New plans to revitalize the Port Lands already are bearing fruit according to one developer behind a new $40-million expansion of Pinewood Toronto Studios.
Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee sat down Monday to consider a new report from the city and Waterfront Toronto aimed at kick-starting investment in the massive site on the city's eastern harbour by phasing in development over 30 years.
The report received unanimous support from the committee and will be considered by city council next month.
Even before the committee voted on the plan, a major land owner in the area told them it is already working.
Alfred Romano, a principal of Castlepoint Group, which owns a stake in Pinewood studios in the Port Lands, announced the studio is adding three new sound stages, and about 100,000 square feet of office space partly because of new plans for the area.
"It's much easier for me to make a case for development if we've got serious plans moving forward," Mr. Romano told reporters after addressing the committee. "I think this is the start of something significant in the Port Lands."
Mr. Ford agreed, saying he liked the new direction being presented, which includes a plan to focus development in three areas to begin with – the two quays on the western edge of the Port Lands that border the harbour and an area to the east where Pinewoods is located, now designated as a film studio district.
"That's what happens when you get the private sector involved," he told reporters. "It's good. I like what I see."
Mr. Romano cautioned that in order for the plans to work, transit must be a priority. He also cautioned the city not to depend too heavily on development charges to finance the infrastructure work required in the area, including extensive flood protection required at the mouth of the Don River.
"If you put too much weight on the donkey – in this case the developer – he is not going to move," he told the committee.
Under the proposed plans, area-specific and city-wide development charges would be imposed to help finance infrastructure in the Port Lands.
The revised plans also include changes to accommodate existing industrial users, including the preservation of the port walls for shipping. It also acknowledges the continued existence of a major cement terminal on private property in the Port Lands.
In a letter sent to the mayor and the head of Waterfront Toronto last week, the owner of that site, Lafarge Canada, expressed concerns about the plan and stated it had no intention of leaving its Port Lands location.