Lower Don Lands Planning: 2007 to Present

Current plans for the Lower Don Lands, developed through the 2011/12 Port Lands Acceleration Initiative, are based on several years of integrated planning work led by Waterfront Toronto.

The current plans are a refined version of the award-winning plan for the Lower Don Lands unanimously passed by Toronto City Council in August 2010. The earlier plans for the Lower Don Lands were developed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates as part of the international design competition for the Lower Don Lands held by Waterfront Toronto in 2007.

A 20-minute walk from downtown, the Lower Don Lands is a 125 hectare (308 acre) area bound by the Inner Harbor of Lake Ontario, the Don Roadway, the rail corridor and the Ship Channel. Waterfront Toronto plans to transform the largely underutilized industrial area into new sustainable parks and communities. The naturalization and shifting of the mouth of the Don River is the centrepiece of the plans for the Lower Don Lands.

Regeneration and development of the Lower Don Lands has been hindered by a number of factors including flood risk, isolation from the rest of the city, soil and groundwater contamination and insufficient infrastructure. The 2010 Lower Don Lands plans addressed and overcame all of these factors resulting in an Official Plan amendment for the Lower Don Lands and a new zoning by-law for the Lower Don Lands first precinct, the Keating Channel (West).

The plans were designed to enable the transformation of this post-industrial area into a sought-after destination to live, work and play based on design excellence, ecology and economic sustainability. They were developed through a comprehensive environmental assessment process which included the examination of several alternative planning solutions. Plans for the Lower Don Lands needed to address a myriad of requirements and challenges including flood protection, infrastructure, urban design and transportation, plus a comprehensive process was needed to produce a master vision to integrate the various components.

Waterfront Toronto’s 2007 International Design Competition was designed to produce a concept that would provide the unifying vision for merging the natural and urban fabric into a green, integrated and sustainable community and provide common ground for the numerous environmental assessments (EAs) required for the area. In May 2007, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. (MVVA)Port Lands Estuary” was announced as the winning design.

Due to the complexity of the Lower Don Lands planning initiative the integrated planning process began with an Issues Identification Study to determine critical programs and phasing criteria. Study results were used to help the City of Toronto, TTC and Waterfront Toronto develop a Framework Planning Process to guide effective planning of the project. This process allowed the team to work on the design of the site as a whole, and integrate the project’s numerous concurrent EAs, including the Don Mouth Naturalization and Flood Protection Project EA, the various transit EAs and the Master Servicing EA, with the design of the Precinct Plan for the Keating Channel neighbourhood.

In April 2008, Waterfront Toronto, the City of Toronto and Toronto Transit Commission, as tri-proponents, began a study to integrate the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (Class EA) process with the Precinct Planning process that has resulted in a Master Plan for transportation (including transit), water/wastewater and storm water management in the Lower Don Lands.

As with all waterfront planning initiatives, public consultation was a key component of Lower Don Lands planning. The planning process included numerous stakeholder and public meetings, as well as a number of workshop sessions.

For more information, please email info@waterfrontoronto.ca
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