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Toronto Land sale brings Mississauga closer to a waterfront that avoids Toronto’s mistakes

Gary Kent, director of city strategy, innovations for the City of Mississauga, displays a chart showing proposed work on Mississauga's waterfront.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

With purchase of a key piece of land in Mississauga's Port Credit area, the city is one step closer to realizing its vision for a waterfront that takes its cues from urban planning in Copenhagen, Chicago and Paris and avoids the condo-clogged look along Toronto's shores.

This week, Imperial Oil announced the sale of a 73-acre property in Port Credit to a consortium of developers who will redevelop it for public use. This land would be converted into a space for a major waterfront park, mid-rise and affordable housing, mixed-use development and a large academic or research campus, according to plans developed by the city.

News of this key land sale comes at a time when Mississauga is moving forward with other ambitious waterfront plans, including development of another stretch in Port Credit owned by the Canada Lands Co. In September, construction began at the former Lakeview Generating Station, a 250-acre site that will be redeveloped for $60-million into a 1.5-kilometre beach, wetlands, residential and commercial properties and trails. They'll be at what Mississauga Ward 1 councillor Jim Tovey describes as "human scale."

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While the developers who have purchased the parcel of land could make a tidy profit building high-rise condominiums and selling the lakefront view to wealthy buyers as has been done in Toronto, Mr. Tovey said those types of towers only belong in the city core.

He was moved by the work of renowned Danish architect Jans Gehl, who found that a mother could make eye contact with her child on the street from six storeys up, but not seven.

"Nobody out here likes tall condos," said Mr. Tovey, who has led efforts for a sustainable, mid-rise city waterfront. "If we have to look at something, it has to earn the sky."

When Imperial Oil put out a request for proposals for the land, Mr. Tovey and the city negotiated with them to include a master-plan framework that had been developed by the community during four years of consultations.

"We can be fairly confident the framework of what the community was looking for is going to be respected and also built," he said.

To steer the sprawling city in a less car-dependent direction, the project will be connected to the local bus service and Port Credit station.

"These developments will allow the City of Mississauga to press ahead with our work to build a city that is livable and walkable," Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in an e-mail.

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The purchasers of the land are a consortium called Port Credit West Village Partners, Inc., which includes The Kilmer Group, Dream, DiamondCorp, FRAM Building Group Ltd. and Fieldgate.

Stephen Diamond, the president and CEO of DiamondCorp, said that until the sale has closed, which is expected to happen in March, he and the team could not share detailed plans for the project. But he said his group will "develop [the land] in a way that will fulfill important city objectives through a positive public engagement with inspirational design and major public open spaces."

An environmental assessment that is expected to take two years will begin soon after the sale is finalized. The processing of the land to extract contaminants could be extensive: it was the site of a brick manufacturing plant in the late 1800s, then became home to an oil refinery in 1932, was converted to a petrochemical unit in 1978 and was decommissioned in 1987.

The local Mississauga News described the shutdown of industry on the lands as "leaving ugly piles of uprooted landscape and a gaping tear in the psyche of Port Credit."

But two decades from now when intensification along the Dundas Street corridor is complete, when Etobicoke is nearly built out, "we'll be like the human-scale oasis right across our waterfront," Mr. Tovey predicts.

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