Amsterdam Bridge at Harbourfront
Harbourfront is a neighbourhood on the northern shore of Lake Ontario within the downtown core of the city of Toronto, Canada. Part of the Toronto Waterfront, Harbourfront extends from Bathurst Street in the west, along Queen's Quay, with its ill-defined eastern boundary being either Yonge Street or York Street. Its northern boundary is the Gardiner Expressway.
Toronto's harbour has been used since the founding of Toronto for shipping and industrial purposes. The Town of York was founded to the west of the Don River, along the waterfront. When the town was founded, the water's edge was approximately where today's 'Front Street' is located. Over time, the area south of Front Street to today's water's edge south of 'Queen's Quay' was filled in with landfill, creating piers and area for industrial development.
Prior to the 1972 federal election, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau announced the Harbourfront project, which would expropriate the industrial port lands from York Street west to Bathurst Street, south of Queen's Quay and convert them to a cultural and residential district for Toronto, similar to the Granville Island district in Vancouver. The federal government has converted the industrial area to an area mixed with art galleries, performance spaces, boating areas and parks. The surrounding neighbourhood, formerly industrial has been converted by private land developers into a series of condominium towers overlooking the project and Lake Ontario.
From its beginnings as "Harbourfront Corporation", a federal Crown Corporation established in 1972, Harbourfront Centre was formed on January 1, 1991 as a non-profit charitable organization with a mandate to organize and present public events and to operate a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site encompassing York Quay and John Quay (south of Queens Quay West). Since its inception, Harbourfront Centre has been introducing Toronto audiences to artists and art forms that would not normally be seen in commercial venues, exploring new and bold frontiers in the arts and creative expression.
The area along the waterfront is composed of mixed uses. The federal government lands to the south of Queen's Quay include a community centre, a Toronto fire department station, various boating uses, parkland and the Harbourfront Centre. To the north of Queen's Quay, all of the industrial lands along the street have been replaced with high-rise condominium towers. To the east of the federal government lands, the waterfront is mixed with industrial uses, a hotel, ferry docks, boating uses, a sugar factory and vacant lands.
Notable buildings and facilities
Harbourfront is the site of the Toronto Islands ferry terminal which provides transportation services to the Islands from the foot of Bay Street.
Harbourfront Centre, housing galleries and performance spaces is located at the foot of Lower Simcoe Street. Harbourfront houses four craft studios; ceramics, glass, metal and textiles. All studios began in 1974 and still operate, providing new craft artists with subsidized work spaces at the beginning of their careers. Harbourfront hosts an extensive program of arts and cultural events throughout each summer, including craft and artisan fairs, theatre and dance performances and musical concerts. A series of free concerts is staged at Harbourfront's outdoor concert stage every weekend throughout the summer and in winter there is a free open-air ice rink.
Queen's Quay Terminal, next to Harbourfront Centre, is a former warehouse converted into a mixed-use building including a shopping centre designed for high-end retailers, commercial office space, and a residential condominium development. Today, the mall houses some stores and restaurants, predominantly catering to tourists.
The Canada Malting Silos along the waterfront at the western edge of Harbourfront, are one of the last vestiges of the industrial past of the neighbourhood. The buildings were long ago abandoned by the company that built them, but a proposal for demolition was cancelled when the estimated cost for demolition rose into the millions of dollars. The site is also now considered a heritage site, and any development must conserve some aspect of the industrial past. Two proposals have been made, a Canadian music museum and a Toronto history museum have both been proposed for the site. Both proposals keep the silos, but demolish other buildings on the site. The silos are one two remaining silos in the area (see Victory Soya Mills Silos) and reminder of the past uses of the area.
To the south of the Silos, Toronto Ireland Park was inaugurated in 2004. The site has memorials to an 1878 exodus of Irish persons to Toronto.
To the east of Harbourfront, at the foot of Jarvis Street is the Redpath Sugar Refinery, which is both an active sugar refinery and a sugar production museum. Captain John's Harbour Boat Restaurant is also a ship moored at the Yonge Street slip.
Parks and open spaces
Although Toronto has often been criticized for not having a dynamic and beautiful waterfront park, harbourfront has a network of parks, open spaces and trails that allow residents and visitors to access the public realm. Parks and public spaces like HTO Park, the Martin Goodman Trail, the Yo-Yo Ma Music Garden, and the Waterfront WaveDecks at the foots of Spadina Avenue, Rees Street and Lower Simcoe combine to beautify the harbourfront and bring people to the water's edge.
List of Harbourfront parks and open spaces
- Habourfront - Water's Edge
- HTO Park
- Ireland Park
- John Quay
- John Quay North
- Martin Goodman Trail
- Maple Leaf Quay East
- Maple Leaf Quay West
- Rees WaveDeck
- Simcoe WaveDeck
- Toronto Music Garden
- Spadina WaveDeck
- York Quay & Harbourfront Centre
- Martin Goodman Trail
The area is served by streetcar links with Union, Spadina, and Bathurst subway stations. The 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront streetcar routes terminate at Union Station, travel underground along Bay Street, and surface through in the centre ROW lane on Queen's Quay west. The streetcar route travels along Queen's Quay in a separate right-of-way, either to the CNE grounds, up to Spadina or to Bathurst, depending on day of the week and other factors.
The neighbourhood is separated from the rest of downtown Toronto by the elevated Gardiner Expressway. A project to link Lower Simcoe with Simcoe St. via tunnel is currently under construction to provide a new link between Harbourfront and downtown. Proposals have been made to demolish the Expressway in the area. One proposal was to demolish the highway east of Spadina Avenue. Another proposal, to demolish the highway from the Don River to Jarvis Street is being actively studied by the City of Toronto.
The Toronto Island Airport is another neighbourhood issue. The airport, located to the south-west of the neighbourhood, is opposed by local community groups and some city politicians, including Toronto's past mayor, David Miller, as an impediment to the waterfront lands redevelopment. Toronto's current mayor, Rob Ford, on the other hand, backs an expansion of the airport, as it creates jobs. The airport, built in the 1930s, is utilized for regional air travel. The airport generates hundreds of noise complaints monthly to its operator, the Toronto Port Authority. The Toronto Port Authority confirmed on September 12, 2008, that Porter Airlines was fined for breaking noise curfews in its operations at the Island Airport. A study by the Port Authority is being conducted into reducing noise from Porter's takeoffs and landings.
Queen's Quay is currently a four-lane thoroughfare with a separate right-of-way for Toronto's streetcars. A development plan is proposed to modify the street further to provide a central section of the Martin Goodman Trail, a cyclist and recreational pathway along the waterfront.
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- "The Six Best Toronto Port Authority Noise Complaints". torontoist.com. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- "Port Authority refuses to rule out new ferry". The Globe and Mail. September 12, 2008.
- "The Toronto Islands Then & Now: A guided tour through 200 years of history" (DVD). The Content Shop. August 2006.
||Niagara||Railway Lands||St. Lawrence|
|CityPlace||East Bayfront District|
|Toronto Islands/Inner Harbour/Toronto Harbour|