Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Waterfront design principles (one month and twenty days later)

One month and twenty days!

Yes, that's how long it's been.  One month and twenty days ago, crazy days (and nights) at work, plus time to move Philippa and myself to a new apartment (still in the Beach, of course!).  Add that to a somewhat new blogger who hasn't quite formed the habit yet, and you've got one month and twenty days.  Oh yeah, and we had an election in there somewhere.  I find my lack of posting during the writ period rather ironic — it was the bloggers covering the Toronto mayoral race (notably Andrew Spicer) that inspired me to take it up.

But recent events have pushed me back into the blogosphere.  The big one is the provincial announcement of new measures to limit sprawl in the GTA.  Sorry — that's the GGTA to you (Greater Golden Horseshoe?  Soon London and Windsor will be engulfed in the behemoth that is the GTA).  Naturally I have an opinion on that one!

Today's will be short but sweet, though.  Christopher Hume in today's Star reports on progress on the Toronto waterfront, at least the design aspects:

For instance, planning consultant Fred Koetter argues that the public promenade that runs along the water's edge should be between 20 and 25 metres wide. Some will complain that's not enough, but based on research done in successful waterfront cities around the world, that seems ideal. Such a strip would be broad enough to accommodate pedestrians, retail, residential and institutional use as well as vehicular traffic when required.

Anything wider would be too wide; after all, the intention is to transform these former industrial lands into a fully urban district. That means the water's edge must be fully accessible at different times and seasons for different reasons, not just leisure and amateur sports. In other words, it must include working people and residents, not just tourists and Sunday-afternoon picnickers.

Note in particular that last paragraph.  It echoes what I've thought for quite a while (and included in a post back in February).  The most successful parks, and the most successful sections of Toronto's waterfront, are those accessible to a variety of users, close to a critical mass of varying urban uses (residents, retail strips, recreation, etc.).  If Hume is a reliable indiator, it sounds like at least the design principles for the waterfront are on the right track.