Toronto’s sister city, Chicago, has, for the most part, a beautiful waterfront. A few years ago, my wife and I wandered in to the under-development Millennium Park, drawn to the Chicago Symphony rehearsing Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé suite beneath the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The grass was so luxurious we kicked off our shoes and strolled to the Pavilion to listen to the CSO.
The dreamscape was destroyed when a pizza-chomping security guard strolled over and told us that the park was under construction and that it wasn’t open to the public. Still, it was a wonderful experience to witness this green space for the masses.
If you trek along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive there are parks and an aquarium, a planetarium, Northwestern University, harbors, lagoons and a golf course. If one travels along Toronto’s Lake Shore Boulevard, there are parks, the Martin Goodman Trail (when the weather is fine, it’s a perfect trail to run and cycle), the boardwalk, pools and pavilions. But once you dip down to Queen’s Quay, it gets grim just around Yonge and stays fairly grim until you arrive at the Beaches, just past Coxwell (there is more than one beach, so I refuse to refer to this area in the plural; voters be damned).
As Toronto continues its healthy competition with Chicago, I was rather pleased to read about a plan to beautify Queen’s Quay between Jarvis and Parliament. As reported in today’s Toronto Star, Waterfront Toronto has signed off on a $181 million plan to sexy up the waterfront.
Toronto has received criticism, and rightly so, for its oftentimes lackluster and many times downright imbecilic urban planning. Take a drive along the Mistake by the Lake (Gardiner) and the view of the lake is almost completely obscured by condos that seem to be replicating as quickly and as aesthetically as a virus.
But with City Hall’s newfound fascination with public infrastructure projects to create/keep jobs and bolster a flaccid economy, these sorts of initiatives could be the beginning of sustainable, beautiful, pedestrian-centric zones and the death knell of life-sucking industrial brownfields. New places where we can kick off our shoes and enjoy the springy vegetation beneath our feet while experiencing uplifting vistas and a greater sense of community.