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Waterfront plan launched with IOC team on the horizon

$300 million first phase will `help us with the Olympics:’ Lastman

All three levels of government have launched the first phase of a massive waterfront redevelopment, just days before the International Olympic Committee’s team arrives to assess Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Summer Games.

Flanked by Deputy Premier Jim Flaherty and federal Transport Minister David Collenette, Mayor Mel Lastman yesterday said four major waterfront projects would likely be approved next month, with construction to start shortly after.

“Make no mistake here: I want the Olympics to come to Toronto, I want them real bad and I think it’s important for Toronto to have the Olympics and today’s announcement will help make that happen,” the mayor said.

Lastman acknowledged that yesterday’s announcement was timed to coincide with the arrival of the IOC inspectors and to show the commitment to develop the waterfront - where the major Olympic venues would be located - was real.

“We all wanted to be committed before July (when the winning city will be announced) … to show everybody we mean what we say and we want a waterfront development, Games or no Games. It’s going to help us with the Olympics, there’s no two ways about it,” Lastman said after unveiling the timetable and money breakdown for the first phase of waterfront redevelopment.

The four projects, totalling $300 million, which have been earmarked for a quick start are:

  • $170 million to extend Front St. W. from Bathurst St. west to Dufferin St. and the Gardiner Expressway.
  • $58 million to build a second subway platform at Union Station to accommodate greater numbers of TTC and GO Transit riders and the tens of thousands expected if the city wins the 2008 Olympic Games.
  • $61 million to begin soil remediation and preparation of the port lands for potential Olympic sites, including the stadium and the athletes village, and for other uses including commercial, industrial and recreational.
  • $2 million for an environmental assessment of plans for clean up and rehabilitation of the mouth of the Don River.

The projects are covered by the $1.5 billion committed by all levels of government last October to a massive $12 billion long-term waterfront plan proposed by the Fung task force report last year.

Political leaders also announced the formation of an “interim” corporation to start work on the four projects as soon as possible.

“Council will be making a decision in April. After that decision, the contracts can be let,” Lastman said yesterday. “The waterfront is a done deal,” he added.

“The interim corporation that will be formed … could start as early as next month in order to get the shovels in the ground,” added the city’s chief administrative officer, Mike Garrett.

The interim corporation - made up of civil servants from all three levels of government - will be replaced by a permanent corporation as early as June but after the province passes legislation to allow the city to participate as an equal partner.

The permanent corporation will be comprised of private citizens nominated by all three levels of government, with a chair to be elected among them.

The city will also create a special committee of councillors and citizens to ensure the city’s interests are looked after, Garrett said.

Garrett said the interim corporation will sign contracts with existing agencies to “deliver the goods.” The TTC, for example, will undertake the subway platform expansion and the city’s transportation department will begin the extension of Front St. W.

TTC chief general manager Rick Ducharme said he was “ecstatic” about yesterday’s announcement, adding detailed design work on the subway platform began last year.

Financier Robert Fung, whose task force report last year created the $12 billion vision for revitalization of the city’s 46-kilometre waterfront, acknowledged he wasn’t pleased that the three levels of government have started with an interim corporation.

“I am very excited to see a step taken. It would have been nice if there was not an interim corporation,” Fung said. “I have to tell you that getting this far, I’m very excited to see it actually getting going.”

Flaherty expressed some impatience with the pace of the project, saying “details haven’t been worked out” on the permanent corporation.

“The key here is to take the leadership, get the ball rolling, make this happen for the Toronto waterfront, hopefully in support of the Olympics, but regardless for the improvement of the Toronto waterfront,” he added.

But Collenette said he’s pleased at the progress, considering there were municipal and federal elections and delays caused by the Christmas season.

“Four months after the Premier, the Prime Minister and the mayor committed $1.5 billion to this great project, we are saying we’re ready to go and work is about to start,” he said.