West Don Lands- 2017 Global Awards for Excellence Finalist

West Don Lands

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Master Developer: Waterfront Toronto
Developers: Urban Capital [River City], DREAM Unlimited, Kilmer Group [Canary District], Toronto Community Housing; Public Realm
Designer: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc., PFS Studio with The Planning Partnership and &Co., Claude Cormier & Associates, NAK Design Strategies; Architectural Design – River City: Saucier & Perrotte, ZAS Architects; Architectural Design – Canary District: architectsAlliance, KPMB Architects, Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects, Daoust Lestage, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, Design/Builder – Canary District: EllisDon Inc., Ledcor Group
Site Size: 42 acres

In 2003, Waterfront Toronto, a tri-government agency, undertook the transformation of 32 hectares of provincially-owned brownfield lands in Toronto’s downtown east end. The West Don Lands was designed through extensive community engagement and collaboration between government and the private sector. The result was an award-winning Precinct Plan for a pedestrian-focused community built around parks, with housing for people of all ages, income levels and abilities, well-served by transit, retail and community amenities, and based on stringent sustainability requirements.

Innovative and high-quality parks and public realm are among the area’s hallmarks, each incorporating robust biodiversity and natural landscapes. Corktown Common is positioned atop a flood protection landform that protects 519 acres of downtown Toronto and unlocked the area’s development potential. Underpass Park, the most extensive park built under an overpass in Canada and the first in Toronto, transformed an unused area into a family friendly recreational community space. The Front Street Promenade, a linear park that is the spine of the new neighbourhood, is programmed with curated public art installations and linked to the District’s secondary network of mews, courtyards and pathways to create a healthy, walk-able, integrated new community. Toronto’s first “Woonerf” streets are also found here.

The West Don Lands integrates architecture and open space, embuing the site with a unique character based on the area’s two centuries of residential, recreational and industrial occupation. Urban Capital’s River City and Toronto Community Housing’s buildings for seniors and families were developed first, after which development was greatly accelerated by Toronto’s hosting of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. Leveraging the approved precinct plan and working with Infrastructure Ontario, Dundee Kilmer was selected as the P3 partner to develop the Athletes’ Village and legacy Canary District, which integrates market units, affordable housing, a student residence and a YMCA community centre serving 5,000 visitors a day into an enriched, vibrant and accessible public realm.

A community movie night on the south lawn at Corktown Common overlooking the downtown skyline. Credit: Nicola Betts
A community movie night on the south lawn at Corktown Common overlooking the downtown skyline. Credit: Nicola Betts
Basketball halfcourts at Underpass Park. (Credit: Tom Arban)
Basketball halfcourts
at Underpass Park.
(Credit: Tom Arban)
Families enjoying the interactive splash pad at the Corktown Common pavilion. Credit: Nicola Betts
Families enjoying the interactive splash pad at the Corktown Common pavilion. Credit: Nicola Betts
West Don Lands- Site Plan. Credit: Waterfront Toronto
West Don Lands- Site Plan. Credit: Waterfront Toronto

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