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Dream, Great Gulf update Quayside on Toronto waterfront

Dream Unlimited Corp. and Great Gulf Group will together develop two of the most significant prop...

IMAGE: An illustration of the Toronto Quayside property. Building designs and heights are preliminary, and have yet to receive approvals. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

A rendering of the Dream/Great Gulf proposal for the Toronto Quayside property. Building designs and heights are preliminary and have yet to receive approvals. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

Dream Unlimited Corp. and Great Gulf Group will together develop two of the most significant properties along the Toronto waterfront during the coming decade.

As partners on both the 12-acre Quayside property and the nearby Victory Silos site along Lake Shore Boulevard East in the city’s eastern downtown area, they will play a large role in reshaping the city’s Lake Ontario skyline.

Urban Land Institute Toronto staged an April 22 webinar involving Dream, Great Gulf and several project partners to offer insights into the plans for Quayside, at the foot of Parliament Street at Lake Shore Boulevard East.

“I think you’ll see in the Quayside project that you can see high levels of development, in terms of architectural design and public space, and still have great environmental sustainability,” said Waterfront Toronto president and chief executive officer George Zegarac.

Dream  and Great Gulf were chosen by Waterfront Toronto in February to develop Quayside. Waterfront Toronto was established in 2001 by the governments of Canada, Ontario and Toronto to lead a revitalization of the waterfront by incorporating sustainable development, design excellence and leading technological infrastructure.

It was tasked with creating a new vision for the site after Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs dropped its plans for a major technology-based sustainable development in May 2020.

Quayside components and vision

Among the proposals Dream and Great Gulf have submitted for Quayside are:

 – five towers plus one of Canada’s largest residential mass-timber buildings;

– 861 affordable housing units of various sizes, from studios to four-bedrooms, which will be delivered in each development phase with market housing;

– a community care hub offering a range of programs and services to support aging-in-place, recreation and wellness for all residents;

– and a multi-use venue with space for the performing arts, Indigenous-centred cultural celebrations and flexible education spaces.

Dream and Great Gulf partnered on acquiring the Victory Silos site at 351 Lake Shore Blvd. E. in 2017, so they were well aware of Quayside. The Victory Silos Condos project is in the pre-construction phase as part of a five-acre master-planned community that will include about a million square feet of density.

“We’ve always felt that, whatever we do, we should leave what we found better than it was before,” said Dream president and chief responsible officer Michael Cooper.

“This is really just part of the journey to create net-zero communities with tremendous affordable housing, combined with all sorts of market housing, condos, apartments, retail, public activities, inclusiveness and programming, where people’s lives are enhanced by the work we all do together.”

Many goals for Quayside development

Waterfront Toronto vice-president of strategic policy and innovation Kristina Verner said the vision for Quayside involves creating a community that’s “dynamic, inclusive and resilient” through offering housing, green space, recreation, culture and entertainment for people of all ages and demographics, inspiring entrepreneurial businesses and innovations, and doing it all sustainably with a focus on the environment.

“That’s partially done through the beautiful architecture and design excellence elements in the public realm as well as through creating connections to the rest of the city and providing safe and greener options for active transportation to get to the site and move through the site,” said Verner.

Quayside should also generate economic benefits through sustained job creation, private investment and expanding the creative corridor along the waterfront, Verner added.

Waterfront Toronto had launched an international request for qualifications in March 2021, resulting in a short list of four proponents invited to participate in the request for proposals stage. The Dream-Great Gulf partnership, officially known as Quayside Impact Limited Partnership, was chosen from that group.

Adjaye Associates, Alison Brooks Architects and Henning Larsen are the lead architects, while KPMB and architects—Alliance are also involved.

SLA is the landscape architect. Two Row Architect is the Indigenous design advisor. Benoy and Wordsearch Place are the retail specialists. Transsolar is the climate engineering firm.

Environmental and sustainability considerations

IMAGE: A proposal by Dream Unlimited and Great Gulf to develop the downtown Quayside property. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

A proposal by Dream Unlimited and Great Gulf to develop the downtown Quayside property. (Courtesy Waterfront Toronto)

“We align our goals and our aspirations with Waterfront Toronto to deliver a community that’s affordable, accessible, sustainable and focused on the natural environment,” said Great Gulf Homes president of Canadian low-rise residential Katy Schofield.

Transsolar associate director Krista Palen said Toronto has been “really pioneering in pushing the edge of sustainability standards” and setting energy targets. Quayside fits with that, as it’s supposed to become the first all-electric, zero-carbon development of this scale in Canada.

“This site is going to create enough of a market transformation that people are going to start to feel comfortable implementing some of the kinds of technologies that we will be using, and getting their energy and carbon really down to the levels that we need to get to in order to achieve our climate reduction targets for the city,” said Palen.

Verner believes Quayside can become “a neighbourhood that sets the bar in terms of what new neighbourhoods in Toronto and all across Canada should be aspiring for in terms of their sustainable approaches.”

Stormwater management will be an important part of the project and the proposed mass-timber building is to include a rooftop urban farm to produce food.

Quayside will act as a gateway to the waterfront and create synergies with the existing surrounding assets. Part of that involves weaving nature throughout the site, including a two-acre community forest.

“We don’t have any courtyards,” said SLA design principal and partner Rasmus Astrup. “We have flow. We have flow of birds, flow of water and flow of people.”

Indigenous participation in Quayside

Verner also emphasized the importance of having Indigenous participation in Quayside.

“We as humans need to remember that we are dependent on the world around us and the world is not dependent on us,” said Two Row partner Matthew Hickey.

“We often think as humans that we are the best and we’re at the top of the pyramid. But if we take a look at our place in the history of the Earth, we will see that we are a very small blip on the timeline.

“This way of thinking was key to our teams’ process for Quayside. This way of thinking is key to future developments. And this way of thinking will be key to the future of the human race.”

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