Accelerated Urbanism
15 Jun 2015
2015 PanAm Athletes Village

Waterfront Toronto has a long roster of slow-burning projects on its list. But they recently put the pedal to the metal on one of these endeavours— the redevelopment of a 14.3-hectare site bordered by the Don River.

The accelerated developement was spurred by Toronto’s successful bid for the Pan/Parapan American Games. Originally planned for completion in 12 years, more than half of the neighbourhood has been designed and built in less than three years. Initially, the newly minted buildings will house over 10,000 competitors and officials participating in the Pan/Parapan American Games. Following the Games, the Athletes’ Village will convert into the Canary District, a mixed-use neighbourhood including market and affordable housing, student housing for George Brown College, and a new YMCA community centre.

Much of the initial planning was completed under Waterfront Toronto’s West Don Lands Precinct Plan, initiated in 2004 and led by Boston-based Urban Design Associates. Extensive public consultations resulted in a detailed document that defines the location, scale, character and function of public spaces, streets, buildings and facilities in the community. “By the end, we had an approved master plan with zoning in place that was oriented around very good urban design principles,” says Chris Glaisek, Vice President for Planning and Design at Waterfront Toronto.

When the Province came up with the idea to put the Athletes’ Village on the West Don Lands, the site was ready to go. The approved precinct plan was the basis for an unusually comprehensive design-build-finance procurement document, complete with construction drawings for the entire public realm and block-by-block guidelines for the whole area.

A team comprised of architectsAlliance, KPMB Architects, Daoust Lestage and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA) led the design for the winning bid. They refined the precinct plan to establish overall compositional principles. Then, each team member designed individual buildings within the ensemble. Canadian Architect sat down with Peter Clewes MRAIC (architectsAlliance), Bruce Kuwabara FRAIC (KPMB), Renée Daoust FIRAC (Daoust Lestage), and David Miller MRAIC (MJMA) to discuss how the project unfolded.

Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Canadian Architect: