The Toronto waterfront: digital space, diversity and inclusiveness

by Tania Gianone

TORONTO – Anyone that lives in Toronto or has visited it either physically or virtually probably knows that the city is, little by little, losing its shyness and revealing its unique identity in the global scenario. A part of the transformation process is due to public-private partnerships that have been implementing revitalization projects to meet the needs of the post-industrial society. 

Among the urban renovation projects, one that stands out by its complexity and large-scale is the Toronto waterfront revitalization. In the last decades, this mega project produced residential and commercial buildings along the shore to substitute the harbor activities. However, it was for the touristic attractions that the area became well-known. 

Iconic spaces such as Sugar Beach lures visitors to a modern man-made beach park connected to the city heritage. The goers can contemplate one of the remaining harbor operations as the beach is located from across the Redpath Sugar Factory. In this dialogue between the harbor and the urban beach, the visitor delves into a ludic environment where the pink umbrellas – which resemble candies – and the sand – that evokes the sugar – make adults and kids join for fun activities in the summer months. 

While enjoying the place, visitors may ask themselves if it would be possible to live or work in the East Bayfront neighborhood so that they would repeat the experience more often. But, what is the likelihood of this dream coming true? 

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Although the answer to this question depends on several variables such as being able or not to afford the high costs of properties in that part of the city, a closer look at the Sugar Beach surroundings reveals that the area is still under construction. Some of the latest developments reflect the visitors’ desires to become an integral part of that community. 

Planners have captured the idea that younger generations prefer to live and work in culturally diverse environments than in separate communities that are not so connected to the true identity of the city. Therefore, most of the recent developments in the area differ from the older ones by addressing the needs of the contemporary society, made up of people with all kind of cultural backgrounds and complex combinations of professional activities and personal goals. 

An example of an initiative that resonates to those expectations is the Launchpad co-working space, which serves more precisely the community of emerging artists that have been underserved for years and had few opportunities other than working from more remote areas of the Great Toronto Area. 

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Launchpad occupies the fourth floor of Daniels Artscape building and is located at the intersection of Jarvis Street and Queens Quay. In addition to the co-working spaces, there are laboratories equipped with the newest technologies for each field of creativity that can be used by purchasing a membership. 

Other mixed-purpose buildings are being built, also having as their primary concept the collaborative spaces where people can build careers and develop business while maintaining the connection with the Toronto waterscape heritage. 

These collaborative spaces, which go much beyond the simple wifi desks, are redefining the way creative people work as well as the relationship with the surroundings. Instead of more traditional work contracts, projects can be developed by forming teams with independent professionals. And this flexibility in the work relationships is reflected in less rigid built environments, where the several interior spaces are visually integrated, and the transparency of the glass envelope enables integration with the outdoor leisure spaces. 

Flexibility in the workspace also means more freedom to enjoy the outdoors during the breaks or after work. And when someone decides to explore the surroundings, besides the beach umbrellas, there are others under which it is possible to relax, located at 307 Parliament Street. Open to the public, this station, which supports walkers or riders by providing shade, drinkable water, a picnic table, and chairs, is actually a temporary amenity that works as the preview of another upcoming community, the Quayside. 

By applying new technologies to the building process and using data analyses, a joint effort between Waterfront Toronto and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs intend to make this part of the city safer and more accessible by focusing on solving problems related to the winter and people with special needs. Collaboration is, once more, the critical aspect of the design process so that the public is being invited to participate in the events scheduled in their website 

The cited projects and implementations are not only bringing innovation to the eastern part of the Queens Quay neighborhood but also attracting new services. For instance, the Artscape Building will soon feature an extensive Italian food space on its ground floor. 

Many of the unmistakable pink umbrellas were already installed in the surroundings of the future Italian food court so that they will provide shade for those who prefer tasting the food outdoors. 

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Instead of specializing in products and recipes from individual Italian provinces, as most of the restaurants and stores do, this upcoming food court is announcing to offer a menu ranging from the North to the South of the boot. By promising to bring two thousand years of flavors to the area, this service shows that technologically evolved developments can be connected with world heritage and can embrace people with all kinds of background. 

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