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What You Said About the Five Designs for Toronto’s Ferry Terminal

Apr 9, 2015

At Toronto’s City Hall last month, members of the public had a chance to take a closer look at five design proposals that re-imagine the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park. (Photo credit: Connie Tsang)

At Toronto’s City Hall last month, members of the public taking a closer look at the five design proposals that re-imagine the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park. (Photo credit: Connie Tsang)

By Christopher McKinnon

Last month, we unveiled five design concepts for the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park. Five design teams, representing some of the top Canadian and international design talent, participated in this innovative competition. Each team presented a unique vision for revitalizing this important piece of Toronto’s central waterfront. The designs were bold, innovative, beautiful, inspiring – and Torontonians took the opportunity to offer their thoughts and suggestions (and even criticism) of the proposals.

If you missed the public presentations at City Hall on Monday, March 16, 2015, check out this video for a recap:

The five designs were on display in an exhibition that ran from March 16 to 20 and your comments were accepted at City Hall and through an online survey. While the public feedback period is now closed, you can still review the five proposals online. They’re worth a second look and deeper consideration because they offer a vision of the kinds of public spaces that we should aspire to have in this great city.

The feedback we received was extraordinary – both in volume and in the passion expressed. It’s clear that the ferry terminal and surrounding parkland are truly important to Torontonians. After collecting all of your feedback, our task was to assemble a report for the design competition’s jury. The jury took the public feedback, as well as reports from our Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee and Technical Advisory Committee, into account as they deliberated and selected a winning design. (More on the winning design later.)

What We Heard From You

We asked how you would prioritize the seven design elements the competition teams were charged with including in their proposals. We also provided space for you to give general, open-ended feedback. And, Toronto, you certainly didn’t disappoint! You sent nearly 1,200 submissions and wrote almost 61,000 words. We sifted through all of your responses (yes, we read every single one) and pulled out the key themes and recommendations. Here’s an excerpt from the public feedback report:

The results show that all of the design elements were supported by a majority of respondents:

  • Creating an iconic Ferry Terminal – 69% supportive
  • Promoting continuous waterfront access – 69% supportive
  • Improving passenger queuing areas – 65% supportive
  • Enhancing Harbour Square Park – 59% supportive
  • Providing universal access for people of all ages and abilities – 57% supportive
  • Creating connections to the rest of the city – 57% supportive
  • Promoting sustainable development – 51% supportive

By a wide margin, respondents showed the strongest support for creating an iconic site along the waterfront, with continuous access to the water’s edge and more amenable waiting areas for ferry passengers. 41% of respondents rated “Creating an iconic and welcoming ferry terminal” as the most important element for the winning proposal. By contrast, 8% of respondents thought that creating an iconic ferry terminal was the least important feature of the proposed designs.

A number of respondents indicated that “universal access” should not be part of the ranking exercise as it is already required by legislation and building codes. Other respondents commented that they were very happy to see this design element included as they felt it signified a willingness to “go beyond the legal requirements” of accessibility. Indeed, with 57% of respondents expressing support for this, it may be a suggestion that the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal & Harbour Square Park project is an opportunity to raise the bar for universal accessibility with broad public support.

The generally positive results of the ranking exercise suggest broad support for the objectives of the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal & Harbour Square Park Innovative Design Competition.

 Analyzing 61,000 words of your feedback was no easy task, but a number of themes quickly emerged and we managed to quantify them. At a quick glance, this word cloud, created from the general comments you provided, starts to show one of those themes.

A word cloud created from the 61,000 words of public feedback on the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal designs.

Deeper analysis proved very fruitful. Here are a few more excerpts from our public feedback report, identifying some of the most common themes in your submissions:

Many common themes arose again and again in responses to the designs. The most common comments (279 respondents) reflected a desire for greenery, trees, and nature – the use of softer, more natural materials – as an antidote to the concrete and glass of surrounding buildings. A large number of respondents (95) also stressed the importance of creating effective shelter from inclement weather, covered waiting areas and shade for waiting ferry passengers. Many of these comments included a desire to see heated, indoor waiting spaces for the winter months.

A large number of respondents (92) stressed the importance of walkways, paths and boardwalks – elevated or at grade – that would bring people closer to the water’s edge and that would connect seamlessly to other waterfront paths and promenades. Closely related was the desire expressed by a number of people (58) that the new park and pathways should open up new and improved views of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Island.

Numerous commenters stressed that the winning design must adequately take into account four-season use of the ferry service and the park – making particular note of Toronto’s harsh winter months – and expressed a desire to see a range of winter activities in the park (89). The winter activity suggested most commonly was ice skating (39). Among summer activities, creating opportunities for swimming in Harbour Square Park was the most requested (95) and many liked the proposals for an urban beach (23).

One of our deepest held values here at Waterfront Toronto is our commitment to public consultation and designing our projects through these types of collaborative processes. Our greatest partnership is with the community members who step forward and spend the time and energy to participate – they’re the ones who support, who argue and who fight alongside with us to make sure that the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront delivers on our mandate and its social and economic policy goals. Your participation in the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park Innovative Design Competition is a good example of this. So, thank you once more for your participation and support.

The complete Public Feedback Report is now available online for you to read. You can also find it embedded below, at the bottom of this post.

Stay tuned – tomorrow we’ll make the big announcement: Who will be the winning design team in the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park Innovative Design Competition? Watch our Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates.


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Read the complete public feedback report here:

post contributor

  • Christopher McKinnon

    Christopher McKinnon was previously a communications and public engagement Manager at Waterfront Toronto. He’s passionate about art, cycling in the city, public transit and building really amazing parks.