Ken Greenberg, a member of the team that designed the proposed riverside park at the mouth of the Don River, says revisions to the award-winning plan will strip the Port Lands of "all that is special."
The suggested changes are part of a review of the Port Lands plan by the city and Waterfront Toronto and are expected to save as much as $150-million. They will also create larger areas for development.
Mr. Greenberg, a prominent architect and urban designer, said his team was never consulted by the city or Waterfront Toronto about possible changes to its design – advice he says he would have been happy to give.
The revisions would "gut" the original design, he said.
"This has been value engineered into total mediocrity," Mr. Greenberg said. "What is happening here? Have we become so mean-spirited that we can no longer produce generous public spaces that celebrate our waterfront?"
The review was requested last September by city council and is examining ways to kick-start development on the massive site. It was part of a compromised brokered by councillors after Councillor Doug Ford spearheaded a move for the city to take back control of the Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto. He expressed frustration with the decades-long timeline for development and mused about a mega-mall and Ferris wheel.
The original plan – developed by Waterfront Toronto and which includes a $634-million design to naturalize the river's banks – is the result of years of consultations and an environmental assessment. The new study takes a second look at other options in the environmental assessment and proposes one that includes larger blocks of land for development and a narrower strip of riverside park.
Mr. Greenberg said if adopted the proposed revisions would mark a return to the "penny-pinching attitude" of the city's past.
Councillor Peter Milczyn, chair of the planning and growth committee and one of the architects of the Port Lands compromise last summer, said the revisions stick to the "spirit and intent" of the existing environmental assessment. "It's about making it more financially viable," he said. The money saved with the changes, he said, will be more than enough to pay for all the other parks planned for the area.
An open house is planned for Saturday to present the new study.