I was very disappointed, but not at all surprised, to see that the City of Toronto is handing over one of the last undeveloped pieces of prime waterfront property to condo developers. Frankly, it would have been shocking if they had done otherwise.
Most of Toronto's lakefront is blocked by a wall of condo towers, growing ever denser and uglier every year. The City Council claims they are powerless to stop the project, a unusually frank admission that the real-estate developers actually control the city.
It takes a powerful and forward-thinking city government to bring about true public waterfront development. Toronto can find a model for such urban planning in the city of Chicago, where the lakefront has been preserved and developed for the use of the people, thanks to Mayor Richard M. Daley. On our last visit to Chicago, we were astounded by the lakefront's elegant, people-friendly design, and the numbers of Chicagoans out enjoying it. And this was before Millennium Park was built. Millennium Park is now said to be one of the world's great urban oases. (And its presence guarantees me another trip to Chicago!)
If Chicago is a shining example of how a city's great natural resource can be nurtured for the public, Toronto is a lesson in short-term gain for private use.
I saw this in a recent letter to Star. I haven't been able to verify it, so I'll use it here with a caveat: someone said this happened.
Several if not many years ago, a group of architects, developers, city planners and various other government officials from South Africa toured various waterfront cities around the world to explore the best and the worst. They wanted to see what worked and what didn't before they began the revitalization of what is now the spectacular city of Cape Town. We were in the "what-not-to-do" category, in case anyone had any doubt. If that is what they thought then, can you imagine their horror now? -- Linda Dowds, Toronto [excerpt]
I've read about plans to build parks and modest, middle-income housing on the lower Don River. There is also endless discussion about the waterfront to the east of downtown, with talk of parks, recreation, and natural beauty. Why do I doubt those plans will ever become reality?
I've been visiting and reading about this city only since 2003, and living in the GTA only since September, 2005, and I already know that this is a shell game. Somehow the plans for those lovely parks will morph into plans for tall glass towers, and the city government will say, "We had no choice."