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Welcome to Toronto’s newest waterfront community: East Bayfront

Aug 9, 2019

Aerial view of East Bayfront in 2018Aerial view of East Bayfront in 2018

By: Meghan Hogan

When asked to visualize the Toronto waterfront, people often conjure up images of the central waterfront area – places like Harbourfront Centre, the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and the revitalized Queens Quay West. But did you know that just a 10-minute walk from this popular tourist destination is an emerging neighbourhood defined by vibrant parks and public spaces, new homes for all family sizes, affordable housing, higher education facilities, and office space?

In June, we hosted an East Bayfront Community Open House in partnership with the City of Toronto to update the public on a number of ongoing projects in this exciting neighbourhood. About 120 people joined us at the St. Lawrence Temporary Market to chat about how this new community is evolving and coming to life.

Were you unable to join us at the open house or haven’t yet had the chance to visit East Bayfront? Join us as we journey through a series of blog posts exploring this waterfront neighbourhood, highlighting its many features and showcasing why it’s becoming one of Toronto’s most exciting places to live, work, play and learn. Before we dive into what you might find in East Bayfront today, it’s important to understand the area’s history and context – and that’s where we’ll begin in this blog post.

History

Aerial view of East Bayfront in 2006, prior to revitalization taking placeAerial view of East Bayfront in 2006, prior to revitalization taking place

Like the Port Lands, East Bayfront was previously part of an extensive marsh that was infilled in the 1900’s to accommodate the city’s growing manufacturing industry and marine transportation. Yet within a few decades, Toronto’s economy began to shift from traditional manufacturing towards finance, technology and creative services, leaving much of the waterfront – East Bayfront included – vacant, underutilized and contaminated.

For years, the 23 hectare (55 acre) East Bayfront site—which extends from Lower Jarvis Street to Parliament Street south of Lake Shore Boulevard East—was a derelict reminder of Toronto’s past. Peppered with marine terminal buildings, recreational sports tents, distribution centres and a film studio, East Bayfront was predominantly city-owned property that presented the perfect opportunity to create Toronto’s next dynamic mixed-use community adjacent to the lake.

Let’s get planning

By the early 2000’s, the land in East Bayfront was available for revitalization and there was an agency ready to take on the transformation (hey, that’s us!) – all that was needed was an official plan. The City of Toronto’s Central Waterfront Secondary Plan provided the initial guidelines for developing the area and, in 2001, Waterfront Toronto swiftly got to work on creating a detailed plan as one of its first priorities.

In collaboration with many partner agencies, community stakeholder groups, the general public, private landowners and school boards, Waterfront Toronto spent the next four years crafting a vision for what would become one of the first new neighbourhoods developed on the Toronto waterfront. In 2005, the East Bayfront Precinct Plan was officially adopted by the City of Toronto and the Class Environmental (EA) Assessment Master Plan was finalized the following year.

What exactly is a precinct plan? It’s a plan that provides a comprehensive vision for the design and development of a community, including locations for public infrastructure like streets, parks and trails, and community facilities, as well as an indication of what the built form will look like. The EA addressed things like water, sanitary services, stormwater, and transportation alternatives for the area.

We also drafted Urban Design Guidelines for East Bayfront to elaborate on the design principles set out in the Precinct Plan. These guidelines are used to help guide our development partners and designers to develop the area in such a way that it contributes to overall sustainability and vitality of the community.

Did you know: The East Bayfront Precinct Plan has received multiple prestigious awards including the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects Regional Honour.

The Vision

Looking east along the Water’s Edge Promenade in East BayfrontLooking east along the Water’s Edge Promenade in East Bayfront (Image by Nicola Betts)

From the very beginning, East Bayfront was envisioned as a dynamic mixed-use community – a place that reflects design excellence, high levels of sustainability and strong relationships to the lake through a series of parks and a continuous water’s edge promenade. With a healthy mix of residential, employment and recreation spaces, all connected by pedestrian-friendly streets, people from all walks of life will be able to live, work and play in East Bayfront when it’s complete.

East Bayfront is a prime location for businesses and institutions to set up shop thanks to its proximity to the downtown core and state-of-the-art technological infrastructure. Several notable employers now call the area home including Corus Entertainment, George Brown College and Artscape with many more joining the community in the coming years.

Roughly 6,000 residents will live in East Bayfront when it’s complete, many of whom recently moved into their new homes in Bayside and Monde this past year. With a Retail Strategy in place, residents will have lively restaurants, shops and cultural amenities all available to them, in addition to a variety of other community services like daycare, a community centre, and a public school.

Defined by its public spaces, East Bayfront is designed to be a year-round destination for residents and visitors.  Charming places like Sugar Beach and Sherbourne Common have drawn residents from across the city to the area for nearly a decade, while the water’s edge promenade provides a stunning connection between live, work, and play spaces across the community’s entire southern edge.

Image of Sugar BeachSugar Beach is one of Toronto’s most popular summer destinations thanks to its instagrammable pink umbrellas and candy-striped granite rocks

In the following weeks, we’ll take a closer look at what East Bayfront has to offer and how the neighbourhood is set to unfold in the coming years. Sustainability, innovation, and affordability are just a few of the themes we’ll touch on as we explore the community. Stay tuned!
 

post contributor

  • Meghan Hogan

    Meghan Hogan is a communications and public engagement manager at Waterfront Toronto.