May 21-28, 2007

Design team wins competition to transform Toronto's Lower Don Lands

A team led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has won the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation's Lower Don Lands design competition, beating out three other internationally recognized competitors. Along with MVVA, the team members include Greenberg Consultants; Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg, Behnisch Architects; Limno-Tech; Applied Ecological Services; Great Eastern Ecology; Transsolar; RFR Engineering; Arup; and Totten Sims Hubickiand Associates.

The Lower Don Lands cover a section of Toronto's east end running from Parliament Street east to the Don Roadway and from the rail corridor south to Commissioners Street, including the Don Greenway. The area is important in that it links the new waterfront communities that are emerging in the East Bayfront, the West Don Lands and the Port Lands.

The MVVA plan will transform the Lower Don Lands into a sustainable "green" city in which the city, Lake Ontario and the Don River interact in a dynamic and balanced relationship. The mouth of the Don River is the centerpiece of the MVVA design: by moving its mouth from the Keating Channel to Lake Ontario, the scheme reasserts the river's presence in the city.

Although the river's mouth will be relocated, the Keating Channel itself will remain intact. Envisioned as retail-oriented promenade, it will be an important link between the neighbourhoods to the north and south.

"The winning MVVA design represents a bold innovative approach to naturalizing the mouth of the Don River and transforming a long-neglected area into sustainable new parks and communities," said TWRC chair Mark Wilson.

A jury appointed by the TWRC to select the winning design felt the MVVA design best addressed the competition's two key objectives of providing a naturalized mouth and iconic identity for the Don River and creating a comprehensive plan for addressing urban design, transportation, naturalization, sustainability and other ecological issues. Importantly, the team's detailed understanding of soil conditions and remediation, engineering requirements and landownership issues helped produce a plan that will be both cost-effective and achievable.

In addition to spacious parks, better access to the river and lake and a network of trail connections, the MVVA design provides for new waterfront neighbourhoods that will have strong connections to existing and emerging communities in the East Bayfront and the West Don Lands.

The MVVA design will serve as the basis for the naturalization of the mouth of the Don River, flood protection for the Port Lands, precinct planning for the areas between Parliament Street and Cherry Street and in the north end of the Port Lands, and extending Queens Quay from Parliament Street to Cherry Street.

The mouth of the Don naturalization project is in progress, and precinct planning and an environmental assessment to realign Queens Quay will be under way by the summer.

The jury that selected the winning design was headed by architect Bruce Kuwabara. The other members included architects Renee Daoust and Charles Waldheim, photographer Edward Burtynsky and Morden Yolles, a structural engineer.

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