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The next phase of the West Don Lands is coming to life!

Apr 7, 2016

A view of West Don Lands looking west towards downtown Toronto

From Parliament Street to the Don River and King Street to the Rail corridor, the West Don Lands is people focused, family friendly and environmentally sustainable.

By Carol Webb

When Waterfront Toronto was established, our mandate included the planning and creation of high-quality, sustainable, inclusive communities that are connected to adjacent areas and to the rest of the city. Today, the very first of these new communities – the West Don Lands – is fully open for the public to explore and discover.

The revitalization of the West Don Lands has a long and storied history spanning many decades, a variety of ideas and many unfulfilled planning efforts. In 2003, Waterfront Toronto was tasked with leveraging past efforts and developing a vision for how to turn these Provincially-owned lands into a new neighbourhood. Through thoughtful and extensive community engagement and collaboration with government partners, Waterfront Toronto completed the award-winning plan to transform these former industrial lands – which also faced the additional challenge of sitting within a flood plain – into this great new neighbourhood.

Originally intended to be built over many years, Toronto’s successful bid to host the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games helped accelerate a portion of the development. Leveraging an established plan and working with Infrastructure Ontario, a private sector development partner – Dundee Kilmer – was selected through a rigorous competitive process to design, build and finance the construction of the buildings that would temporarily serve as the home-away-from-home for 10,000 athletes and officials during the games. With the conversion of the former athletes' village to its legacy purpose now complete and the fences removed, the next phase of the West Don Lands is coming to life.

Now residents already living in the River City and Toronto Community Housing properties will be joined this spring by those moving into the Canary District and the Fred Victor and Wigwamen affordable housing developments. The Cooper-Koo Family YMCA will open in May, and this fall the first ever George Brown College Student Residence will open its door and also call the West Don Lands home.

There is so much to enjoy in this neighbourhood and there’s still much to come over the next several years! When complete, the West Don Lands will feature 6,000 new residential units, employment and commercial space, schools and child-care centres, all surrounded by nearly 9.3 hectares (23 acres) of parks and public spaces.

What’s unique about the neighbourhood?

Unlike many developments in a mature city, the West Don Lands was designed  from scratch  to be a complete community – a neighbourhood built around parks and pedestrian-focused public realm, with a mix of housing options, retail and amenities, and well-served by transit.  Five historic buildings have been preserved and will be adaptively reused and incorporated into the new community, giving the new neighbourhood an organic, developed-over-time feel.

Innovative parks that are the heart of the community

The marsh at Corktown Common

An extensive marsh is one of the ways Corktown Common restores the native ecology of the region to this former industrial site. It’s also an essential part of the park’s onsite stormwater recycling system.

Corktown Common is the centerpiece of the community and offers something for everyone. But there’s more to this park than meets the eye. Corktown Common is positioned on top of a massive flood protection landform, built by Infrastructure Ontario which protects the West Don Lands, as well as much of Toronto’s financial district, from flooding. Without this essential public infrastructure, development in the area would not have been possible. The park is also virtually self-sustaining: the marsh, wetland and urban prairie serve as important elements of a closed-loop stormwater recycling and water treatment system. And, solar panels on the pavilion supplement the onsite power needs. So, this park is “green” in more ways than one!

Underpass Park turned an unused space beneath a series of overpasses into a unique community park and also provides an important connection between the northern edge of the neighbourhood and Corktown Common. Featuring a teeter-totter, hopscotch, 4-square, swings and playful climbing structures, the playground offers something for all ages. The eastern-most section of the park includes two basketball half-courts, and a skatepark with a series of obstacles, rails and ledges. Underpass Park is the most extensive park ever built under an overpass in Canada, and the first ever in Toronto.

Sustainable development

Waterfront Toronto’s Minimum Green Building Requirements help guide development in new waterfront communities. In addition to requiring energy efficient, LEED Gold certified buildings, our neighbourhoods are designed and built to promote green and healthy living and the conservation of the environment and natural resources. The West Don Lands neighbourhood has already received Stage 1 LEED ND GOLD certification under the pilot program established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Public Art

Check out this video and see the new public art that has been installed in the West Don Lands neighbourhood!

Our Public Art Strategy for the West Don Lands is the first of its kind in Canada. Installations can be found throughout the parks and open spaces, creating an outdoor public gallery to provoke, delight and entertain residents and visitors alike. Our art program is attracting serious talent. Commissions by high-calibre Canadian and international artists are drawing attention and showcasing the benefits of big-picture art planning. Come check it out for yourself, watch this video or read our blog.


We prioritize transit, meaning that residents in our neighbourhoods will be served by transit that is within five minutes of their front doors from the day they move in. In this case, the precinct plan recommended improving transit in the West Don Lands with a streetcar line on Cherry Street. The new 514 Cherry Street streetcar line will begin service in June 2016.

Ultra-broadband access

The West Don Lands is among the most connected neighbourhoods in the world. As part of Waterfront Toronto’s intelligent community initiative, an ultra-high-speed broadband community network gives residents access to Internet speeds exponentially faster and more affordable than that available elsewhere. We have also worked closely with our technology partner, Beanfield, and our development partners to ensure that the same service is available to all residents within the affordable rental housing developments at rates that make the service accessible to everyone.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter – and join the conversation about waterfront revitalization using the #TOtheWaterfront hashtag.

post contributor

  • Carol Webb

    Carol Webb is a Senior Manager, Communications and Public Engagement with Waterfront Toronto.