Revitalizing a contaminated urban brownfield and creating an ecologically functional river mouth will foster a new sustainable community and reduce the risk of flooding in Canada’s largest city.

The Challenge

The Port Lands Neighbourhoods was once a massive wetland teeming with aquatic wildlife, but the area was filled to create an industrial district. Now, after years serving industrial purposes, the district has become an underutilized, heavily contaminated brownfield site. Toronto plans to revitalize the area to develop a sustainable community.

The Solution

The City of Toronto is working with Waterfront Toronto, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Province of Ontario and the Federal Government to re-naturalize the mouth of the Don River into a healthier and ecologically functional river outlet to Toronto’s Inner Harbour. This will allow for the transformation of the Port Lands, an underutilized and contaminated industrial area, into a new sustainable community. Creating the new river mouth will protect 290 hectares of land east and south of the Don River which is currently at risk of flooding and will include the decontamination or removal of approximately 2.5 million m3 of polluted soil.

The plan is to transform the Port Lands Neighbourhoods into a resilient and sustainable community with 12,500 homes, 279,000 m2 of commercial and retail space, and 53 hectares of parks and public spaces. The sustainability focus includes implementing aggressive energy and transportation strategies such as targets for energy use intensity and measures to encourage active mobility by building bike-share facilities and designated lanes for pedestrians and bikes.

Social Benefits – The project is estimated to generate 7,672 person years of employment.

Economic Benefits – The direct investment in flood protection will generate approximately $859 million in economic value added to the Canadian economy.

Health Benefits – The project aims to make the district a zero waste export community by requiring high levels of domestic, commercial, industrial, and construction waste diversion, reducing pollutants from unmanaged waste and overused landfills.

About Cities100

Presented by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), Sustainia and Realdania – Cities100 showcases leading solutions to urban climate challenges in ten sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation.

Available online and in print, Cities100 provides stakeholders an accessible format to explore achievable solutions for climate action in cities, and will be a useful tool for relevant groups ranging from impact investors and development organizations, to mayors and city governments.  You can access the full Cities100 2015 publication online here.

  • Economic
  • Health
  • Social
Key Impact
The naturalization of the Don River mouth is the centerpiece of the plan and will provide flood protection to enable the revitalization of the Port Lands Neighbourhoods and create a new terrestrial and aquatic habitat in Toronto’s waterfront
Emissions Reduction
23% annual reduction in CO2 emissions from the revitalization project
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