Jane’s Walk: Number Two

We peered 25 years into the future from the 60 acre parcel of land on the east side of the mouth of the Don River.

First Gulf intends to develop a huge retail, office, manufacturing complex where 50,000 to 70,000 people will work. The slides will give you an idea of what’s there now… an industrial dead zone of abandoned factories office buildings.

Movie shoots inside the decommissioned buildings provide one continuing use while planning takes place over the next few years. Warehousing and parking for commercial trucks are another temporary revenue stream for the developers.

I am beginning to understand this area’s past. The big asphalt parking areas were once dirt flats where pigs and cattle were held after arriving by rail. No wonder Canada Packers had a plant just over the river. The Distillery District’s whisky makers were a source of feed, piping over a slurry of leftover mash that kept animals alive until they went to the slaughterhouse.

The whole area was pretty stinky and runoff from the holding lots drifted down the lake, fouling the shoreline all the way to Ashbridges Bay. You may notice brand names on the old water tower … Ponds, Lever Bros … what do you do with the renderings from the meat business? Make soap, of course.

So the area has been a moneymaker for a long time and First Gulf plans to keep the tradition going … only in much more genteel ways. Details are sketchy, still. The problems and opportunities presented by the site are enormous. Many levels of government have interests and agreements that come into play. Railways and the Gardiner Expressway hem in the lands so completely that access will have to be altered. Soil remediation will be very costly. Supplying energy on a industrial scale has to be worked out. (The old owners made their own electricity with a big coal-fired generator you can see with it’s smokestack in the slides.)

One thing is clear. The development will exist to generate employment and to serve business. It is not set to become a gentrified lakeside playground or a wall of condo towers. I think this is a good thing. We need a balance in the city and the site is well situated to be reachable by Go Train, TTC, rail and roadways. It has greater tax potential than residential use can ever have and it will be accessible to a workforce living far out of the city proper.

I’ll be 95 years old when all of the plans have become reality. Can hardly wait.