In a statement released last Friday, the Government of Ontario announced that it had made changes to the building code in the Lower Don Lands to accelerate development in the area.

The changes made to Ontario Regulation 388/18 allow for the concurrent work in the Lower Don Lands to implement flood mitigation works and any private development.

“By reducing Ontario’s regulatory burden we’re smoothing the way for the first of many projects in the Lower Don area and sending the message that Ontario is open for business,” said Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark at the time of the change. “Making a simple change in the building code specific to the Lower Don Lands means construction can happen at the same time flood protection infrastructure is being put in place. To protect health and safety, the building code amendment also prevents the buildings from being occupied until the flood risk is removed.”

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The change states that no one can occupy a premises in the Lower Don Lands area unless the building has been certified by the chief building official or their designate as being “no longer susceptible to flooding due to the completion of the flood protection features…” as evaluated by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

“Any owner developer will have to provide confirmation that their construction will not conflict with flood protection construction,” said David Kusturin, chief project officer at Waterfront Toronto to Water Canada. Kusturin described the building code change as extremely positive. Normally, zoning would not be able to take place ahead of the flood mitigation project’s completion. The changes allows for zoning permissions and building permits ahead of the project finish.

“By reducing Ontario’s regulatory burden we’re smoothing the way for the first of many projects in the Lower Don area and sending the message that Ontario is open for business,” said Clark. In particular, First Gulf’s East Harbour development, a 12-million square foot development of office and and retail space will be able to get underway at the same time as the portlands flood projects, noted Kusturin.

Rendering of East Harbour development. Image Credit: First Gulf.

“Making a simple change in the building code specific to the Lower Don Lands means construction can happen at the same time flood protection infrastructure is being put in place,” said Clark. “To protect health and safety, the building code amendment also prevents the buildings from being occupied until the flood risk is removed.”

The Ontario government described the Lower Don area as a prime location for development, with plans for new waterfront parks, open spaces, green infrastructure, and brownfield remediation. Planning for a new integrated GO/Smart Track transit station is also underway. Streamlining provincial approvals with the City of Toronto will bring the project to market faster and will enable private and public infrastructure construction that will add an expected $5.1 billion to the Canadian economy.

Note: A previous version of this article stated the city could issue a permit before formalized zoning was in place, which was incorrect.

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