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Port Lands

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Port Lands

Port Lands
Once the site of heavy industry, much of the Port Lands is now abandoned
Once the site of heavy industry, much of the Port Lands is now abandoned
Port Lands is located in Toronto
Port Lands
Location within Toronto
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
City Toronto

The Port Lands (also known as Portlands) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada are an industrial and recreational neighbourhood located about 5 kilometres south-east of downtown, located on the former Don River delta and most of Ashbridge's Bay.

Approximate geographical borders are the Gardiner Expressway/Don Valley Parkway ramps to the north and west, Lake Shore Boulevard to the north, Lake Ontario on the three remaining sides: the Inner Harbour to the west, Ashbridges Bay to the east and the open waters of Lake Ontario to the south. Landmarks include the Portlands Energy Centre, Cherry Beach, Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the now out of service Hearn Generating Station.


Munitions Dump at Ashbridge's Bay, 1916 (First World War)

The land was formerly marshland and delta of the Don River in Toronto. The area was connected to the Toronto Islands archipelago until a violent storm in 1858 created a natural channel break turning the archipelago into a series of islands to the west. Much of the port lands were initially part of Ashbridge's Bay, which consisted of a five square kilometre triangular shaped area of marshes and ponds surrounded by sandbars. The water and reeds in marsh provided habitat for birds and other animals.[1] The marshy area was gradually filled in to make more available land for industry and shipping, beginning in the 1880s. Gooderham and Worts used the marsh to dispose of waste from pigs and cattle, as well as wheat swill from their distilling operations.[2] The once natural area was now an open sewage dump and became a health hazard by the 1890s (threat of a cholera outbreak) forced the city to act.

The Don River's mouth was filled in and the river was re-routed into the Keating Channel (named for the City engineer Edward Henry Keating (1844–1912), who devised the idea to re-route the Don) into the inner harbour and a large shipping channel (the inner basin) was created to allow access into the center of industry in the 1910s. Until the mid-20th century the marshy area within the sand spits become further filled in and developed industrially under the watch of the Toronto Harbour Commission. With deindustrialization spreading rapidly by the 1980s, and oil companies writing off polluted lands to avoid future liability, much of the previous land uses became abandoned. Through the 1980s and 1990s the area's main occupants were a power station, city incinerator, dockyard facilities.

The port industrial uses have been reduced to a 50-acre (200,000 m2) shipping facility and a cruise ship terminal, both run by the Toronto Port Authority, an electrical generating station, road salt storage, a "concrete campus" and roof shingle manufacturing along with municipal services such as a waste transfer station on the site of a deactivated incinerator, a Toronto Hydro utility yard, and a TTC wheel trans garage. Other commercial uses also exist on the land, but the majority is still abandoned brownfields. The vacated factory spaces have become home to a small cultural contingent, consisting mostly of musician jam spaces and recording studios. The old box factory on Polson Pier houses the studio of artist Max Dean, as well as the gallery and warehouse of the artist collective VSVSVS.

The vast majority of the lands were transferred to the City of Toronto in the 1990s. The area is ear-marked for cleanup and redevelopment in addition to restoring a natural mouth for the Don River. The redevelopment is being organized through the Waterfront Toronto partnership.


Skyline of the Port Lands district.

The district is bounded on the north by Lake Shore Boulevard and on the east by Leslie Street. Cherry Street anchors the west side, providing access south from Lake Shore Boulevard to Cherry Beach. There are two streets that span east-west between Cherry and Leslie; Commissioners Street is the spine across the area north of the turning basin, and Unwin Avenue (named for Charles Unwin, provincial land surveyor, who surveyed Toronto Islands after 1858) is to the south. The Don Roadway makes a connection with the south end of the Don Valley Parkway. Carlaw Avenue and Logan Avenue cross from the north side of Lake Shore Boulevard to Commissioners Street. Other minor streets entirely within the northerly area are Bouchette Street, Saulter Street South, Basin Street, Villiers Street, Munition Street and Polson Street. In the south, Regatta Road leads from Unwin Avenue to the sailing clubs on the outer harbour.


The Port Lands are mostly abandoned from the days of heavy industry. The Toronto Port Authority operates a container shipping facility and a cruise ship terminal along the eastern shore of the inner harbour, as well as the large Outer Harbour Marina in between the Port Lands and the Leslie Street Spit. The Portlands Energy Centre, a cogeneration power plant, is situated beside the now defunct Richard L. Hearn Generating Station. The Hearn Generating Station smokestack (215 metres (705 ft) in height), together with the Ashbridges Bay sewage sludge incinerator stack and the Commissioners Street waste incinerator stack stand as towering landmarks of a bygone industrial era (All three facilities are no longer in operation, and only the Hearn stack is still standing.).

Energy Innovation Corp. plans to construct a new facility on the Port Lands that will use flaxseeds to make biodiesel. Energy Innovation Corp. CEO Jon Dwyer says the Toronto plant will use flaxseeds from all over southern Ontario to make 10 million litres of biodiesel annually. The expansion is in anticipation of increased demand stemming from Federal legislation that calls for all diesel fuel and heating-oil to contain 2 per cent biodiesel by 2011, which experts predict will drive Canadian demand as high as 600 million litres annually. Canada currently produces 200 million litres a year. Dwyer chose the portlands because: "Being located in cities means being closer to customers; from waste management companies like the Turtle Island Recycling Plant, to bus transit corporations like Metrolinx, to the City of Toronto itself."[3]


The area along the south shore of the Port Lands has become mostly recreational. The Leslie Street Spit extends south from the Port lands and forms an outer harbour, sheltering a bird sanctuary and two boating marinas in the outer harbour. The south-western corner of the Port Lands is home to Cherry Beach, parkland similar to the Toronto Islands but surrounded by a mostly vacant, industrial setting.


The Docks Waterfront Entertainment Complex is located on Polson Street. In July 2007, Canada's largest Asian supermarket chain -- T & T Supermarket -- opened on the former site of Knob Hill Farms. The Port Lands is also home to the headquarters of Intelligarde International, a local security company.

A former Esso oil storage facility was demolished and the Pinewood Toronto Studios (formerly FilmPort) has been built on the 11 acres (4.5 ha) site. The first phase opened in 2008, and the project will be complete in 2010.

Major events

Cirque du Soleil has presented a touring version of several shows under the Grand Chapiteau on vacant lands of the area.

  • August 9 to October 21, 2007: Koozå
  • September 3 to November 8, 2009: Ovo
  • August 10 to October 9, 2011: Totem
  • October 21 to October 24, 2011: Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour
  • July 27 to July 28, 2012: Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour
  • September 7 to November 4, 2012: Amaluna
  • August 28 to October 26, 2014: Kurios

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Biodiesel plant to open in Toronto's port lands". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). December 15, 2010. 

External links

  • WATERFRONToronto Federal, provincial and local partnership encouraging progressive and sustainable development of the Toronto waterfront.
  • "Toronto Waterfront - The Waterfront Trail" (Google Maps). 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
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