Photo Credit: PFS Studio
Initial Research by: Jiaqi Yi
Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans
Case study compiled in 2019
Project: Sherbourne Common
Type of Urban Strategy: Water
Type of Project: Park / Community Engagement
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Date Designed/Planned: 2009
Construction Completed: 2011
Designer: PFS Studio
Sherbourne Common is a 3.6-acre park, which is situated in the eastern Bayfront area of Toronto’s waterfront. The park is designed as both a city-wide destination and neighbourhood amenity, providing a diversity of amenities: playgrounds, gardens, water features, art, intimate gathering spaces, splash park, skating rink, park pavilion, and a civic green space.
The park connects East Bayfront’s continuous waterfront promenade at the southern end to reinforce and improve the waterfront to be a well-used, year-round destination, redeveloping waterfront to make a robust connection from Lake Shore Boulevard to Lake Ontario, transforming the way that Toronto connects to its waterfront.
In 2001, the three levels of government established Waterfront Toronto which aims to revitalize Toronto’s Lakefront to take charge of planning and development of Toronto’s central waterfront (Water-Technology, n.d). As a vital catalyst of the work of Waterfront Toronto, Sherbourne Common is to rehabilitate and redefine the neglected waterfront of Lake Ontario, transforming a formerly industrial area into much needed public green space on the lake, bringing a feeling of “life at the lake” to the area (Water-Technology, n.d).
As one of the Toronto’s Waterfront Revitalization projects, Sherbourne Common is not only a Waterfront living room for the East Bayfront community but also a multi-use urban park which aims to serve the broader constituency of downtown Toronto (Wikipedia, n.d.). Conceived as a catalyst along the waterfront, Sherbourne Common was built in advance of private development (Wikipedia, n.d.). Integrated with another waterfront, Sherbourne Common contributes to well-used beautiful moments along the lakeshore and strings with a new waterfront promenade and a future grand boulevard. The project is a strong practice to validate the significance of outdoor living room in catalyzing new vibrant urban communities on post-industrial lands (Wikipedia, n.d.).
Sherbourne Common is a 3.6-acre park, which is situated in the eastern Bayfront area of Toronto’s waterfront (CSLA, n.d.). The park is designed as both a city-wide destination and neighbourhood amenity, providing a diversity of amenities: playgrounds, gardens, water features, art, intimate gathering spaces, splash park, skating rink, park pavilion, and a civic green space (CSLA, n.d.).
On the other hand, on the park’s east and west side, it is linked with commercial and residential buildings whose residents and employees contribute to animating the park (CSLA, n.d.). The park connects East Bayfront’s continuous waterfront promenade at the southern end to reinforce and improve the waterfront as a well-used, year-round destination, redeveloping waterfront to make a robust connection from Lake Shore Boulevard to Lake Ontario, transforming the way that Toronto connects to its waterfront (CSLA, n.d.).
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
In Toronto, waterfront revitalization has been a hot topic over the decades (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.). In 1972, the federal government established the “Harbourfront Project” which intended to convert the central waterfront from industrial uses to cultural, recreational, and residential uses (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.). In 1999, the City of Toronto and federal governments established a Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Task Force to develop recommendations and plans for revitalization (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.). In 2001, the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation was established by three levels of government (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.).
As the newest addition to Toronto central waterfront revitalization, Sherbourne Common transformed from a brownfield site along with a neglected stretch of Toronto’s waterfront and transcended the conventional definition of a park by integrating a stormwater treatment facility within the landscape, architecture, engineering, and public art (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.).
Phase 1 is to install stormwater facilities, including sedimentation, oxygenation, passive and active UV filtration, and passage through biofiltration beds, before entering the lake (Vanishing Point, n.d.). Phase 2 is to install the swept sculptures designed by Jill Anbolt which drop water from a height of approximately 9 meters into a chain of raised biofiltration beds (Vanishing Point, n.d.). In Phase 3, the water used in the park will be drawn from East Bayfront’s stormwater management facility (Vanishing Point, n.d.).
GOAL OF THE PROJECT
• As a private investment in the surrounding lands, being a public park with a link between the city and the lake.
• Delivers neighbourhood-wide environmental benefit through its advanced integrated stormwater treatment system.
• Revitalises the waterfront, maximizes the waterfront value, and develops the brownfield
• As one of the keystone projects for Waterfront Toronto’s revitalization increases the environmental, social and economic value of formerly underutilized and restricted floodplain land that is being newly reintegrated into the city
(Vanishing Point, n.d.)
DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS
The Sherbourne Common is a challenging project since it was constructed using the advanced integrated stormwater treatment system (CSLA, n.d.). Due to the need for a staggered stormwater implementation strategy and constructing projects and systems, the landscape architect worked closely with engineers to develop solutions for elements such as the UV purification facility, public art sculptures, biofiltration beds and the skating rink, for instance, utilizing lake water for the skating rink in ahead of having access to stormwater (Ibid.). The design process relied heavily on consultation and coordination with the client group to meet multiple stakeholders while balancing the integration of the park’s design along the waterfront, proposing a range of design options and scenarios that validated the feasibility of ideas and interests (Ibid.)The design ideas were formed from information gathered in terms of programmed park spaces around the site and the city (Ibid.). Although the designer recognized that some ideas were important to the park design, they would ultimately be given up since they conflicted with the entire direction of the waterfront (Ibid.). The feasible maintenance and durability of materials were focuses on design reviews, where in some cases compromises occurred between original design intention and the reality that the maintenance would be subject to inevitable fluctuations of civic budgets (Ibid.).
ROLE OF DESIGNERS
The landscape architect led a large multidisciplinary team over a four-year process with extensive public consultations, creating and delivering one of the first public parks along Toronto’s waterfront. It is the landscape architect’s responsibility to determine the direction of the park while balancing the integration of architecture, infrastructure, and public art into the park design (Landscape Performance, 2018).
• The UV purification facility in the basement of the park’s pavilion with two reactors which can treat up to 1.6 million gallons of stormwater per day.
• “Light Showers”, three 30-ft-tall sculptures, expose UV-treated water by delivering it in thin streams from the top of each fixture, showing sheets of water cascading down into a biofiltration bed
• A raised concrete and river rock biofiltration bed with aquatic plants, treating water from the ‘shower’
• A 787-ft-long recessed concrete surface channel releases\clean treated water back into Lake Ontario
• Walkways vary in width from 9 to 26 ft
• Seasonally-distinct park features such as the art sculptures, an array of water jets scattered across the central plaza and a skating rink in the winter
• A grove made of 182 trees including 108 Pacific Sunset Maple, 45 Red Oak, and 29 American Beech in the area that was formerly the parking lot
• An extensive lighting system: 47 pedestrian pole lights, 12 bollard lights, 16 integrated bench lights, 2 indirect pole-mounted lights, 19 in-ground pin lights, and 10 wall-recessed lights, allowing visitors to use the site safely at night.
(Landscape Performance, 2018)
• Seamlessly, the park integrated stormwater management, landscape, program, and art, as the first park in Canada to integrate a UV purification facility for neighborhood-wide stormwater treatment.
• Other sustainable benefits from the park such as the use of native or regionally adapted trees in large numbers contribute to the City of Toronto’s tree coverage goals, and the use of water efficient plant material to save water for irrigation.
• As one of the first pieces built in Toronto’s new East Bayfront neighbourhood, the park validates the importance and power of the public realm in developing new communities.
• As the first site along the revitalized waterfront, the park makes a strong public connection from Lakeshore Boulevard to Lake Ontario and remediate the disconnection from the city to the lake.
• Sherbourne Common offers Torontonians an opportunity to re-engage with the lake and experience from a new perspective a forgotten stretch of the industrial waterfront.
• With a high percentage of locally available materials, extensively uses light-coloured permeable paving surfaces, the park contributes to the reduction of the urban heat island effect and uses particular light fixtures to reduce light pollution.
• The design of the park highlights the Landscape Architecture as a profession that leads complex, large scale projects and brings significant impacts on not only parks but in placemaking, urban design, city building, and the environment.
MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT
The City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division will be responsible for maintenance and operation of Sherbourne Common including the children’s play area, splash pad, and winter skating rink. The Parks Department will maintain the park’s water feature and Waterfront Toronto has maintained an operator for the water treatment facility (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.).
It is required for new development projects in Toronto to set aside one per cent of their gross construction costs for public art. Besides, Waterfront Toronto is providing the one per cent of its projected gross construction costs and using it to fund a comprehensive plan that will make public art an integral part of each neighbourhood (Waterfront Toronto, n.d.).
The total budget of the project is approximately $30.6 million (Globeandmail, 2018). Federal governments supported $27 million (Globeandmail, 2018). The remaining fees were from provincial governments ($1 million) and the City of Toronto governments ($2.6 million) (Globeandmail, 2018).
One of the biggest challenges was the design implementation along the lake’s edge (Landscape Performance, 2018). It was challenging to collaborate with different stakeholders since a lot of parks were developed simultaneously, as design integration (Landscape Performance, 2018).
Another salient challenge was the balance between a progressive client organization and limited ongoing maintenance funds, technical expertise, and capacity for specialized training by the design tactics (Landscape Performance, 2018).
GENESIS OF PROJECT
A newly-constructed neighbourhood was proposed around the Sherbourne Common (CSLA, n.d.). Therefore, Sherbourne Common project was launched to meet Waterfront Toronto’s policy: providing environmental, social, and economic benefits within its area, developing along the city’s central and eastern harbour with a string of connected parks (Ibid.).