This week I had the opportunity to visit Waterfront Toronto head office and tour some of the revitalization projects taking place with my urban planning program. The organization was formed through a partnership of three levels of Canadian government (municipal, federal. and provincial). With the main objective to revitalize the harbour through sustainable developments, building affordable housing, and by redeveloping brownfields. Since brownfields are an interest of mine, the discussion was very captivating. After hearing about the organization and having them present both their future and completed projects it was time for the tour. We visited the Courus Entertainment Site, the new George Brown Waterfront Campus, and Sherbourne Common. All of which that look amazing and all have some form of sustainable design.
During both the presentation and the tour a question which I wanted to ask came to mind, what drives waterfront development? Now, I am aware of the decentralization of industries which are one of the processes behind the changes the waterfront. The decentralization of industrialization saw industries move away from the city-core and into the fringes. This is associated with land development, geographic industrialization, and metropolitan planning. Another process is the suburbanization of industry. this is related to decentralization, where industries began to move away due to advancement in technology and transportation. These industries no longer had to rely on ports and railways lines as a method of moving their goods. These two changes are instrumental for the creating of brownfield sites.
However, there is another theory by Bird (1963) that examines the evolution of ports. Bird’s model can be used for almost any port transformation in the Global North. The steps involve in the evolution of ports include:
- Setting (Geographic Consideration)
- Expansion (Construction of Docks and Railway Lines)
- Specialization (Ports being specialized for certain activities)
With these spaces now unoccupied and no longer serving use, it’s time for them to be re-purpose. To me, the driving forces behind Toronto’s transformation are due to both the decentralization of industries and the need to attract investment. One of the objectives from Waterfront Toronto was to attract the creative class and the tech-based economies to the waterfront.
In summary, the transformation of habour in Toronto and other ports around the world are intriguing. Ports were always a form of trade and economic activity. From the trade of fish and pelts to coal and the shipping of goods. Ports are currently being modernized to fit today’s current economic market, with spaces for the creative class. The transformation of brownfield sites is beneficial since it is a form of reducing sprawl by re purposing these landscapes for residential and commercial uses. My hopes are that these future brownfield sites located in Toronto are equitable.
Lewis and Walker (2001) – Beyond the Crabgrass Frontier: Industry and the Spread of North American Cities
De Sousa (2001) – Turning Brownfields into Greenspaces in the City of Toronto
Birds (1963) – The Evolution of a Port (The Anyport Model)
The Globe and Mail – Sun Life moving away from Bay Street