If all goes according to plan, Toronto's waterfront could get "a great green living room for the city."
That is how the winning design for the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park – by KPMB Architects, West 8 and Greenberg Consultants – was described by Donald Schmitt, who headed the jury of the design competition.
On Friday afternoon, the City of Toronto announced the winner of its design competition for the site, the zone at the foot of Yonge Street where visitors to the Toronto Islands catch a ferry in a terminal that opened in 1972 and which is frequently overcrowded in the summer.
The winning proposal, which the design team dubbed Harbour Landing, combines the two functions of terminal and park into one structure. (A proposal summary is here; the full proposal here as a PDF.) It imagines the terminal as two small pavilions coupled with a broad "berm," a wooden structure topped with a green roof. The top of the berm would effectively become part of a park, which also would include lawns, glades of trees and flowerbeds and a piazza paved in brick.
Next comes the challenge of implementing this vision – which, Councillor Pam McConnell suggested, will happen in increments over five to seven years starting in 2016.
McConnell admitted that "it was easier to find the money" to fund the design competition than it will be to fund the actual implementation of the project, for which the city has not cited a possible budget.
However, funding is in place to pay for the master planning of the site, and for an $800,000 first phase, which will be constructed starting in 2016. Beyond that, Ms. McConnell suggested that "there is more than adequate funding" for the revitalization proposal in development charges – including parks levies, development charges and "Section 37" payments – generated by new construction in the area.
"This is not a dream," she said. "I wouldn't be putting this forward if I wasn't absolutely confident it would happen."
Several major private development projects are on tap for the immediate area, including a massive proposal for 1 Yonge St. that calls for nearly 4,000 residential units and substantial office, retail and hotel components, and the recently announced 1.3-million-square-foot Daniels Waterfront project.
The Harbour Landing scheme was chosen from among a short list of five proposals that included some of the top architects and landscape architects in the world. The others ranged wildly in scope and ambition; the winning scheme combines one big architectural and landscape element with other more modest moves. "There are the bones of a really practical, pragmatic project," Mr. Schmitt said.
The design team includes three firms that have already made a substantial impact on the city: Toronto-based KPMB, who are among Canada's leading architecture firms; Ken Greenberg, the former director of urban design and architecture for the City of Toronto; and the Dutch-based landscape architect firm West 8, which has worked extensively on Toronto's waterfront.
Jelle Therry, a landscape architect who is a leader of West 8, explained that the plan was imagined to allow the existing terminal to remain in place as the new one is built; the new terminal will be built to the south of the existing one, where the docks are currently located. "We have thought carefully all along about how this could be implemented while keeping the existing terminal alive and operating."
The city asked for the competition to be run by Waterfront Toronto, the arm's-length organization that has run a number of successful design competitions in its revitalization of the waterfront so far. John Campbell, Waterfront Toronto's chief executive officer, predicted that the rebuilding of the site "will be one of the jewels in the revitalization of our city's waterfront."