April 3, 2006

Sustainability is top priority for Toronto's West Don Lands project

Ceremonies were held March 27 to mark the official start of work in the West Don Lands, the first new neighbourhood to be developed as part of Toronto's $10.5-million waterfront revitalization. Work has begun on demolition of old buildings, foundation removal, road construction and environmental remediation.

Sustainable development is a top priority for the West Don Lands project. TWRC has targeted the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold level as the standard for its waterfront development. This means that the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC, which administers the program in Canada) must certify that all buildings achieve LEED's prescribed sustainability standards. The prerequisites and credits are organized into five principal categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

"Today we walk the talk," said Robert Fung, head of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC), the independent, not-for-profit corporation whose partners-the federal and Ontario governments and the city of Toronto-have each committed $500 million to the initiative. TWRC is acting as master developer for the project.

"The work you see happening here," Fung continued, "is putting into action the key principles underlying waterfront revitalization-design excellence, sustainable, green development and communities that are attractive and affordable for all Canadians."

The West Don Lands is a 32-hectare area located east of downtown between Parliament Street and the Don River, and King Street and the rail corridor. A former industrial site, the plans for the new neighbourhood grew out of work launched in 1997 by the community-led West Don Lands Committee, a community coalition of resident, business, environmental and heritage organizations.

The overall plan for its redevelopment was approved by Toronto City Council in May 2005 (ELW May 2-9, 2005). It includes: 6,000 new residences, including 1200 units of affordable rental housing; a new transit line within a five-minute walk of all homes; two childcare centres; an elementary school; a community centre with a pool; and parks and public space making up 25% of the total community area, including the eight-hectare Don River Park.

Public transit and community facilities will be built early in the development process in order to ensure that services are available as people move into the West Don Lands. An environmental assessment for the new transit line is currently in progress. Construction is scheduled to start in 2008 and finish in 2009. The existing King Street streetcar will serve the residents who will start moving into the first phase of development in 2008.

TWRC will be working in partnership with other agencies as appropriate for various parts of the work. For example, flood protection work will involve collaboration by TWRC, the Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC) and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

Flood protection for the West Don Lands, and a significant part of the downtown, will be provided by a low-lying berm, which will become the Don River Park, and by widening the river. The river widening also requires extending the existing CN rail bridge over Kingston Road. ORC is now completing the detailed design for the berm, with construction scheduled to start in September 2006. The berm will require approximately 190,000 cubic metres of soil, much of which will come from excavating the first development sites. Bridge construction will be starting during April.

With regard to soil and groundwater remediation, ORC is co-operating with TWRC and the city of Toronto to finalize a risk assessment/risk management plan for soils and groundwater management in the West Don Lands. This work includes analyzing existing soil data, collecting new data and developing strategies to manage the risk of contaminants.

The plan is due to be submitted to Toronto City Council this month. Once it has received the city's approval, it will be submitted to the provincial government for approval by the Ministry of Environment.

TWRC is also developing a district energy system to provide heating and cooling to the new waterfront neighbourhoods, and is committed to ensuring that the first buildings constructed in the West Don Lands are part of such a system. This efficient thermal energy alternative will reduce both construction and operating costs, as well as overall air emissions.

In addition to district energy, TWRC has started work on other sustainability initiatives such as stormwater management. The corporation will work in partnership with the development industry to transform market practices to incorporate progressive green technologies, design and planning.

The costs associated with this phase of the waterfront development include $4 million for infrastructure, $8 million to construct the berm, and $17.6 million to develop the Don River Park.

More information is available on the TWRC Web site, www.towaterfront.ca.

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