york quay revitalization
The overall revitalization of Harbourfront Centre’s site has created a series of new public spaces in one of the busiest areas on Toronto’s central waterfront.
Waterfront Toronto has been working with Harbourfront Centre since 2005 on a series of projects that have completely transformed this key waterfront site. With its cultural, educational and recreational programming, Harbourfront Centre draws more than 12 million visitors a year to its four hectare (10 acre) site in the heart of Toronto’s central waterfront. From improvements to the water’s edge to new public squares, the revitalization of this area has created a new front door for Harbourfront Centre and opened up access to the water’s edge for visitors to the waterfront.
In 2006, Waterfront Toronto and Harbourfront Centre made significant improvements to the water’s edge between the York and Simcoe Slips. This work, which included a widened promenade, a new wooden boardwalk and two new finger piers, has created one of the most popular and heavily visited public spaces on the central waterfront. It also helped inspire the design for the grand, civic water’s edge promenade in East Bayfront.
from parking to plazas
A new underground garage, which opened in June 2012, unlocked about a third of Harbourfront Centre’s prime waterfront site for the creation of new public space. Built by Waterfront Toronto and Harbourfront Centre, the 300-stall York Quay garage replaced a 212-stall surface parking lot and helped to retain an important revenue stream for Harbourfront Centre programming. Construction began in March 2011 and was completed in just over a year. The underground garage demonstrates how infrastructure and public space can work together to create engaging and functional urban environments. It includes a public art component called Light Cascade. Designed by award-winning architect and designer James Carpenter, the 3-storey reflective curtain wall of glass brings natural light into the structure and lights up the plaza above.
new public space
A series of new public spaces have replaced the surface parking lot. The three spaces, designed by renowned landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, work together to give public access to the water’s edge and programming options for Harbourfront Centre:
- Canada Square: a plaza space at the south east end of Harbourfront Centre’s site overlooking Lake Ontario.
- Ontario Square: a large public plaza facing Queens Quay located directly above the parking garage along the north west end of the site.
- Exhibition Common: An interim landscaped activity north of Canada Square to Queens Quay.
When financing and designs are in place, Exhibition Common is expected to become Harbourfront Centre’s Cultural Village. The Cultural Village, a Harbourfront Centre-led initiative, is a low-scale development with cafés, restaurants, shops, artist studios and architect offices located north of Canada Square to Queens Quay.
Located directly on Lake Ontario, Canada Square has become a new landmark in the heart of Toronto’s waterfront. The design for Canada Square wasinspired by great European plazas. It offers a new place along our urban waterfront for people to gather and enjoy beautifully framed views of Lake Ontario and Toronto’s skyline under a canopy of trees. Canada Square, which is paved in red granite, brings nature onto the site in an unconventional way. Itincludes more than 40 metasequoia (dawn redwoods) which frame the square and create a vertical garden. Dawn redwoods are ancient trees and veryfast growing deciduous trees that turn a foxy red-brown colour in the fall. They can grow up to 60 metres (200 feet) or more. The gransite used in Canada Square is a similar paver used on Queens Quay and at the water’s edge promenade giving consistency to the entire waterfront.
Ontario Square is a large public plaza facing Queens Quay located directly above the parking garage along the north west end of the site. It features a series of miniature forests of Quaking Aspen, which are native to Ontario and grow very quickly. The trees were also planted on the roof covering the entrance to the parking garage which helps green a necessary piece of concrete infrastructure. Ontario Square was designed to accommodate a number of different uses. It acts as an informal gathering place, school bus drop/off pick-up for camp programs and an open plaza space for Harbourfront Centre’s programming. The plaza is paved in charcoal and grey unit pavers arranged in a geometric pattern -- reminiscent of the patterns made by ice in the harbour during cold winter months.
light cascade – public art
Light Cascade, designed by award-winning architect and designer James Carpenter, is a distinctive art piece comprised of a mylar (polyester film) screen with a reflective pattern laminated in glass. This impressive glass sculpture rises over 30 metres high from the base of the garage up through an aperture to the landscape above. In addition to being a beautiful piece of public art, Light Cascade was designed to bring daylight into the garage and acts as a natural way finding system. At night, the glass screen adds an artistic glow to the urban square and garage below.
The design for Canada Square and Ontario Square brings nature onto the site in unconventional ways. At Canada Square, the designers chose to install more than forty metasequoia (dawn redwoods) which frame the square creating a vertical garden. Dawn redwoods are ancient trees and very fast growing deciduous trees that turn a foxy red-brown colour in the fall. They can grow up to 60 metres (200 feet) or more. Quaking Aspens were planted at Ontario Square. These trees, which are native to Ontario, grow very quickly and will be cut back often to create mini-forests across the site. The trees were also planted on the roof covering the entrance to the parking garage which helps green a necessary piece of concrete infrastructure.
Overall Boundaries: Between York Quay Centre to the west and Queens Quay Terminal to the east; from Queens Quay West to the north and the water’s edge promenade and boardwalk to the south.
Size: Four hectare (10 acre) site
- 2005/2006 Phase I (Water’s Edge Revitalization): Architects Alliance, Greenberg Consultants Inc. and Envision - The Hough Group who developed the concept design for the project.
- 2006 Central Waterfront Innovative Design Competition: West 8 + DTAH
Underground Garage (Phase II):
- Landscape Architects - Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates
- Architects - Beyer Blinder Belle
- Construction Manager - Ellis Don
Public Space (Phase II):
- Landscape Architects - Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates
- Public Art - James Carpenter Design Associates
Owner and Operator: Harboufront Centre
- News Release - Canada Square July 1 2013 (French)
- News Release - Canada Square July 1 2013 (English)
- Invitation - Official Opening of Canada Square
- Fact Sheet - Canada Square
- York Quay Revitalization Official Opening and Groundbreaking News Release - French
- York Quay Revitalization Fact Sheet
- News Release - York Quay Revitalization Official Opening and Groundbreaking
- Board Meeting Presentation - York Quay Revitalization - 06-27-2012
- Presentation - York Quay Revitalization (20MB) - 06-06-2012
- Minutes - York Quay CLC Meeting 3 - 10-19-2011