Staycation Anyone?

Christina Atkinson


The weather’s heating up slowly but
surely, and so is our transformational city. Down by the water has always been
a popular destination for Torontonians to cool off and relax for the few
precious warm months we have each year.

Among NT students, many hop on a Ferry and “visit the Toronto Islands” as
well as “bike trails”, says Kimberly Chau. Ahron Seeman enjoys
“playing volleyball on the beaches”, Julia Schabas “[goes] out
for ice cream along the boardwalk”, and Claudia Vanderholst “[loves]
shopping along the waterfront.” It’s clear that our most southern asset is
quite a hot commodity when hanging out in the city, but what’s going on there

Just two summers ago, Sugar Beach opened and featured soft sand, Muskoka chairs, and pink umbrellas spicing up the former industrial land.  Since the success of Sugar Beach, Waterfront Toronto (created by all three levels of government) has managed the renewal of Toronto’s lake lining land. A $514 million dollar contract was signed at the
beginning of this year to create top-notch athletic facilities, housing, and
street life for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games. So, for the next few
summers, your hot spot will start looking a little different.

“It seems like every day there’s a new building being built,” says Rachele
Filippini, a resident of the Harbourfront and a grade twelve at NT. “There’s
more and more people that want to live here it seems.”

The growing popularity of the Harbourfront area began ever since Lionel H. Clarke
started making the most of it in 1911. As chairman of the newly formed Toronto
Harbourfront Commission, Clarke fought for improving our economy by harness the
potential of our waterways. Creating jobs and stimulating our Canadian economy
was his vision for deepening Lake Ontario near Toronto. Larger ships meant
larger potential, and it was finally achieved in 1959.

Although he has passed on and  buried in the Mount
Pleasant Cemetery, Clarke would be proud of the huge project currently underway
since it’s creating and supporting 5,200 jobs, completing the next phase of the
West Don Lands infrastructure project, and carving out new streets, a new YMCA
facility, 787 new houses, 253 units of new, affordable housing, the first ever
George Brown residence building, and new public transit routes.

So perhaps you might not feel the effects of a stimulated economy right away, but
you will be able to see the transformations downtown already.

Jake Schabas, an urban plannerwith a Masters in Urban Planning from Columbia University in New York, says “The proposed plans
are extremely ambitious and optimistic, but at the same time incredibly
forward-thinking and practical. By that I mean they look to deal with
challenges the city can’t avoid today so we are ready to deal with them in the
future.” They address the potential effects of the environment and society
like rising water levels and increasing city congestion. “Plus, they are
building parkland – about 750 acres, or almost as much as Central Park – to
make new waterfront communities attractive places to live and regain formerly
neglected public spaces like the undersides of Highway off-ramps.”

This amazing new space, the Don River Park, could, in fact, easily become a new
summer hot spot. Only 15 minutes away from downtown in the new and upcoming
West Don Lands neighbourhood, it will feature several parks in one with
stunning views of the lake, city landscape, and the Don River. Winding trails,
multi-use bike paths, and a boardwalk will show off the grassy, rain-water
recycling meadow formed to benefit from this unique geographical area. Start looking
forward to future concerts, sports games, and festivals being held in the
park’s amphitheatre, pavilion, and ample green space.

Claudia  wants “more green space and room for
picnic benches and playgrounds” and Kim agrees that “definitely more
leisure space for people to play, rest, and hang out” would be ideal.

However, Jake warns that “Too many banks and big box stores
would not help this area become a place people want to spend time in, since
they add nothing to the attractiveness of an area”, and Rob Ford’s
“kooky-sounding ideas like a Ferris wheel or some other odd attraction
would also be dumb”.

Regardless of the potential disappointments, these renewal plans have already won
international awards and deserve credit for these ideas. And, although
this Waterfront project isn’t completed, it’s been accelerated because of the
Pan/Parapan American Games so it’s not too early to start putting on your
sunglasses to see these approaching possibilities in your own city.

Maybe you won’t be heading off to a tropical resort down south or to a European backpacking trip this summer, but don’t worry, T.O. might be able to make our upcoming, two month staycation a little hotter.