Revitalizing Toronto’s Queens Quay

When it comes to housing Canadians, we often lose sight of the significant infrastructure requirements to make everyday living easy.

Such is the case with Toronto's Harbourfront, which is home to dozens of condominiums.

Construction continues along 1.7 kilometres of Toronto’s Queens Quay from Bay Street to Spadina Avenue with work on track for completion by July 2015. The project aims to avert future closures by undertaking the utility upgrades necessary to support projected growth now; replacing water mains, sewers and aging electrical infrastructure and laying fiber optic telecomm infrastructure in a comprehensive overhaul. This massive undertaking includes the construction of 30 underground hydro chambers, 750 metres of upgraded natural gas lines, 1200 metres of new storm sewers and catch basins, 700 metres of new sanitary lines, 5000 metres of new telecommunications lines, underground wiring for the installation of nearly 200 new streetlights and 4000 square metres of Silva cells to support the hundreds of trees being planted. This area of accelerating density is no longer just about relegated infrastructure, but also making public transit and pedestrian facilities for the area’s rapidly increasing population paramount aspects of the project.


Waterfront Toronto Diagram



For example new tracks are being laid for a streetcar corridor along the south side of the roadway – a first example of this approach in Toronto – so trains won’t have to compete with other traffic and pedestrians won’t need to run out into the roadway as they do with central tracks. This portion of the work is nearing completion and expected to be finished this August. Additionally the 56 kilometres of Martin Goodman trail which was previously cut off through the downtown core will now be connected with dedicated tree and streetlight lined cycling lanes alongside the 13 metre wide (4 times the width of standard sidewalks) south side pedestrian promenade.


martin goodman trail

Waterfront Site Rendering


DTAH the firm who, alongside West8, won the international design competition that kicked off the project, describes the streetscape being created as “a linear park, connecting the various precincts, wavedecks and other waterfront park spaces,” envisioning a transformation of the street from barrier to gateway. Despite the tremendous inconvenience construction continues to propose, there is already a tangible change of culture along some stretches of the corridor near completion. The sense of disconnect created by the Gardiner comes up continually in discussions around Toronto’s waterfront. West8 cites “Connectivity between the vitality of the city and the lake and a continuous, publicly accessible waterfront” as a priority for the project. Accessibility is certainly a key concern to be addressed but in a way, the sense of disconnect from the rest of the city created by the Gardiner may actually contribute to the feeling of respite people tend to seek in waterside lifestyles.


Waterfront Dock view


In many ways this area is emerging as an almost Ville-Contemporaine-esque Suburbia 2.0, one which is occurring as infill rather than sprawl. As the project inches towards completion, sweeping park space through an existing landscape of high rises, it will be interesting to see if it succeeds in interjecting a sense of vibrancy different than that of north-of-the-Gardiner urban life, into Toronto’s waterfront communities

You can read more about the project and access updates here.


Researched and written by Miranda Corcoran, an Industrial Design student at OCAD University.

Posted In: Ontario

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