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BACKGROUNDER: Waterfront Toronto oversees city's waterfront revitalization

The Simcoe WaveDeck looking south east. Photo courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Waterfront Toronto was in the news this week with the new Tory administration criticizing the organization for keeping secret a cost overrun on one of its revitalization projects.

John Tory told reporters Friday that he’s asked his new deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong, who was recently appointed a board member of Waterfront Toronto, to look into the matter.

Minnan-Wong, who has criticized Waterfront Toronto for its secrecy, said the organization has an obligation to disclose the cost overrun of the Queens Quay revitalization project in a timely fashion.

Waterfront Toronto stated on its website on Thursday that it normally would respond to a request within 30 days but that it was inappropriate to disclose the information until 10 months later when “several claims from contractors and subcontractors working on the project were settled.”

Once that was settled, the organization said Thursday it was in a position to disclose that the budget for the Queens Quay revitalization rose 38 per cent to $128.9 million from $93.2 million.

Below is a backgrounder on Waterfront Toronto.

What does Waterfront Toronto do?

The corporation is in charge of developing the 800 hectares of waterfront land stretching from Dowling Avenue in the west to Coxwell Avenue in the east.

The mandate extends beyond the water’s edge, including a joint effort with the TTC to build a second subway platform at Union Station and the reconfiguration of the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard.

Closer to the shore, Waterfront Toronto has built 4.3 kilometers of waterfront park space, including Sugar Beach and a series of wave decks.

Click here for a list of all Waterfront Toronto’s projects.

Why does it exist?

The precursor to Waterfront Toronto was formed in 1999 by all three levels of government — then-prime minister Jean Chrétien, premier Mike Harris and mayor Mel Lastman — as a task force.

The group was asked to create a business plan to develop the waterfront as part of Toronto’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics (Toronto was shortlisted along with Paris, Istanbul and Osaka and the winner, Beijing).

The task force saw redevelopment of the waterfront as a huge economic opportunity for the city and the region.

On top of that, the project was seen as a necessity, something that could contribute to solving “environmental, transportation, infrastructure, housing, economic and tourism challenges,” according to the organization’s website.

After losing the bid, the task force was made into an official body in 2001, called Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp., to continue its work.

Who runs it?

In April 2003, John W. Campbell was named president and CEO of the body, which was a corporation created by the provincial Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation Act.

Campbell obtained an engineering degree from Carleton University and an MBA from the University of Toronto, according to his LinkedIn profile. He held a series of executive positions before joining Waterfront Toronto, including a position on the board of directors of the Toronto Board of Trade and the president and CEO of management services for real estate developer Brookfield.

The corporation is currently looking for a new president and CEO to start in fall 2015.

The corporation has a 12-member board of directors, with each level of government appointing four members.

The board has been chaired by Mark Wilson, who was appointed to the board by the city, since 2002.

Notable board members include former city councillor and mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone, who was appointed by the province in 2011; Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy, appointed by the province in 2012; and the newly-named Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who was appointed to the board by John Tory this month.