Today I went to the waterfront to see Quay To The City, a temporary exhibit of part of the waterfront revitalization plan. As a sample of things to come, they've closed off half the lanes of Queen's Quay and converted it to a wide bicycle path bridging the gap in the Martin Goodman trail, a wide "green line" lawn, and a 1km-long "red line" of potted geraniums. They've also gone and added a rock-balancing exhibit, sandboxes for children's sandcastles, muskoka chairs, and a victory arch of bicycles.
The effect, I must say, is astounding. On the surface it seems like a simple change: reclaim a waterfront street from the automobile and give it back to the people. The result is an injection of life.
With the street taking up much of the space, the area normally feels perpetually cramped. There is little room on the sidewalk for pedestrians, bikes are perilously close to passing cars, and there is little feeling of being welcomed, even though this should be the "front lawn" of the city, so to speak. A pedestrian on the narrow sidewalk feels compelled to keep moving, lest he cause the ire of those behind him.
Introduce an expanded bike path, a wide lawn, and a pleasing garden separating the path from the streetcar, and suddenly people have room to live. The area is full of folks enjoying themselves. Cyclists speeding through to their destinations, others casually gliding along on a pleasant summer's evening, people standing on the lawn engulfed in conversation, children building sandcastles as their parents marvel at the rows of balanced rocks standing before them as they lounge in muskoka chairs.
Since the last time I biked through there, the change can be described simply by "Welcome". Suddenly, the waterfront becomes a place not just to eat, sleep, and work, but to actually live, to enjoy, and to use, by residents and visitors alike.
This is just a taste of what is to come, should the governments actually continue with the plan. The only bad thing about it is that this preview won't be around for very long.
Support the waterfront! View the winning waterfront design plans, check out Quay to the City and tell them what you think!