The second time’s the charm for Toronto’s Quayside, as Adjaye, Henning Larsen, and Alison Brooks Architects sign on

On By The Quayside

The second time’s the charm for Toronto’s Quayside, as Adjaye, Henning Larsen, and Alison Brooks Architects sign on

Full aerial view of Toronto’s redeveloped Quayside site. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

Just a little under two years after Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs pulled the plug on its contentious “smart city” redevelopment scheme for a 12-acre swath of disused land abutting Lake Ontario, Waterfront Toronto has revealed a new development team to helm Quayside, an ambitious revitalization project initiated in 2017.

Known as the Quayside Impact Limited Partnership, the team is led by Toronto-based developers Dream Unlimited Corp. and Great Gulf Group alongside a globe-spanning trio of firms that share credit as lead project architects: The London-, New York-, and Accra-based Adjaye Associates, London’s Alison Brooks Architects, and Copenhagen-headquartered Henning Larsen. Joining the team in a key role is Danish landscape architecture and urban design firm SLA.

In July, Waterfront Toronto publicly revealed four shortlisted Quayside development teams selected from a group of ten that had engaged in the request for qualifications process. Joining the Quayside Impact Limited Partnership, which will now commence formal project agreement negotiations with Waterfront Toronto, the in-the-running teams were: Hines Canada Management II ULC (Hines Canada with Tridel Builders Inc. and Fosters + Partners as lead architect); KMT Quayside Developments Inc. (Kilmer, Mattamy, and Tricon with MVRDV and Cobe as lead architects), and The Daniels Corporation and Hullmark Developments Ltd. (The Daniels Corporation and Hullmark Developments with Diamond Schmitt Architects, the sole Canadian architecture firm in the shortlisted mix, as lead architect).

rendering of a redevelopment zone with timber residential building at quayside
The Adjaye Associates-designed Timber House (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)
rendering of a busy public plaza and larger timber tower clad in greenery at quayside
The Overstorey, designed by Henning Larsen (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

Negotiations are anticipated to wrap up this fall between Quayside Impact Limited Partnership and Waterfront Toronto, which was established in 2001 as a public-private partnership between the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the Government of Canada to oversee revitalization projects along the city’s waterfront. More concrete details of Quayside are expected to be made public as the development team and Waterfront Toronto work to “finalize the development plans, seek municipal approvals, including development approvals, and bring this remarkable community to life,” per yesterday’s press announcement revealing the winning development bid.

“We set out to make Quayside the kind of community that meaningfully improves the lives of its residents, neighbours, and visitors,” said George Zegarac, president and CEO of Waterfront Toronto. “The proposal from Dream and Great Gulf will make a real difference in the lives of those who live near the waterfront or come to visit, by creating affordable rental housing, extensive public spaces, and new jobs and business opportunities. Thanks also to all of the proponent teams, whose talent, hard work, and passion for city-building was clear in their submissions.”

a curving timber building with landscaping terraces at quayside
Alison Brooks Architect’s Western Curve Building (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

While nothing is set in stone and the attention-grabbing renderings shared by Waterfront Toronto are purely conceptual at this point, major elements of Quayside Impact Limited Partnership’s winning redevelopment proposal for the Quayside site include:

  • Over 800 affordable housing units, which is more than double the amount of existing affordable housing generated by Waterfront Toronto according to the announcement. Emphasizing family-sized residences, these units are set to be delivered in early development phases to “address an urgent need.”
  • An abundance of new and accessible-to-all public space, including SLA’s two-acre Community Forest and a sizable urban farm topping what is set to be one of Canada’s largest mass timber residential buildings. (In total, five waterfront-straddling towers are envisioned by the development team.)
  • An emphasis on “exemplary low-carbon development and innovations,” which will make Quayside the first all-electric, zero-carbon master plan to be realized at this scale.
  • The creation of a multifaceted arts and cultural center that will serve as a citywide destination while “bringing together space for the performing arts, Indigenous-centered cultural celebrations, and flexible education spaces.” In addition to arts programming, residents will also benefit from the presence of a community care hub that will offers programs and services that support “aging-in-place, recreation, and wellness.”

In addition to a slew of local partners tapped for Quayside including The Bentway, Centre for Social Innovation, Crow’s Theatre, George Brown College, Rekai Centres, and WoodGreen Community Services, southern Ontario’s Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) is working in close collaboration with Waterfront Toronto in “helping to shape the vision for Quayside,” said MCFN Chief Stacey LaForme.

rendering of a densely planted public green space surrounded by apartment towers
SLA-designed Community Forest public space. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)
rendering of an urban mixed-use district during winter with ice skating and snowmen
Street-level view of the Western Curve with wintertime activation. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

“Toronto and its waters are a significant place to our People and all the people of Ontario,” said LaForme. “As Host First Nation, we will continue to work to ensure that Quayside will be a place that celebrates Indigenous history and presence and lays the foundation for a good future based on inclusion, respect, and reconciliation.”

Located within walking distance to Toronto’s downtown core, the new Quayside boasts many of the same hallmarks as its shelved Sidewalk Labs-developed predecessor: an agreeable amount (to start) of affordable housing, plenty of open public space, and an overriding emphasis on green construction methods including mass timber. Absent, however, are the smart city bells and whistles that defined the previous Quayside master plan and resulted in it being continuously mired in controversy.

Sidewalk Labs had positioned the ground-up neighborhood to function as a Big Tech petri dish in which an array of cutting-edge city tech solutions developed by Google were showcased. Quayside’s living laboratory status prompted sharp local pushback, particularly regarding privacy concerns and what was perceived as a championing of emerging technology over the basic needs and wants of future residents. When Sidewalk Labs ultimately walked away from the project in May 2020, the news was cause for celebration for many groups. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association referred to the move “as a victory for privacy and democracy, clearing the way for that reset to take place.”

aerial view of rooftop farm and urban agriculture plots
View of rooftop urban farming, community gardens, and greenhouses with ground-level POPS at the Community Forest. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)
concept plan of a waterfront redevelopment zone
Quayside Impact Limited Partnership Concept Plan (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

Now, with the announcement of a new development team, that reset mentioned by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is beginning to take form.

“Quayside remains an excellent opportunity to explore innovative solutions for affordable housing, improved mobility, climate change, and several other pressing urban challenges that Toronto—and cities around the world—must address in order to continue to grow and succeed,” Waterfront Toronto chair Stephen Diamond said in a news release at the time of Sidewalk Labs’ withdrawal. “Today is not the end of Quayside, but the first day of its future. Waterfront Toronto will continue to seek public and expert input as we make a next generation community at Quayside a reality.”

As Kevin Rogan wrote for AN in July 2021 following Waterfront Toronto’s launch of Quayside 2.0: “It’s easy to read the new Quayside competition criteria as a direct rebuke of the virtues espoused by Sidewalk Labs’ bid. Nearly all mentions of smart technologies have been scrubbed, replaced by an ethos of community, inclusivity, and resilience.”

We’ll continue to keep tabs on Quayside Impact Limited Partnership’s vision for Quayside as negotiations get underway and future details emerge.