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Toronto's Central Waterfront

There has been a lot of criticism of the towers that line Queen's Quay, but I don't think most of them are a problem.

I draw a real distinction between buildings on the north side and the south side of the street. I'd rather have a 35-storey tower on the north side of the street than any building for any purpose on the south side of the street.

Chicago is the prototype we should look to. Grant Park is a nice place and it acheives the virtue of having no buildings anywhere near the water, however the area north of Navy Pier and the Gold Coast have tall buildings lined up across the street from the lake. Nevertheless this is a great place to be. (And would be better if the street was actually a street (like Queen's Quay) and not a highway as it is.)

There are, unfortunately, a lot of buildings already on the south side of Queen's Quay. These include the Harbourfront buildings, the York Quay shopping complex, the Harbour Square group of condos and the Westin hotel.

To the east, however, we have a fresh opportunity. I believe we need to make all of the space south of the street open for public enjoyment. On the north side, I have nothing against towers. The city already plans a reserved-right-of-way streetcar on QQ East.

I also have been mulling over another idea to improve the area. It would be controversial and I haven't made up my mind yet.

Along the central waterfront there are many boat slips. For example, at the foot of York (where the Second Cup is), there is a slip where you can frequently find water taxis and lake cruisers. There are other slips at Portland, Spadina, Peter, Rees, Simcoe, Yonge, Jarvis and Parliament.

These slips serve a purpose. They are a gateway for people to interact directly with the water by getting on a boat. However, I feel they may be getting in the way of other sorts of enjoyment of the water.

People moving along the waterfront -- walking, cycling, roller blading, jogging, etc. -- find the central waterfront to be a bit of a drag. Whenever you find a bit of park, it comes to an end at a boat slip, and you have to make your way back to Queen's Quay. You can't easily get close to the lake and move along side it for any distance, as you can in other parts of Toronto or in all of Chicago.

Behind the Harbour Square towers and The Westin there actually is quite a bit of public parkland. However, it's not used and enjoyed as much as it could be because it is cut off from the Harbourfront area to the west.

So, my idea is that some of the boat slips could be filled in. If, for example, the York Street Slip was filled in, not only would this add a lot of public land adjacent to the lake, but it wouild also connect the crowded Harbourftont Park with the under-used Harbour Square Park. People moving between Harbourfront and the Ferry Docks could walk along the water.

Now, I know there would opposition to this. Many boats are parked in the York Street and other slips, and these businesses are catering to tourists. As well, the slips represent some of our heritage and remind us that Toronto was once an active port. However, I think the idea of filling some of them in should be considered because it could increase our lakefront park land and make it much more continuous.



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