The future of the Etobicoke Waterfront

As we explored in Part 1 of this story, the Etobicoke Waterfront is one of Toronto’s hottest condo communities. Dozens of existing and planned projects, proximity to downtown and easy highway access to head to the suburbs, improving transit and an idyllic lakefront location with acres of trails and greenspace…

Most developments would love to boast such a checklist of features, as they are attracting thousands of new residents to this former motel strip.

“The number of built residential units has grown nearly 50 per cent in the last 10 years, and is expected to grow by another 80 per cent (4,429 units) in projects scheduled to complete by late 2018 into 2019,” Pauline Lierman, director of market research at Toronto condo consulting firm Urbanation Inc., told YPNextHome. “Most of these projects are already under construction or close to starting construction.”

Transitioning this area from its seedy past when it was home to few residents and some light industry, into a booming residential destination, has not been without its challenges.

For example, there has been some concern about traffic and infrastructure development, and that the area may be growing too fast for its own good.

But, making sure the Etobicoke Waterfront can accommodate not just new residents but also increased motorist traffic and transit is taking a coordinated effort from the City, area councillors and developers.

“The city, and the councillor here and the planners, were all about making sure that everyone is talking to each other,” assures Paul Golini, vice-president and co-founder of Empire Communities. “A Humber Bay Shores land owners group was created so that the proper planning started at the onset, with respect to planning, for how we access Lakeshore, for how the linkages and the connections work, the access to the parks and trails.”

“Traffic is not unique to this neighbourhood,” says condo expert Andrew la Fleur. “Toronto is a booming city and many neighbourhoods are struggling to get the infrastructure to keep up with growth. This area will most likely always be a car-centric area, even if the government put in some kind of rapid transit in the long term.”

While long-term transit and traffic issues for Etobicoke Waterfront are to be addressed through the Transportation Master Plan, builders have influenced some infrastructure changes, such as new stoplights on Lake Shore to help control traffic flow.

The Transportation Master Plan for Lake Shore Boulevard West and Park Lawn Road is currently underway, and a consultant is to be retained this fall, city planning official Kathryn Thom says.

The plan will devise integrated multi-modal transportation for the area, taking into consideration existing and future demands. Recommendations would then be included in City Council budget process.

As for other amenities, restaurant, pharmacy and grocery chains are beginning to move into the neighbourhood. Empire has also committed to building a new public park adjacent to its dual-tower Eau du Soleil project, and the City itself is looking to build a community centre in the area.

Concerns about overdevelopment were exacerbated by premature reports that the former Mr. Christie’s bakery lands, at the northeast corner of Park Lawn Road and Lake Shore Boulevard, were to house dozens more condos.

“In 2014, City Council and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing retained the Mr. Christie’s site as Employment Lands and preserved for economic purposes,” Jennifer Keesmaat, chief planner and executive director, City of Toronto, told YPNextHome.

The land owner – Mondelez Canada Inc. – has appealed this decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, but no hearing date has been set.

This means the huge swath of land where the dormant plant sits is currently protected as employment lands, and cannot simply be razed for more condos.

Mondelez has submitted an Official Plan Amendment application to convert the site to allow for a mix of uses, including residential, Keesmaat says. The application did not include a master plan indicating the number of residential buildings or any other details. “They have just asked for residential permissions. The application is currently under review and we have requested additional information from their planning consultants.”

Whatever the future is for the Mr. Christie’s lands, Golini says any future redevelopment will be done in lockstep with what has already taken place.

“(The lands) are so large, in terms of being 27 acres, they’re going to need a separate process, planning and due diligence on behalf of the City to make sure that it works, not only within the 27 acres, but also how they connect to the rest of the developments to the south and to the parks and to the trails.

“There will definitely be some communication with the (builders’) group once those lands are being looked at more seriously.”

Existing and future residents should take comfort that the Etobicoke Waterfront neighbourhood is a wise investment, la Fleur says.

“Take the long-term approach. If you are buying for yourself to live in, choose something you like and that will work for you for five to 10 years.”

You don’t even have to buy a unit with a lake view, which are generally more expensive. “They’re nice, but the units with no lake views can offer incredible value, and you are still right beside the lake with the same access to the waterfront and trails.”

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