Toronto’s Lower Don Lands: Climate Positive project to transform the city’s waterfront

A post from Waterfront Toronto, a leader in waterfront renewal

The Lower Don Lands is a 125 hectare waterfront site that presents a unique opportunity for revitalization in the City of Toronto. Once part of a massive wetland supporting a vast range of plants, fish, waterfowl, and mammals, the area was lake-filled to support industry and today sits largely abandoned.

Now, with a progressive strategy to re-naturalize the mouth of the Don River and comprehensive plans for sustainable community design and flood protection, the Lower Don Lands could soon transform the landscape of Toronto’s waterfront district.

The renewal of the waterfront into beautiful and sustainable mixed-use communities is being led by Waterfront Toronto, an independent corporation that was created by the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto in 2001. Due to heavy contamination, the Lower Don Lands is one of the most challenging sites in Waterfront Toronto’s portfolio. In addition, because the site is within the Regulatory Flood plain, defined as the area that is anticipated to be flooded if a major storm were to occur over the Don Watershed, there are regulatory restrictions on carrying out development on the site.

Towards a Climate Positive Future

The Lower Don Lands is one of the founding projects of the C40 Climate Positive Development Program, which supports the development of projects that seek to meet a “climate positive” emissions target of net-negative operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

By working collaboratively with other Climate Positive Development projects, the Lower Don Lands is striving to become a model of sustainability and ecosystem re-generation by:

  • mandating green buildings and sustainable construction practices;
  • prioritizing transit and multi-mode transportation options;
  • using passive design by optimizing climatic effects from the sun and wind;
  • increasing waste diversion; and
  • implementing cutting-edge intelligent community infrastructure.

Currently, Waterfront Toronto is working with the City of Toronto to develop a precinct plan for Villiers Island, the first community in the Lower Don Lands to be developed. In line with our Climate Positive goals, City Council passed a motion to include zero net energy import and zero waste export guidelines in the planning phase.

We are very pleased and excited to be working with the Climate Positive Development Program to further advance our carbon reduction efforts. Through this unique opportunity for cooperative dialogue and mutual learning with the world’s most progressive developers, the program is helping to implement the plans for the Lower Don Lands. This transformation will give back to Torontonians the glory of the mouth of the Don River and a resilient community that will be a showcase for sustainable development.