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ERA Architects

Waterfront Arts District

Waterfront Arts District letter to 2023 mayoral candidates

Dear Candidate, 

We are writing to you as a coalition of Toronto-based designers and city builders to bring your attention to one of this city’s most pressing cultural needs. We have the support of Toronto’s most prominent studios, urbanists, and place makers.  

As Toronto continues to densify and develop, we are concerned that accessible spaces for the cultivation of the arts are not being safeguarded and actively established. This deficit was present before the COVID-19 pandemic but was exacerbated by it. The cultural vibrancy and economic vitality of Toronto depends on its cultural workers – its artists, designers, choreographers, performers, composers, and writers. We need to guarantee their continued presence in this city with accessible places to live, work, and exhibit appropriate to Toronto’s status as North America’s fourth largest city and a global cultural centre.   

Our coalition has identified Toronto’s Waterfront as the ideal location to develop an official Arts Corridor spanning from Etobicoke to Scarborough that supports existing cultural spaces already clustered there and enables the creation of new, much-needed cultural facilities. No other discrete geographic area of the city has more of these locations already. 

Deploying the City of Toronto’s Office for Cultural Space to create a dedicated Arts District along the entirety of the city’s waterfront will secure enduring support for existing cultural organizations while creating new ones. As the waterfront rapidly develops, it’s time to “Lead with Culture”, a strategy inspired by Waterfront Toronto’s successful “Leading with Landscape” ecological restoration approach. 

As mayor, will you:  

  1. Support the creation of an official Arts Corridor on the Waterfront to protect existing cultural organizations and create new ones. 
  1. Formally prioritize a “Lead with Culture” approach to the ongoing redevelopment of the Waterfront. 
  1. Support the transformation of government-owned facilities on the Waterfront into cultural spaces (such as Warehouse 52 in the Port Lands and appropriate buildings in Exhibition Place, Toronto Islands, and Ontario Place). 
  1. Dedicate municipal funding to the procurement of new facilities on the Waterfront for cultural activities.  
  1. Build dedicated, affordable, live-work creation spaces for artists on the Waterfront as part of the City’s Housing Now strategy.  

With your formal endorsement, we are confident that together we can achieve this essential paradigm shift to ensure Toronto realizes its vast cultural potential for generations to come.

Sincerely, 

Michael McClelland, FRAIC, OAA, AAA, AIBC, NSAA, OAQ, CAHP, and Principal of ERA Architects 

Janet Rosenberg, IFLA, FCSLA, FASLA, and Principal of Janet Rosenberg & Studio 

Ken Greenberg, CM, Principal of Greenberg Consultants Inc., and former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto 

George Dark, OALA, FCSLA, FASLA, Landscape Architect Urban Design, and former Principal of Urban Strategies 

Marc Ryan, OALA, Principal of PUBLIC WORK 

Kevin Stolarick, PhD, Dean of Curtner Urban Leadership Program, Urban Land Institute, and former Research Director at the Martin Prosperity Institute 

Julian Sleath, Outdoor Events Manager, former CEO of The Bentway, and former Technical Director of the Canadian Opera Company 

Alysha Haugen, Manager, Long Winter Arts Series 

Max Dean, Artist 

Martha Fleury, Artist 

Amy Gottung, Project Lead of DIY Space Project 

 

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