Toronto's Port Lands is no place to put a casino, says Waterfront Toronto, the agency responsible for transforming the sprawling industrial site into a mixed-use community.
The lakeside area at the foot of the Don River is one of a handful of sites frequently mentioned as a possible location for a casino. Mayor Rob Ford has said he favours the Port Lands or Exhibition Place because as a landlord, the city would receive additional revenue.
In a letter to the city's chief planner, Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell argues that building a casino on the Port Lands would likely work against efforts to revitalize the industrial area and kick-start development there.
Casinos, the letter states, are usually "land-consumptive, low-density, and inwardly-oriented" – all features that would work against the creation of the "vibrant urban mixed-use environment" envisioned by the recent planning study.
A casino would require parking for as many as 5,000 cars, the letter states, and because of the nature of soil in the harbour, those would have to be accommodated in surface lots or multi-level parkades. A gaming complex also would make the planned new residential development less desirable, Mr. Campbell writes.
Councillor Paula Fletcher, who represents the area that includes the Port Lands, asked Waterfront Toronto to provide an opinion to the city during a recent meeting of Toronto and East York community council devoted to the casino debate.
"I hope council in its wisdom will agree," she said in an interview Wednesday. "We spent a year looking at what the Port Lands should look like and at no time was a casino mentioned."
A lot of work and public consultation has gone into planning for the area, Ms. Fletcher said, and now is not the time to leapfrog the outcome of those efforts. "When we try to plan like that, whether it's Ferris Wheels, whether it's monorails or mega-malls or casinos, that's just bad planning," she said.
Mr. Ford's executive committee will consider the case for a casino at its next meeting before sending the issue out for public consultations.
The province wants to build a new casino in the Toronto area, but has made it clear it will not force a gaming facility on a community.