural strengths in our community, both in terms of entertainment, the film industry, others. Digital is a big part of the sector that we're dealing with. We continue to want to make sure that we can connect our walkways all the way around the waterfront. You will see, whether you're in Rio de Janeiro or Sydney, you can actually walk the entire perimeter of the waterfront and it's easily accessible. So, these are, you know, important and destination playgrounds, which is a big part of what we want to build on Villiers Island. It is an opportunity to bring families down to the waterfront, to be active, especially during the challenges that we had during the pandemic. We need places for people to go out with their families, or even with their pets to get out. The destination playground is one of the fundraising projects, along with the other three; art trail is another project that we have. But the destination playground is pretty spectacular. We hope to be able to fundraise over the next little while to make this reality. Tulsa, Oklahoma has one, and Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park has one, but the Tulsa one people are driving eight hours to come and visit that, so they far exceeded the expected demand. I think that this is a huge opportunity. So, I think we've learned a lot by looking at other jurisdictions, and trying to create a Toronto- centric solution to activate in the waterfront.

QUESTION & ANSWER

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you so much, George. And let's dive into the questions from the public—I have a few here—first, Angelo asks, the eastern waterfront needs the LRT to reach full potential. The many folks that live work and learn on the eastern waterfront need commuting connections now. Can we expedite the LRT construction? For anyone to answer.

George Zegarac
Well, maybe I can jump in, and then if the Deputy Mayor wants to jump in, but as she said already, we are working with the TTC and the City around the 30% design, we're trying to advance to the 60% after that. And we are actively lobbying for funding from all three levels of government, obviously, there's no way the City can do this on its own. And if we're trying to attract jobs that the federal and provincial government, and the city government have talked about, we already know. Headquarters have talked to us. They want to come down to the waterfront, but they're not coming down if their employees can't get there. So, I think these are important things that we need to look at, in addition to servicing obviously, all the affordable housing and private housing that we're going to create, but I think it absolutely is a priority. It's one of the two priorities for the City, and it's a priority for our board.

Ana Bailao
Yeah, I'll add to that Myriam, is that it is definitely a priority for the City, it has in every conversation with the other orders of government. And I would just add that, you know, when we talk about the waterfront, and I mentioned, Toronto is the economic engine of Toronto, but the waterfront, this whole revitalization, is a project of national significance, and provincial significance. I was talking to George the other day, and he was saying that the bridges that we have were actually built in our Atlantic provinces. The transit that we'll have, there'll be manufactured in other provinces and other parts of the province. These are creating jobs and economic growth, not only in our city. What we're doing in the waterfront has a ripple effect actually across the nation, and across the province. And so, we're going to continue to invest, as well and to put up as much resources as possible. We have created the City Building Fund, which is a fund that the City has, to invest in transit as well. And this is definitely the top priority that we have identified in the city.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you so much. And another question, from an anonymous person this time, how do you see Ontario Place fitting into these plans, and also the future of Ontario Place, as you know?

George Zegarac
Do you want me to jump in? Or, you know, I'll jump in initially. You know, we work with the Province very carefully. Ontario Place a provincial project, but I am constantly in contact with the CEO for Infrastructure Ontario, and with the Province. And we've always offered, any assistance we can give in that project, we're available, but that's a provincial project. But we try to plan together; they sit on our Inter-Governmental Steering Committee on all of our projects, and they look at how do our activities actually integrate in with their plans as well.

Ana Bailao
I think these are projects that need to complement each other, right? You can't be planning one side of the waterfront in isolation of what is happening somewhere else. They need to complement each other as we're planning for open spaces, for recreational spaces, for business to come to the waterfront, for Toronto to turn it’s face to the waterfront, because I think that for a few decades, Toronto had its back to the waterfront, and I think finally we're turning, you know, face-first, and embracing the waterfront. And people want to do that. I think we need to take all these projects into consideration, to make sure they complement each other.

Myriam Eddahia
Something that's coming up a lot in the audience’s questions is, how do we keep the waterfront affordable, but also safe, diverse and accessible? Can anyone give us some thoughts?

Dr. Gervan Fearon
Maybe I'll make some reflections on that. I think one of the items that, as a post-secondary educational institution that's at the waterfront, our student base, our employee base, is very diverse, I really applaud the considerations that's been given to Indigenous Peoples, and to the initiatives that are envisioned forward in that sense. So, I think in terms of the kind of partners and participants that are here at the waterfront, can play a really important part. The next consideration in terms of affordability, in terms of housing, and making sure that that's accessible. A transportation network that brings family and individuals right across Toronto, and Canada, to be able to access the waterfront, is another important one. But I also think, in terms of the kinds of partnerships that we build at the waterfront, and the kinds of employment opportunities, and investment opportunities, and talent-building opportunities, that we play an important role in making sure that we're building a diverse economy, through the kinds of educational opportunities and training programs that we do, and making sure that we're inclusive in that context. So, I think that there's a significant part that can be played with all partners, and here at George Brown, I think that we're a significant partner in making sure that we're that part of both city-building and community-building in that context, as well.

George Zegarac
If I can add just quickly, you know, I think Gervan hit the point on partnerships are a big part of our success in the past and will be in the future. And we probably consult with the public more than any other agency, so the public will have voice. So, when we talked about—and I always talk about—I'd like to activate the waterfront 12 months a year, and as long as we can throughout the day, but also recognizing people live here, and need to be able to sleep at night, and are worried about noise, and other obstacles to that vision. And, you know, we have to listen, and we have to compromise and find solutions. And I think we've done a very good job at that in the past, and we will in the future.

Myriam Eddahia
Question from Brian, who asks, I find there is some disconnect between the developer's vision, which means local, and somewhat short-sighted in his opinion, and the planning of the integrated community needs, such as schools, park lands, etc. Any thoughts on whether or not there's a disconnect between the developer's vision, and what the City, or what partners are trying to do on a community basis.

Dr. Gervan Fearon
I’ll start in with just a quick reflection. I think as we take a look at, even going back to the 1990s and the Place to Grow Act, by way of example, and some of the planning initiatives that have been taken—and a lot of this information is available through the city site, or waterfront site—I think the incredible balance that's been placed between space, and affordability, and accessibility, that the planning efforts have really provided a foundation for how participants such as ourselves, and others, interact and really try to meet the public's need, in terms of how we develop in that regard. So, I appreciate the question, but I also think that this has been, what a showcase of city planning and community planning that's been done at the waterfront, that I think is a showcase to the world. But, similar to what was said by George, and as well as by the Deputy Mayor, that it's important for communities, and for the public, to keep pushing all the participants at the waterfront to live up to the expectations that they have for a bright and prosperous, engaged future for ourselves. So, I think the question is perfectly placed, but I also think it's such an incredible showcase of what partnership can bring towards city development and community development.

George Zegarac
Myriam, I'm going to put in a quick commercial here. We have a video—and I believe the Empire Club will circulate the link at the end—and it's a video of our recently announced project at Quayside, that has our developers, and their great talent, speaking to the vision that they have, which is very tightly aligned with what we had put out. So, I don't think there's a lot of space, certainly on this recent project, and I would strongly suggest, after people have listened to us throughout this last hour, that they go to that video link. And I think they'll be surprised at how exciting and aligned they are.

Ana Bailao
Yeah, if Icould add, I think, that we've actually seen significant progression from both government's involvement. I mean, we have the West Donlands, which was provincial land that the Province came through, to develop a complete community in there, with significant number of affordable housing. We’ve had different involvements throughout this last decade, where we've seen development, and I think George is absolutely right. I think what we've seen in this latest proposal, in terms of environmental standards, in terms of innovation in the in the construction on real estate, which is going to be key for the affordability as well, and to set the tone to the industry actually, across the country as well, to public realm. I think that there's been significant improvement, and I think that it is a result of the interest that the citizens of the city have shown on the waterfront.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you, Deputy Mayor. Going back to George, you mentioned something about Indigenous communities, and how this would also benefit them. A member of the audience asks, I'd like to learn more about the economic opportunities that this development will provide to the First Nations holders of this territory? Can you enlighten us?

George Zegarac
Yeah. So, the proposal, as we identified, has made commitments both to the Indigenous, and to other equity-deserving groups, both in terms of job opportunities. One of the things that we identified early on in the RFP is, whoever the successful proponent for us to negotiate with, would have to commit a number of hours, create the opportunity, create new businesses, Indigenous-led businesses, Indigenous-led employment opportunities; and this proponent actually exceeded those commitments. We are very shortly going to sit around the table with the Mississauga’s of the Credit. I've already had discussions with Stacey Laforme, the Chief, and with Dream and Great Gulf. Very exciting opportunities, both in terms of some of the cultural centres, the job opportunities, and there's a level of trust that I see, that is being built. These developers, fortunately, are local, so we are more focused on their past reputation as well. And I think they've demonstrated, and we will wait and see, as we develop a final project agreement on the details, but they certainly have put forward some very strong commitments.

Ana Bailao
Myriam, I think this is important, because probably 20 years ago, we would talk about these projects, and the benefits that, at the end of the project, they would bring to the community. What we're doing now, and what we're seeing in several projects across the city and the province, is this idea of bringing Community Benefits Agreements, so that from day one, there's actually communities that are taking benefit, as well as the projects. So, we are training people that might not have access to certain opportunities, that we're giving them careers, that we're giving them jobs, that we're giving them the affordable housing, so that it's not only at the end of the project that we're going to be making sure that there's equity, but it's right from the beginning. And I think this is an important component of what waterfront has done with this with this deal, that is really exciting as well as, it goes in what we're working with reconciliation, with creating opportunities in BIPOC communities, and equity deserving communities from day one. And I think that is important to mention that aspect as well.

Myriam Eddahia
We have another question when it comes to transit, when it comes to building the waterfront. This is from Chris, who asks, transit will help build the value of the land at the waterfront.What priority is given to active transportation, such as walking and biking across the waterfront?

George Zegarac
Well, maybe I'll just point out, we have built kilometres of new bike lanes and walkable space along the waterfront, and that continues to be our priority. Active mobility, and that includes not just being able to move in a non-transit way. But you know, accessibility is important part of our mobility opportunities, so we have an Accessibility Advisory Panel that talks about, how do we make sure people with disabilities, or individuals who are in wheelchairs, individuals who are blind, have the opportunity to use that space safely too. So, it's not just creating bike lanes and walkable spaces, but it's to make sure that we make it safe and accessible for all.

Ana Bailao
And the connectivity to the city, Myriam. And I think we have great opportunity, not only to ensure that our cycling network map starts to include that part of the city, but, for example, we have great rail path systems, and trail systems that can be connected, and should be connected. I mean, I represent the West End, we have the West Rail Path, and connecting back to the Waterfront Trail to make sure that it goes all the way there. When we think about connectivity and mobility, we think we need to think about all those modes of transportation, walking, cycling, and transit. Absolutely. And with the cycling, it's not only the road network, but actually the entire connectivity to the site, through the trail system that we have.

Myriam Eddahia
Perhaps a question for Dr. Fearon. When it comes tothere's a lot of questions from the audience about how to make sure the eastern part of the waterfront is livable family friendly? How do we make sure Torontonians and their families are comfortable moving to the eastern part of town and feeling at home?

Dr. Gervan Fearon
I think one of the key items that we've made an emphasis on, is the idea of community-building. I think that it's important in terms of development, in terms of the actual buildings and facilities that are there. But how do you build community? And that's a part that we’re playing a role in. An example of that, we've played a role in having a number of COVID vaccine clinics here, in support of the community. Being able to engage with different community organizations, and being a part of the vibrancy of making it a place to live, in terms of the quality of life. So, I think that's a role that we can play, and I think that's also a role that community members can interact with us at George Brown, because we're such a significant part of the waterfront in that context. But I think there are also a number of points that were mentioned before, relating to transportation and the like. But one of the key items as well, is citizen involvement and engagement. Right outside one of our buildings here at the waterfront, there's a skating rink, by way of example, and that sense of community, of people getting out and skating, and riding and walking, and just being a part of community. I think is a really important part of individuals viewing it as their community, not simply a place to sleep, but a place to live, grow, and enjoy.

George Zegarac
If I can just add, since you mentioned families, one of the things I should have pointed out is the recent announcement, over 800 units that we're building on Quayside, over 60% of those units are going to be 2+, 3+, 4+ bedroom units, because that's a huge gap that we have seen. And I'm sure the Deputy Mayor would speak to that kind of missing family units rentable units that the City has been confronted with, and we're hoping to be part of that solution.

Ana Bailao
Absolutely.

Dr. Gervan Fearon
If I may supplement on one item as well. As part of our new building, we're also looking at daycare facilities as well. So, those are the kinds of things that we're looking at, to make sure that we're supporting families across the area as well.

Ana Bailao
Yeah, Myriam, absolutely. Family-sized units and the infrastructure, the daycares, the schools, the parks, it's essential. As we plan a complete community, we do need to focus on those issues as well.

Myriam Eddahia
Deputy Mayor, perhaps a question for you about the LRT and Portlands. Can you talk about what the next steps would be into getting it funded?

Ana Bailao
Advocacy, advocacy. Making sure that we have it included in our 10-year capital budget as well. So, there's conversations that are happening. at the political level, at different organizations such as Waterfront Toronto. I think we all continue to advocate, but it's those two items that, on the city level, need to continue, to obtain the commitment from the Province and the Federal Government, and to ensure that we also have it in our capital budget.

Myriam Eddahia
And it's almost time to wrap up. So, before we go, I would like to hear from all of you on this. What are some of the things that will be needed going forward to truly reach the waterfront’s full potential?

George Zegarac
Well, I'm going to start off with the last comment, which is, we need that announcement of transit. Transit is a big equalizer when it comes to inequity, so the sooner we can advance that, the rest of the plans, and quite frankly, the precinct plans for the Portlands, all assumed that we would have transit. So, the whole thing falls apart without advancing with the transit discussion.

Dr. Gervan Fearon
If I may go ahead as next? I would say transit as well, but I also say community involvement and engagement. We're here, and our doors are open, and we look forward to partnering with members of the community, as well as the new partners that are coming to the waterfront as well.

Ana Bailao
I’m going to say three things, guess what the first one is? The three governments at the table, and the money, and the commitment, absolutely, to advance our infrastructure. And the LRT is the first priority, but as we build these communities, there are other issues in terms of infrastructure, both social infrastructure and hard physical infrastructure, that are very much needed. And to continue to be laser-focused on our principles. On our principles of reconciliation, of inclusion, of excellence, in the creation of public spaces, and architecture, and innovation. And I think that that is really important, that we continue to be laser-focused on these goals.

Myriam Eddahia
Thank you so much. Thank you to our guests, and their generosity. Thank you also to the members of the audience, for your many questions. I apologize I couldn't get through them all, but I hope we answered some of your questions. Thank you again. Kelly, over to you.

Kelly Jackson
Thank you, Myriam, and thank you to all our panelists for joining us today. I'd now like to introduce Tim Kocur, Executive Director of the Waterfront BIA to deliver some appreciation remarks. Tim, welcome.

Note of Appreciation by Tim Kocur, Executive Director, Waterfront BIA
Thank you, Kelly, and thank you to all the Empire Club staff for organizing today's event and for getting the conversation started on this event. May the next event on the future the waterfront actually be on the waterfront, and in person. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Thank you, Myriam for moderating, and to Deputy Mayor Bailao, Dr. Fearon, and George, for taking the time today. I think at the Waterfront BIA, as a relatively small organization among many waterfront stakeholders, we’re always well aware that if we want to reach the world-class potential for the waterfront that we all dream of for the future, it means a lot of organizations and people have to work together, and they have to work together constructively. So, with civic leaders like George Brown College renewing their commitment here, public leaders like Deputy Mayor Bailao advocating to maximise the waterfront’s potential, and with Waterfront Toronto continuing to refine how they co-ordinate and work with, not just all three levels of government, but with our world class development community, it sounds like we're right on track. Last, I'd like to thank all of those who made time to tune in today, I’d also like to get the subliminal message into your head to please visit the waterfront again soon, not just to support our businesses, of course, but also to walk along the water, and try to get out on the water, and a new way to share please. And if you're not already, please follow Waterfront BIA on social media, that's where we'll tell you what's happening every week. Thank you, everyone.

Concluding Remarks by Kelly Jackson
Thanks, Tim. And thanks again to the Waterfront BIA and our season sponsors for their support. Thank you as well to our guests, and everybody who joined us today, and those who will be watching this later on-demand. Our next virtual event will take place on February 28th, at 12 noon Eastern Time. Join me for, “a Conversation with the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.” We'll be talking about the importance of a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system, and what that means for families, and our economy. Then on March 8th, join us as we celebrate International Women's Day, with a stellar panel, including the women behind the biggest tech IPO of 2021, the acquisition of one of Canada's most innovative exchanges, and the strategic transformation of Canada's largest specialty toy and bookstore. All amazing leaders will be in conversation with The Globe and Mail’s Rita Trichur. More details and complimentary registration for both events are available at empireclubofcanada.com. This meeting is now adjourned. I wish you a great afternoon. Take care and stay safe.

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Toronto’s Waterfront: How to Reach its Full Potential


23 February, 2022 Toronto’s Waterfront: How to Reach its Full Potential