Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Stop complaining about Waterfront Toronto and enjoy Queens Quay

By: Metro Published on Mon Jun 29 2015

With the revitalized Queens Quay West open, there was a good vibe down at Toronto’s waterfront this past week. Cyclists were cycling. Joggers were jogging. Revellers were revelling.

But then there was Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong. He wasn’t cycling, jogging, or revelling. He was just complaining.

“Recognizing #NewQueensQuay must also note huge budget overruns, long construction delays and lack of disclosure of (Waterfront Toronto),” the Don Valley East councillor tweeted just two days after the official Queens Quay opening.

Minnan-Wong’s attitude doesn’t come as a surprise. For years he’s taken regular shots at Waterfront Toronto — the agency tasked with waterfront development by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

He kvetched about the cost of the custom umbrellas at Waterfront Toronto’s award-winning Sugar Beach. He posed for photos outside a new washroom built at the Cherry Beach Sports Fields, a pained expression on his face as he brandished a sign bearing the cost of the facility.

His attitude doesn’t seem to have changed much since he was named to the Waterfront Toronto board by Mayor John Tory last December. As evidenced by his Queens Quay tweet, he’s still complaining.

It’s tiresome. Not because Waterfront Toronto’s efforts to finally revitalize the city’s waterfront have been beyond criticism, but because it’s not clear Minnan-Wong has any kind of alternative strategy in mind for the management of waterfront projects. It’s not even clear what a workable alternative would look like.

A report by Toronto’s planning department affirms that Waterfront Toronto has delivered “considerable value to the city” and recommends their next phase of development go forward.

More telling is the report’s conclusion: If Waterfront Toronto were no longer to exist, a new agency built using the same model would need to be created to continue waterfront development efforts.

That model’s effectiveness is best measured by the recent lakeside success stories — Queens Quay, Corktown Common, Sugar Beach — and by the utter failure of waterfront development strategies before Waterfront Toronto came into existence.

For decades, politicians talked up the need for a revamped waterfront, but had little to show for it beyond parking lots, condo buildings, a revolving restaurant and an aborted plan to sell prime land to a company that wanted to build a horse-racing facility.

It’s only in the last decade that we’ve seen real progress. Some tweaks are necessary, of course. I welcome even more oversight and accountability measures. And improved assessment of project costs would be fantastic.

But I can’t abide by those who only want to tear down Waterfront Toronto’s efforts just as those efforts are really tting to pay off.

There’s a good vibe down at Toronto’s waterfront — finally. Let’s celebrate that.

Matt Elliott lives and writes in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @GraphicMatt

This post was originally published at on 2015-06-29T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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